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What are your best study habit tips to give for future college students?

I struggle with staying focused and getting my assignments done for school. Not only that, but I also get easily distracted and end up eating and going on my phone for many hours instead of doing my homework. I'd really appreciate it if anyone could give me tips on what YOU do to study and on what I could do! What do you do in order to have a good balance between your academic and social lives?

#studyhabits #socialmedia #college #july20

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Bonnie’s Answer

Hello, Bao-Truc!
I TOTALLY get it. You say you're distracted by your phone, and that's completely understandable. Mobile phones have become so much more than what they used to be: a luxury so you didn't have to use icky payphones. And now, especially when everyone is shut inside, your phone can be a lifeline to stay connected to friends and family.
You do have a choice, you are not powerless in this distractedness. Consider that you are only going to be in school for a relatively short time (although it seems like forever early on). It might be an advantage to you to go on a short-term phone "diet" by uninstalling some of those tempting apps. Don't worry, they'll still be in your account later to download later if you NEED them.

Here's the deal...your social life is sort of like those apps: it will be there when you are done with school. You can re-install your social life later, or suspend your account for a while with your friends. Your REAL friends will understand that you won't be able to text them non-stop whenever they get a hankering for your company. You can keep in touch maybe once every couple of weeks to catch up with them and their lives, maybe call one of them after you really crush it with a kick-butt paper you got an A on because you were so focused. (that one name that popped in your head when you just now read that--that's the one you need to balance and keep in your life). It's the casual friends that are a true distraction you need to manage, and you might consider just letting them go for now. You can re-boot casual friendships after you get your degree. And the bragging in social media to reach them is completely unnecessary. They are scrolling/swiping past anyway.

In past generations, it wasn't the phone that was the distractor, it was television. I know plenty of people who found themselves so busy in college or in their early career that they just fell out of the habit of watching TV when they were in school, and then just never picked up the habit again. And I guarantee you they live full lives! You might find yourself in a similar situation with your current distractions.

The best thing for me was to make a point of studying in the quiet space of the library. That worked for me, because there was no TV to flop on the couch and watch for hours on end. I had to drag all my books and papers and laptop to the library, so I was definitely going to make the most of my time there. I saw other --more diligent students than me-- reading books silently, with no music or TV in the background. I tried to copy what they were doing so I felt like I belonged there. For me, I had to start with small goals: I will read this one chapter for history class. Then I will get up to get some water. Then it was two chapters, then I could do history PLUS write an outline for lit class, and eventually I got into the floww so much that I became one of those students I had been in awe of last semester. So, silence your phone, and treat it like you would if you were driving. Texting and driving don't mix! Neither do texting and studying! ;)

Bonnie recommends the following next steps:

Keep a log for 2 days of what apps you accessed on your phone-- which are your favorites and why?
Scroll through your text messages --who you are texting on the reg and what you are talking about?
Consider: What are some alternative ways to maintain connection with people, without the typical social scene?

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Madisen’s Answer

Staying focused and having the motivation to study can be hard. You have to find your reason for studying. My motivation to study was that I needed to know this information for my career, I wanted to keep my scholarships, and I wanted to have a good GPA for job applications. Here are the top 4 things I did to study:

1. Hang out with people that study- My husband is really good at studying, and I kind of sucked at it when we first met. He was dedicated to studying, so if he was studying then I had few other options, and I wanted to give a good impression, so I studied too. His skills and motivation eventually rubbed off, and I developed better habits. Also participating in study groups really helped me. Especially once I got into my major classes, many of my peers were taking the same classes just at different times, so we would find a time that worked each week and go over the information. I did best with smaller study groups of 2-4 people.

2. Stay organized- To stay organized, I used a planner. I wasn't always the best at using my planner, but I was more successful when I did. Some classes have a couple huge projects that you have to plan out, some have a ton of small assignments, and some are a mix. Either way it is hard to keep track of everything mentally and sometimes teachers aren't the best at updating the assignments online, so writing everything down in a planner helped me. I would block off time for assignments, classes, work, and extracurriculars. This helped me be realistic about what I could accomplish in one day. Also it felt great to cross out things as I completed them.

3. Make it fun- I would try to make studying fun or be creative while I studied. I would use different colored highlighters, make visuals of different topics, write and draw on a white board, listen to music occasionally, get up and dance, and again study with other people. I thought I had to be serious the whole time, but that was draining and I would burn out. Being happy, feeling accomplished, and finding something to laugh at energized me to keep going.

