It’s that stress-inducing/exciting/hopeful time we call back to school season. For all those people going back to college this fall, I thought it might be helpful to write a post outlining some of my pieces of advice for the first few weeks of the semester to help you establish healthy study habits.
I think it’s so important to establish habits early on in the semester to discover what works well for you and to give you time to adjust before you have to start cramming for midterms and finals. So, here are some of my top tips for establishing good study habits that I’ve built over the past few years!
Go to office hours, even if you don’t have questions yet
I always force myself to go to the first round of office hours or recitations or labs, or whatever extra sessions my TAs or professors are holding. I think it’s important to meet the professors and TAs so that later on when you may need help, you feel comfortable asking questions and they know that you are invested in the class. It could also be the start of a mentorship relationship, if the professor sees that you’re genuinely interested in the course content. I also think that even if you go to these sessions without questions about the course material, you might learn from the questions that other people are asking or gain a deeper understanding of the materials.
Ask your TAs or past students how they studied
I feel as though for every new course you have to find a study technique or method that works best for the professor’s style of teaching and the content. I usually try out a few different things in the first weeks, however, I think it’s really helpful to ask your TAs how they studied for this class (as most of the time TAs are past students) or to ask them how they’d recommend studying for the class. For example, in one of my courses this semester the professor speeds really quickly through the content and I find it hard to write down everything and pay attention during the lecture. My TA recommended skimming the textbook beforehand and then annotating the slides during the class as the professor presents them. I think getting another perspective on how to study can make your studying more effective and save lots of time and confusion!
Prepare before class
This is something that I definitely don’t keep up once we get a little way into the semester, but that I’d like to! By preparing for class I’m not referring to doing the homework or assigned readings (you should definitely do those though!). By preparing for class I mean taking a look at the syllabus to see what topic you’ll be covering today or skimming the lecture slides just for a couple of minutes just to know what to expect. For some of my classes where we cover a lot of content, I also find it helpful to briefly look over my notes from the previous lesson just so I remember what we did and how everything connects together.
Review your notes weekly
This is something that I found so helpful when I first started college! In some courses you just learn so much content, and as you’re going through the individual lessons it’s sometimes difficult to see how things fit together. I always found that it was helpful to review my notes for each class at the end of each week just to see how everything fits together, and oftentimes when looking at the slides for the second time things click that didn’t click before. This also saves so much time when reviewing for midterms and finals, because you’re essentially reviewing as you’re going along in the course!
Work out what techniques work for you and which don’t
This seems pretty self explanatory, but I think people sometimes forget it. Make sure you evaluate what you’re doing to study for a class and think about if it’s actually helping you and is a good use of your time. I know some people work really well by making lots of notes, other people work better just by reading the textbook and soaking it in. As you’re putting in the work, remember to think about if it’s working for you to make the most effective use of your time.
Again another self explanatory one, but really important one! I know that for some of my more intense classes I like to do the homework assignments in my room where I know it’s quiet, but I like to take my notes in the mornings in a communal space where I feel motivated to focus. I know that I block out chunks of time in my day to work on different courses and in the evenings I finish up all the easy bits and bobs that aren’t super difficult but are time consuming. I think it’s important to establish those routines that help you excel!
Thing about the course narrative or bigger picture
This one might sound a bit weird, but I think it’s probably the most important piece of advice I can give in ensuring you make the most of a course. Sometimes when going through a course it’s easy to follow along with the lecture every week and do the homework assignments, but especially for technical courses, I think it’s sometimes easy to loose sight of what you’re actually trying to learn – the bigger picture. Last year I took a statistics course, and I remember I had to constantly remind myself to stop and think about how everything I was learning connected and was applicable in real world scenarios. It’s sometimes hard to do that at the beginning of the semester because you don’t know a lot about the course, but I guarantee that will make the course run smoother and will make the learning experience more rewarding!
These are a few of the tips that I’ve picked up over the year that I think help me study effectively and actually enjoy my courses! Let me know in the comments what works for you!
See you next week,