It’s hard to figure out which study habits are good and which ones are bad when you first start college. But you don’t have to figure this out alone.
If you’ve been a student for a while, you know that “being a great student” should be a course of its own. Usually, one of the greater expectations you face in college is the need to learn it on your own. But don’t worry – you’re not alone. We’ve got you covered with a list of study habits you should keep, and a few you should drop.
Bad Study Habits that Keep You from Being the Best Student You Can Be
First, let’s start with the study habits that disempower many students.
Bad Study Habit #1: Procrastination
If your friends on Facebook with other students, you probably know what to expect on your feed once it’s time to get ready for exams: everyone suddenly gets busy.
But they don’t get busy studying. Instead, they clean their homes, cook for the first time in months, or worse, spend all day on Facebook or sleeping. In other words, they’re procrastinating. It’s very common and very easy to understand. Studying for exams can be very stressful, and it forces you to face your fears about yourself and your dreams.
What to do: There are many anti-procrastination strategies you can adopt, from better time management to being more organized, following to-do-lists, to asking someone to check up on your progress.
Bad Study Habit #2: Studying at the Wrong Place
Rule of thumb: If you fall asleep when you read in a place (say, the couch or your bed), this isn’t the best studying place for you. The same goes for a place with a lot of distractions, like the beach.
What to do: Some people need things to happen around them to concentrate – you need to test different atmospheres and choose the right place for you to learn.
Bad Study Habit #3: Turning on Distractions
Along the lines of the point we just made, it might be more fun to study in front of the TV, or while you’re logged into Facebook, but chances are you won’t get much done.
What to do: If it’s hard for you not to be connected, you might want to try to reward yourself with TV or social media time after you get a certain amount of studying done.
Bad Study Habit #4: Studying the Night Before
You might pass some tests studying only the night before, but it will be hard to pass many tests this way, especially if you’re aiming for higher grades and a deeper understanding of what you’re studying. Not only do academic studies require a lot of your time, attention and energy, but your brain won’t function as well without a good night’s sleep, which will further challenge your chances to succeed when you take the exam.
What to do: Take a break a day before a test, do something you love like going for a walk or meeting friends. Make one page with the main points to remember and review it only in the morning of the test after a nice breakfast.
Bad Study Habit #5: Studying with The Wrong People
Choosing the right people to study with is an important factor for your learning performance. For example, studying with friends could be a great idea if you and your friends are motivated enough, and know how to support yourselves through the more challenging parts of studying.
What to do: give it a chance, but know when to put the limit if needed. If you and your studying partner end up chatting about other topics, it might be best to study separately, or only get together to test each other out with questions after you’ve each learned the material on your own.
Good Study Habits that Will Help You Succeed in College
Now, let’s take a look at what works for many students.
Good Study Habit #1: Plan Your Time
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by everything you need to accomplish in college, plus everything is going on in your personal life. Before you know it, the exam is tomorrow, and you don’t know what it’s about. To prevent it, go through each course plan at the beginning of the semester, and plan ahead how much you’ll need to study every week to move through the entire material. Make sure to leave time to catch up, because unexpected things could come up, or some aspects of studying could take longer than expected.
Good Study Habit #2: Set Study Goals
The habit above helps you get started with study goals by quantifying how much studying you need to get done every week for every course – but it doesn’t stop there. It might also help you to set study goals for each time you sit down and study. It could be to study a certain number of chapters, understand a challenge better, master a skill, or simply get through a larger amount of time without checking Facebook than you did yesterday.
Good Study Habit #3: Ask for Help
You never need to feel embarrassed to ask for help, but ask for help even if you do feel embarrassed, with whatever you need: understanding the chapter, taking care of the kids, improving your studying skills, or venting about how overwhelmed you feel. It’ll be easier after you get the help, and you’ll be much more equipped to accomplish your study goals.
Good Study Habit #4: Reward Yourself
Positive reinforcement can go a long way and encourage you to keep going even when it’s hard. It doesn’t have to be something big. It can be as small as watching your favorite show or eating ice cream after overcoming a studying challenge. Either way, be kind to yourself and reward yourself for your hard work.
Good or Bad Study Habits? What Works for Others Might Not Work for You
We prepared this list based on best practices that work for a vast majority of students. But remember that what works for most people doesn’t work for all people. We highly recommend you give yourself the freedom to explore what’s best for you, and then practice these habits until they become second nature, or until they serve you no more.