4. Mix it up- What really helped me was reinforcing the information in different ways. This was especially helpful when studying for a huge test. Taking practice quizzes, making flash cards as I read through the chapter, listening to a recorded lecture, watching online video for the topic, studying with a group, teaching the material to someone else, going to TA study reviews, and taking to the professor about the topic if I was especially struggling were all things that helped me study for long hours without getting burn out.

I didn't have great studying skills in high school and mostly coasted by, but college was a challenge so I found people that would support me, I sought out and used resources, and tried to stay positive despite overwhelming pressure. Be patient with yourself, you got this!

Madisen recommends the following next steps:

Hang out with people that study
Stay organized
Make it fun
Mix it up

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Angela D.’s Answer

Great question! I've posted the below before in CareerVillage, but wanted to respond to you personally.

Please note that you don't need to study harder, but smarter (please see explanation and website below). By doing so, you will free up a little more time for: precious sleep (crucial for memory formation/retention/retrieval); some exercise (endorphins are hormones/chemicals released by the brain that can relieve pain and stress); and more opportunities to prepare nutritious meals (you need brain food!). Some visual folks do well with homemade flashcards (word or question on the front, answer on the back) or condensing notes into blurbs that fit on a two-sided page so that they can "remember" what the two sides "look" like. Others are more auditory, so reading notes aloud or listening to previous lectures prompts recall later. Mnemonics (a pattern of letters, ideas, or associations that assists in remembering something) can also be helpful. Pacing yourself is important. Watch some shows that are stress relievers like comedy!

Important test-taking strategies include: use process of elimination; be careful of absolute terms (e.g., always, never, etc.), slang, extreme words, long answers; and answers that have the word "and" in them as two or more conditions must be met.

A brief summary of smarter studying is to eliminate multi-tasking and engage in high intensity habits (pre-testing, spaced practice, self-quizzing, interleaving practice, and paraphrasing/reflecting). This is also most helpful for short answer and essay questions as well. Short term mastery can be attained with easier, less effective studying techniques...which may be enough to get you through a quiz/test, but not for long term memory/mastery.


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Alycia’s Answer

I am a full-time college student right now and I used to get easily distracted too! But after three years of studying, I implemented little changes into my study sessions that helped tremendously.

The first thing I do when I want to focus for hours on end is place my phone on silent and put it far away from my line of sight. Having access to social media, the internet, and gaming apps on a hand-held device is bound to make us distracted, so that best course of action is not using it at all while you study. If you can, turn it off for maximum effectiveness!

Secondly, make sure to eat three complete meals a day around the same time as your used to. This is more of a preparatory measure, to ensure that you won't get hungry or use your lack of eating as an excuse to go out and eat. This will be especially helpful if you plan on studying for a long periods of time on campus.

Thirdly, invest in good earphones! If you are like me and even the faintest of noises distracts you, plug in and listen to instrumental (non-lyrical) music to block out any noise. I heard listening to classical music as you study will help you retain information better!

Lastly, if you want to have better grades and have an active social life, plan for it! If you know you have the entire weekend dedicated to hanging out with friends or going on a mini-vacation with your family, spend the week doing homework, studying, attending lectures knowing that all of it will be worth it in the end.
Good luck!

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Sydney’s Answer

I think whats best is to make a ton of list!

I think whats most important about creating the list is attempting to give a time estimate as to how long it would take for you to complete, this will help give you an idea when you need to start working.

I think identifying your study style is a good start as well. Think about if you're someone who needs complete silence to focus or if you'll need to be around people and/or if you simply enjoy it better if you're around others to study and work on assignments.

For me, it's a mixture, for some assignments I need to be alone and completely focus, for others I rather enjoy being around others and being able to help them as well. Teaching someone else the topic is a good way in helping yourself fully learn the material because you'll be able to explain it to someone else.

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Maryana’s Answer

Give yourself breaks and create a list of things you need to get done. Surround yourself around other people who are getting their work done/studying (library, coffee shop, etc.). Also, try turning off your phone for a few hours so you can really focus and not be distracted.

Hope that helps!

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Britni’s Answer

Hi there! I understand how it feels to have difficulty with staying focused. I think what helped me the most is to make a plan and set a schedule on what goals you have for the day. It also helps to hold yourself accountable by putting your phone away and eliminating any distractions that you have. Many of us are guilty of being on our phones for hours on end and we lose track of our goals for the day! I recommend placing your device somewhere out of sight and reach so you can focus on your assignments. Also, forming a study group with others in the same class can help and also can hold you accountable as well. It's definitely easier said than done, but it will take time for get into the groove of what your personal study habits are and what works best for you. Best of luck!

