With September fast approaching and thousands of students making the transition from high school to university/college, it’s no surprise that a lot of students have concerns about how to be successful in post-secondary education. It can be a scary transition; trust me, I’ve been there! For this reason, I thought I would share some of the study tips that I’ve learned over the course of my own undergraduate degree in the hopes that it might help ease the transition for some of you freshmen out there!
Go to class!
This one might seem like a no brainer, but you will undoubtedly be tempted to hit the snooze button a few too many times when those 8am classes roll around. While your professors in university don’t really care either way if you show up to class or not, they might still keep track of your attendance. In my first year of university I was shocked to learn that participation and attendance marks still exist! In fact, some professors had strict rules which would result in the automatic failure of any student who missed X number of classes. But even if your professor does not keep track of attendance it is still important to attend! After all, how can you expect to earn those A’s if you don’t have a firm grasp on the course content?
Unplug from technology
This is one that I really struggled with throughout my undergraduate degree. I attended a “technology-enriched” university so it was mandatory to have your laptop during all lectures and almost all assignments were to be submitted online. As a result, I was constantly studying and writing my assignments on my computer. Unfortunately, this meant that I was prone to being distracted by things like YouTube, Facebook, and Pinterest while I was supposed to be studying.
In order to avoid this trap, I recommend printing your notes off of your computer or writing them by hand to avoid the distractions on your computer. Additionally, if you’re writing a paper it might be a good idea to write it out on paper first and type it on your computer later. This helps you avoid online distractions while also giving you a chance to catch any grammatical errors or awkward sentences when you type it up later on!
Write your notes by hand
Having a laptop is essential to success in university; however, this does not mean that it is the best tool for studying (see previous point). Writing your notes by hand in class can not only help you focus, but it can also help you retain the information better than typing on a computer. However, if you find that you type your notes faster in class, I would recommend writing them out by hand in preparation for exams in order to help you review the information. I always found that re-writing my notes helped me recall the information much more vividly than simply skim-reading it on my computer.
Acronyms and silly jingles are your new best friend
Acronyms, acronyms, acronyms!! I frequently used acronyms or made up silly little jingles in my head to remember lists or categories. A lot of exam questions might ask you to “list the 5 stages of *blank*” or “explain the process of *blank*”. If you come up with a catchy little song or acronym you will likely find it a lot easier to recall this information.
Make your notes aesthetically appealing
As I mentioned before, I tended to re-write my notes by hand before exams. During this process, I would use different colour pens for key concepts, definitions, lists, and so on. This not only made it easier to navigate my notes and find specific information, but it also helped keep my attention on the notes because they were a lot more visually appealing than staring at a computer screen filled with pages and pages of boring Times New Roman black font. Sometimes, it’s the little things that count.
Don’t fall into the partying trap
If you know someone currently in uni/college or if you’ve watched any movies/TV shows about it, chances are that you have been exposed to the idea that university is all about partying. News flash… it’s not!
I mean, sure, there are parties and frosh week is absolutely jam-packed with opportunities to get a little tipsy (or a lot, depending on how much you’re drinking…), but aside from the first week, university is not as party-filled as you might be expecting. At least this was not the case at my university.
With that being said, if your school or dorm is one where there are parties happening on the regular I would strongly advise that you steer clear of the party trap. Sure, it might be a fun time for a few weeks, but once the end of term rolls around and you see your grades suffering you might just come to realize that you wasted a lot of time and money on classes that you may have to re-take. University is expensive; it’s okay to have fun and socialize but remember that you’re there to study, not to throw your money away on partying.
Make at least one friend in each of your classes
Having people in each of your classes who you can count on is extremely important, especially if you come down with a serious case of the flu which causes you to miss class. You want to be sure that you’ve got someone you can count on to take notes for you so that you don’t fall behind in your classes.
On the flip side, if one of your peers falls ill or misses class for another legitimate reason, be sure to offer your notes and help them out as much as possible. This will make it more likely that they will return the favor in the future if you need it!
Use a planner!
I can’t stress this enough: GO BUY AN AGENDA/PLANNER. IT WILL BE ONE OF THE BEST INVESTMENTS OF YOUR SCHOOL YEAR.
During high school I never really appreciated the usefulness of a planner. However, in university when you’re balancing a huge courseload, a part-time job, a social life, and anything else that might pop up, a planner is an essential tool. I recommend going through your syllabi/course outlines at the beginning of each semester and writing down your assignment due dates in advance so nothing can sneak up on you.
Plan ahead to avoid all-nighters
While it is quite likely that you will at some point in the course of your university career be faced with the dreadful all-nighter, there are ways that you can keep these occasions to a minimum. Planning ahead and carving out time in your busy schedule to complete your assignments on time will not only help you maintain a healthy sleep schedule, but it will also help you improve the quality of your work by ensuring that sleep-deprivation does not impede your ability to produce high-quality assignments.
Taking care of yourself is soooooo important; yet, it is often the first thing to get cut out of the schedule when assignments start to pile up and stress runs high. Unfortunately, if you stop practicing self-care, you won’t be able to manage your stress level effectively which can have a negative impact on your ability to concentrate. Not only that, increased stress can interfere with your ability to sleep and it can also weaken your immune system which leaves you prone to getting sick. This is why a lot of students tend to get sick right around the exam period. Remember to practice self-care by doing little things for yourself to ease your stress and improve your mental health in order to improve your performance in school!
While taking breaks might seem a bit counter-intuitive when you are cramming for a test or exam, it’s scientifically proven that you retain more information when you allow yourself to take short breaks. This could mean watching a few videos on YouTube (emphasis on a FEW! Don’t get sucked into the YouTube vortex!), or going for a short walk to get some exercise and stretch your legs. Whatever it is that you choose to do, remember that breaks are important!
These are some of the tips and tricks that helped me throughout my undergraduate degree and I hope that they will help you as well! Let me know what your favorite study tricks are in the comments below!