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What is the most effective way to develop better study habits in a methodical manner?

I know that going into college as a freshman, my academic routine will have to change with the various classes and requirements of each course I take. With this in mind, how can I shift from my traditional high school studying methods of cramming the night before to a steady study routine that will leave me less stress in starting my college experience? #studying-tips

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Donald’s Answer

Mathias' answer was great. I would add that your motivation will also change as you transition to college and again as you head out into a career . When you were cramming in high school, it presumably was to "get a good grade, or perhaps just pass". College is an opportunity to build upon your high school foundation and learning for retention and future use will indeed require more than cramming.

In high school I was a “mediocre” student at best. I have always had a difficult time with abstract concepts. I don’t know much about geometry (as the song goes – OK, it’s an old song) but celestial navigation is easy. I struggled (C- kind of struggle that I had to get to graduate from High School) through calculus but at work when I had to figure out the volumes of irregularly shaped products we manufactured, I found that easy (they didn’t tell me that was calculus). I learn best by listening repetitively and seeing. Others learn best by doing, others by seeing and/or observing. There is no “right” way. As individuals, each of us is different in learning styles as we are different as people.

Your college experience will hopefully allow you to fully develop the way you learn, solve problems and provide a template for future success in an environment that is much more forgiving than you may find in industry. This is the real preparation for your life's work and may prove to be one of the most valuable assets you will have in your life. With that in mind, you might try different methods of learning and really settle on the method or style that fits you. Once mastered, using that approach, whatever it turns out to be, will serve you well. Good luck in your endeavors,

Don Knapik

Don Knapik
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mathias’s Answer

There are long books about this so a short post is not going to be saying all you need to know. But you already passed the biggest hurdle - I need to learn a lot of stuff, but also I need to learn "how to learn" a lot of stuff.

There are tactical things like:
** "speed reading" - reading fast AND better understanding of what you are reading
** structured note making, e.g. mind mapping, instead of copying the teacher's text
** Planning your study environment and timing, e.g. do logically complex stuff in the morning after a good breakfast. Less complex but time consuming stuff can be done later in the day when you are not as sharp.

Strategically you benefit from understanding the way learning works. For instance, repetition helps. Basically to learn something by heart (for most of us) - you learn, then you repeat many times. But the time between repetitions can be increased. So maybe study the topic repeatedly during a few days, then repeat quickly several times in the next couple of weeks, then months, then maybe once again after a quarter or two.

** Sleep and food are important, sometimes you will end up studying or writing in the night, but that is not a good long term strategy.
** Anything you work on will benefit from spending more calendar time, if you do the big part of it a week before submission, you will be able to relax and then revisit your work and find deeper learning and connections etc and be able to add that to the initial work. That will not happen when you end up doing a huge push just before submitting the result

Also, accepting the fact that something that looks impossible to solve is in fact NOT be over your head. A lot of complex logical stuff like e.g. advanced maths and quantum physics will look impossible to solve. Teachers will not be able to give you a clear instruction how to solve them. They will teach you methods to use, but within these it will take your creativity to find the best parameters, variable substitutions or whatever, to solve the problem. The wrong way is to end up thinking "I am stupid" or "The teacher is useless". Usually neither is true, these are just stuff that take a lot of practice to become familiar with. A great sportsman/woman does not expect to be able to do the perfect <whatever> without practice. The same goes for a lot of stuff in the academic world.

Also whenever you can get things to build on top of each other or connect with stuff you already know they immediately become more easy to understand and learn. I recall a "stupid" math course that I failed and decided to do maybe next year. Then 6 months later this math became a very useful tool in an advanced physics class. At that point I had two options. Ignore the math part and spend 1 hour solving each of the new physics problems, or learn the math parh and spend 10 minutes per physics problem. Just the fact that I knew the math stuff was useful and not stupid helped a lot. I then revisited math course and learned it really quickly. In fact, even if it introduced a lot of new esoteric stuff I never knew before, it was actually one of the easier topics of that year.
So getting the bigger picture - why is this useful, when is it useful - is good. And even if there is no clear understanding at the moment, you can get motivation from knowing that it will help you connect stuff later on. Most learning builds on other learning.

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