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Kimberly’s Answer

Try joining a study group with others in your class to hold yourself accountable. Be ready with the readings done to get the most out of your study groups.
If you're distracted by your phone or other technology, turn your phone off and put it in another room while studying. Give yourself social media time as a reward for finishing a hour of focused study or homework time.

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Kimberly’s Answer

Try joining a study group with others in your class to hold yourself accountable. Be ready with the readings done to get the most out of your study groups.
If you're distracted by your phone or other technology, turn your phone off and put it in another room while studying. Give yourself social media time as a reward for finishing a hour of focused study or homework time.

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Wayne’s Answer

Hi Bao-Truc. Here are some tips that worked for me.

Organization is key! Get a college planner. This can be a planner with a creative design, a plain notebook, a wall calendar, or even a small dry erase calendar for your desk that changes each month. A wall calendar or desk calendar is best for double-checking appointments, events, and due dates while a notebook planner of some sort will be best for planning on-the-go, wherever you are. This planner will keep you in check when you are in class or in a meeting with your advisor. If digital works better for you, think about setting up an agenda on your mobile device. You can set up reminders for test dates, department events, study times, and assignment due dates. Additionally, you can create a study outline on your device in something like Google Docs, Microsoft Word, or another digital format that works for you.

Plan Ahead. Create a study plan at the beginning of the semester based on your course syllabus. Ideally, you should study a little bit every day throughout the week -- even just 20 minutes can make a huge difference -- so you do not wind up cramming and stressing out right before the big exam.

Take Good Notes. Studying starts in the classroom. Pay attention and take good notes, so when you are studying later, you are just reviewing information (instead of learning it for the first time). Speak with your professor about recording lectures on your phone. A recording can complement your notes so you can go back and re-listen to the information in case there are other details you pick up on later to note. Effective note-taking strategies can have a direct impact on your study habits and is one of the most important study tips for college.

Find a Routine. Getting yourself into a study routine is one of the best ways to make sure that studying becomes a part of your everyday habit. Figure out what time of day works best for you and make a real effort to dedicate that time to reviewing notes, videos, and other related resources. Pick times during the week to try out your studying. You can try studying in the morning on one day, the afternoon another day, and in the evening if that works best for you when there are no distractions at the end of the night. Once you have decided which time works best for you, try to stick with that time of day every day (or at least 3 days a week) to get in the habit of studying consistently. You might wind up rearranging your routine due to extracurricular activities, time with friends, and other commitments, but be sure to prioritize your studies and get them done in one way or another.

Eliminate Distractions. Studying without distractions is crucial. If you are studying alone, try to find a quiet space or put headphones in to block out noise from your surroundings. If you are in an area trying to study and it is just not working out, relocate. It might be frustrating to have to pick up and move, but it will be worth it once you’re in a good environment. Consider putting your phone on silent or vibrate too -- you can always respond to your messages after your study session!

Study with Friends who also want to succeed. Encouraging friends to study with you can make everything more fun and productive! Ask your classmates to study with you at a certain time and location. For example, you can ask your biology colleagues to study with you after class for an hour at the school cafe. You can set up your computers at a table together and grab some snacks and coffee to enjoy the time. The same goes for studying with your friends. If you’re not in a class with them, studying together in-person can help you hold each other accountable.

Ask for Help! If you really do not understand a concept, ask questions! Stop by your professors’ offices during their office hours, or contact classmates and professors via email. Some classes might even have a Facebook Group to keep students engaged and to create an environment to ask questions outside of class. Either way, your professors will be on your side – nonjudgmental, wanting to help you understand the class in its entirety.

Teach Someone! Teaching a friend, family member, or even your pet the material is a great way to see how well you know it! When you explain it to someone else, you’ll have a better grasp of which information you already have mastered and which information you should revisit for yourself.

Switch Up Your Study Spots. Studying in the same spot can get tedious, so why not mix it up and get a new perspective on things? College campuses have tons of study spots for students—from the library to the campus lawn to local cafes (think back to studying with friends and finding an area to set up for an hour or for the day). Take advantage of these study areas, both indoors and outdoors, and give yourself a new view every day!

Do NOT Cram. While it may seem like a good idea to learn an entire semester’s worth of information in one night, it’s not an effective study habit, and it can cause a lot of unnecessary stress. Instead, study a little bit of information every day for at least 20 – 30 minutes. You will likely remember more later and you will feel calm and prepared when it comes to exam time.

