Being a college student was one of the busiest times of my life. There is so much going on for most students in college: studying for exams, completing homework assignments, writing papers, attending career fairs, getting involved in student organizations, working part or full-time jobs, volunteering, paying bills, cooking, cleaning and holding all other responsibilities that come with being an adult.
Managing an overwhelming workload comes down to prioritizing your tasks and being as efficient as possible. And when it comes to studying, there are ways you can help maximize your study time.
Develop a schedule
You can allocate your study time however you choose, but a consistent schedule will help you stay organized and balance your coursework. When I was in college, I would dedicate certain week days to specific courses. If I didn’t have assignments or exams in those courses, I would use the allocated study time to catch up on class reading or review lecture notes. Keep in mind that your schedule should leave room for flexibility. You never know when unexpected projects or assignments will turn up.
Keep an open mind to reworking your schedule. Evaluate it on a weekly basis to determine if you are still using your time the best way you can. If your schedule isn’t working, revise it.
Tips for using your scheduled time
- Choose a location. It may sound simple, but settling into the perfect study spot can make all the difference in how you approach your time. Everything from lighting to room temperature to noise level can affect your mood when studying. Choose a spot that’s quiet and comfortable, and be sure you have plenty of room to spread out your materials.
- Learn efficient reading techniques. The amount of reading assigned in college can be daunting, so it is important to approach it as efficiently as possible. Reading silently is faster than reading out loud. Extract the main idea and supporting details. Take note of any graphs, tables or diagrams—professors may refer to these in exams. Understand links between various concepts.
- Take notes in lecture and when reading coursework. Pay extra attention to bold or italicized words.
- Highlight the most important details in your notes.
- Review your notes during your designated study time.
- Keep a list of questions of any material that is confusing or requires further explanation. Bring your questions to lecture or your professor’s office hours. As an adult, it is your job to make sure you fully understand the material.
- Form study groups.
- Make flash cards.
- Exercise repetition.
- Practice explaining concepts out loud. Strict memorization is fine for some courses, but many courses require a deeper understanding of concepts. You will find that talking yourself through topics forces you to actually learn the material, not just memorize it.
- Ask professors if they will distribute practice tests before the actual exams. This is a great way to become familiar with an instructor’s testing and grading style.
- Take advantage of any review sessions prior to exams. This time can be used to clear up any uncertainty you have about course material. Also, instructors often will give insight as to what the exam will hold during review sessions.
Cassie is a May 2009 University of Wisconsin-Madison Ag Journalism graduate. She recently unfolded her passion for public relations during her short stint as a PR consultant for a Madison, Wis. area non-profit and is looking to dive into the field professionally. Find Cassie on Twitter, BrazenCareerist, and LinkedIn.