How to Study in College: 7 Proven Methods

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By CCU Staff

As a college student, you're expected to absorb vast amounts of material in a short period of time. You may be pouring over your textbooks for long hours and not getting the desired results. The problem is not a lack of intelligence or motivation but how you're approaching the learning process. You may be using the wrong methods. Researchers have conducted numerous tests involving college students resulting in a better understanding of the most effective study techniques.

1. Adjust Your Mindset to Learn How to Study

To be successful with anything, you need to start with the right attitude. You should look at studying in college as an opportunity, not a chore. As you learn new concepts, you broaden your horizons and gain a better understanding of the world around you. Many things are vying for your time; it's vital you make doing your assignments and preparing for exams your first priority. Keep in mind that each study session plays a part in helping you achieve your long-term goals.

2. Be Organized

Keep your textbooks, notebooks, writing instruments, etc. in a place where you can access them easily. Have a notebook for each class with a section to record assignments. Make a detailed list of what is expected for each assignment as well as the due date. If you have any questions about what is expected, ask for clarification.

3. Designate a Place and Time to Study

It's important to study in an area without distractions, such as the library or a quiet corner of a coffee shop or a home office. The area should have good lighting and ventilation. Environment is a factor in determining behavior, so an appropriate location will prime your brain for studying. Allocate time each day for studying, and if possible, do it the same time every day. Studying for long hours is not effective. You should study for 30 to 50 minutes at a time with five to ten minute breaks between each session to do something relaxing. This practice will stimulate your brain, enabling you to store information into your long-term memory for later retrieval.

4. Exercise, Eat Right, and Get Enough Sleep

Sometimes, simply knowing how to study in college is not enough; your health plays an important role. Exercising beforehand will get the blood flowing to make you more alert. As a busy college student, working professional, parent, etc., it's tempting to eat on the run; however, it's important that you eat a balanced diet. Most people need six to eight hours of sleep per night to function well. The results of a study done at Notre Dame University showed that students recalled more information if they slept shortly after studying.

5. Be an Active Reader

Before you read the assignment, get a general idea of the subject matter by reading headings, subheadings, tables, and charts. Read each paragraph until you understand the content. Underline the key points and take notes. Reading and rereading alone will not help you to recall the information. Use active recall by closing your textbook and reciting what you remember.

6. Take Detailed Notes

Taking detailed notes can be critical to understanding the material. Review your notes again after learning the material and as you complete your assignments. Research has shown that retention of material is about 60% higher when reviewed within a day after learning it.

7. Engage in Active Study

You will be able to study less and recall more if you study actively. A team of educators at Kent University studied the techniques used by college students and found that practice testing was one of the most effective ways to retain information. Studies have shown that students learn about 50% more of the information if they took a test on the material shortly after learning it. Using flashcards is another effective method. With flashcards, you can study at any time you have a few free minutes.

Regardless of if you are new to college or a bit further along in your academic program, you must employ effective study habits to succeed in your college career. Learning how to study in college is not just a process, it’s a science. Consistently follow these proven methods and you'll be well on your way to reaching your goals.


This article was written for you by a member of the California Coast University staff. Do you have a question, comment or an idea for an article? Email: [email protected]

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