Memorize vs. Understand. One of the study tips for college that can make a massive difference in how you approach new information is knowing the difference between memorizing the material and understanding it. Memorizing information is not actually learning the information -- it is just helping you learn how to repeat it during a finite time.

Review and Reorganize Your Notes. Whether you are using a notebook, a laptop, or good old-fashioned flashcards, reviewing each line of your notes helps ensure that you hit all the right information you reviewed in class and might even remind you of a few things you would have missed otherwise. It is good to review notes shortly after class, and then again a few days later. This allows you to take a break between edits and come back to the information with a fresh perspective.

Study Smarter, Not Harder. Occasionally, college professors will tell you the information that will (or will not) be on an exam -- listen to them! They are sharing this information with you to save you time so you are not studying the wrong information for hours, and you can focus on the important points. If you are unsure about what to focus on while studying, send your professor a quick email to confirm or speak with him or her after class.

Use the Reward System. Studying can be draining, so treat yourself for a little motivation. Buy a coffee from your favorite coffee shop or get some study snacks from the campus convenience store. You can also reward yourself by taking breaks for activities you enjoy, like walking, reading, or watching TV. Adding in a reward will give you something fun to work towards.

Take Breaks. Continuing from the previous point, taking breaks is important. Breaks give you a boost of productivity, reset, and prevent burnout. It might seem like you need to use all the time you possibly can to study, back-to-back, but your brain will start to slow down if you do not give it a chance to relax. Taking breaks can help you get the most out of your study time with the least amount of stress.

Be Confident About Your Studies. It might be easy to fall into a trap of stressing yourself out while you are studying, but that will be counterintuitive in the big picture. You can control when you study and how you study to help prepare you for your exams. After that, you have to be confident and try your best to retain the information. Believing in yourself and trusting that you’ve got this can help you forget about the stress and focus on moving forward.

Stay focused! Good luck!

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Tanya’s Answer

Hi there,

I find that studying is honestly different for everyone. Each person has their own preference of how to study and have different methods that work well for them. When it comes to study methods, I would pick a few that interest you and just see which method works better for you. That said, I've listed a few steps below that have helped me get through my hard study seasons in college. I hope you find these helpful!

Tanya recommends the following next steps:

Stay organized. Get a monthly/weekly calendar and put in all your due dates at the beginning of the semester.
Create an appropriate environment you can concentrate and study in. I used to get distracted by phone, tv, roommates etc. What I found that really worked for me was going to either the school library, a starbucks, etc., putting my phone on do not disturb, and just putting my head down and getting to work.
Study more frequently, instead of for one long period of time. At the end of each week, go over what you learned and make sure you actually understand the material. This way, if you have any questions, you can address them sooner rather than later.
If you get bored of studying really easily, its okay to take breaks. You can create minnie milestones when studying to encourage you to get to the break. "If i get through the first two chapters, I can take a 15 minutes break".
Stay hydrated, and eat well, so that your brain and body feel good and help you accomplish your studying goals.

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Darin’s Answer

Awesome question and some great answers already. We live in a generation now where phones do everything for us and that includes entertainment. You can open up social media and video networking apps and minutes can turn into hours real quick. I'm guilty of it myself. Likes been said already find out what's important to you and get yourself organized. Schedule your entire day from the minute you wake up to the minute you go to sleep. Include everything and I mean everything, breakfast, lunch, dinner, work if you have a job, going to hang out with your friends, doing your laundry, school work and study time, your commute time in your car going to and from places and yes the time you spend looking at your phone. What you'll start to notice is seeing everything written down will show you places where you may have some free time or areas you can improve upon and then you can work from there. You can start crossing things off that may not be important and replace it with study and schoolwork, or whatever you want. It's ok to have a social life while your a student but remember your end goal and why you are going to school

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Hoang’s Answer


Thank you for sharing your question! You are not alone in your study habits: Many people, including myself, have difficulty staying on task.

In regards to suggestions, some practices I find highly effective include having a “go-to” study spot with few distractions. An appropriate study setting can help with attention and productivity.

Another practice I found helping was breaking study time down to manageable increments. For example, you can set a 30 minutes timer, when the timer goes off, you can take a 5 minutes break. (More experienced students set longer study duration, like an hour) this practice helps workload to be more manageable and structured.

Hope that helps!!!

Hoang recommends the following next steps:

Study in 30 minutes intervals
Use timer as reminder to break
Non distracting study space