One of the most important elements of college success is developing good study skills to meet the challenges presented by a new learning environment. Good study habits will make your life easier and will prepare you to excel in future endeavors, whether you are a high school freshman or a college senior.
Both the college application process and attending college will involve meeting a wide range of demands, from standardized tests to college essays. Understanding and meeting all these varied expectations can be challenging, but developing effective study skills will give you tools to help complete whatever tasks your educational career throws at you.
The following are some of the study skills that we’ve found most effective. High school and college students will hopefully be well-served by practicing them.
Know Your Enemy
Your approach to each essay, test or other assignment will depend on who is giving the assignment and what its stated purpose is. Beyond having some rough idea of the genre in which you’re working (for example, having different approaches to papers for an English class versus a science class), be aware that specific professors and specific courses will have different requirements that you need to fulfill.
When preparing to complete any assignment for a college course, it can be helpful to try to place it in the context of the course goals, as stated on the syllabus. What might the professor be trying to encourage you to learn or do with this task? Should you pay more attention to quality research or technically correct writing? These things are by no means universal and often come down to differences in teaching style and pet peeves for your individual instructors.
Even standardized tests come with different expectations. Tests like the ACT, SAT, GRE, and LSAT shouldn’t be approached blindly, even if you’ve taken every other standardized test under the sun. Knowing what the questions will look like and what the test purports to measure will help you complete it more successfully.
Your study habits will be influenced by your past experiences and your natural inclinations. Perhaps you’re extremely laid back and easygoing, or perhaps you know yourself to be a chronic procrastinator. If any of these is the case, you may need to push yourself more than someone who naturally wants to complete all tasks immediately and accurately. However, perfectionists have their own problems, especially with making sure they don’t get lost in the details and can complete tasks on time while still balancing school and their personal lives. Regardless of your habits, be honest about your weaknesses and strengths and develop a plan to best work with them.
One of the most overlooked parts of attending college, financial aid is vital to those who need assistance affording a college education. Before taking out thousands in loans, students should submit a FAFSA (applications may be found at FAFSA.ed.gov), complete a free college scholarship search, and visit a school financial aid office to find out about college-based assistance.
Sometimes, you just won’t be able to give every task the attention it deserves. This is when you will have to decide which assignments to focus the most attention on and which to put less time into or put on hold for now. There are any number of factors that can go into making this decision, depending on what your college goals are and what your goals are for that course.
Having some idea how to quantify how important each element of your life is to your grades and your goals is an important step in the process of prioritizing. For example, if you’re a high school senior applying to competitive schools that weigh standardized test scores heavily, you are going to want to clear your schedule for your SAT or ACT test day and make sure a large assignment or an outside activity doesn’t cut into your study time or sleep time before the test.