5 Study Habits You Should Develop in College

woman holding an opened book

Studying isn’t the most fun thing you’ll ever do at college (that spot is reserved for Ultimate Star Wars Strip Poker). Still, if you haven’t learned how to study by the time you’ve made it this far into your educational career, you may be in big trouble. Statistics from the U.S. News and World Report say that as many as 3 out of 10 college freshman will drop out due to poor grades during their first year.

In order to keep yourself from becoming a statistic, you need some study hacks. That’s why we’ve compiled the 5 best and most productive study habits you can develop before it’s too late. Remember, having a worry-free semester of straight A’s is much more fun than failing out and missing your calling as a Jedi Poker Master.

Skip the Highlighting, Summarizing, and Mental Imagery

Although these are things you’ve been taught to do since you were small, research published in Psychological Science in the Public Interest basically calls your 4th grade teacher a liar. The research says that things like highlighting texts, summarizing texts, and mental imagery of facts are some of the least effective study habits you can pick up. Other things to avoid are re-reading texts and using word mnemonics to memorizing a new language.

Go the Distance

The best studying is done in small bursts over a longer period of time. So, instead of cramming for an exam just before it hits, study in small increments every day. Not only is this easier on your schedule (you don’t have to give up a whole night of sleep), but you will retain the information longer, as well.

Use Technology to S.O.A.R

The recent study published in The Journal of Educational Psychology highlighted that technology is only as good as your study habits. Students who are using their computers to reread articles or drill information perform half as well as students who are using their technology to synthesize material in new ways. The author of the study, Ken Kiewra, says that the best students use the S.O.A.R method:

  • Select key lesson ideas.
  • Organize information with comparative charts.
  • Associate ideas to create meaningful connections.
  • Regulate learning through practice.

Although this sounds like a lot of work, it’s actually not. By thinking more critically about your information through comparisons and connections, and incorporating small daily study sessions, you are building a neural network for your new information that allows you to access it quickly whenever you need it.

Turn Off the Music

While you might think that you study better with the music on, there is significant research that shows it can impair your recall of the topic you’re studying. Nick Perham, a professor at the University of Wales Health Sciences School, completed research that showed music – whether you like it or not – impairs your ability to remember even simple things. And, although music with fewer chord and musical variations (like classical music) impair memory less than Grunge Metal, neither is as effective as studying in a quiet place.

Mix it Up

This applies not only to types of things you’re studying, but to location. Scientists found in the Psychological Science in the Public Interest study that students who change up the kinds of review questions they do perform better on exams. For example, they study a math problem, then follow it up with a psychology question.

In addition, if you vary where you study when you do a new type of review, your brain will “anchor” the new information better. So, try the couch, then the table, then your bedroom. When it comes time to recall the information, your brain will have a better time if it can recall a unique place, time, or position you learned it in.

Studying is a huge part of your college life, but it doesn’t have to take up all of your time. With a little good advice and a daily dose of studying, you can be acing all of your exams quicker than you think. Just make sure that you are avoiding the time-sucking activities that don’t work, and use your study sessions in a way that keeps your information memorable and easy to access.

Can you think of some more useful study habits? Tell us! We want to hear from you!

Become a smarter student with Essay Tigers.
Let us help you with your assignments.
Find out more