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Creating and Maintaining Good Study Habits at College

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 3 9
Books College Study
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The Realization

So you've made it! You're in college! You're excited, overwhelmed, and already a little stressed at the prospects of all that work ahead of you. So you go to your first week of classes, pumped to get good grades. Then the second and third week go by. You lose a little bit more focus with each passing week as friends and freedom take up more and more your interest and time and you soon find yourself behind in some classes. You start trying to makd up some of the work, but in the process you ignore other assignments. This snowballs and eventually, you find yourself drowning in a sea of paper without any notion of where to start. Sound familiar?

This can be extremely stressful but there's hope! Know that this isn't anything abnormal. This is normal for most people in college. Time management skills are still being developed and perfected, so naturally there will be some mistakes. The important thing to realize is that getting caught up in this isn't the end of the world. Sometimes, it can even be a good thing! Its a point where you can refocus your goals and try harder. So how do you do turn this negative into a positive? As the saying goes, every journey begins with the first step...

The First Step

The process of admitting that you're having trouble is always the hardest. You feel frustrated with yourself because you know you can do better and that frustration is rough. Don't be too hard on yourself. The transition from high school level assignments and work and the material in college is a tough one and sometimes it's a little overwhelming. This really does happen to most people. Having that mountain of work towering over your head is daunting to everyone. It is definitely understandable. What you have to make yourself realize is that it is doable. People have been doing what you're trying to do for years and years and people will still be doing it after your graduate (and you WILL graduate, trust me).

The Process

The next step after your epiphany, although it seems obvious, is to commit yourself to studying. You have to admit to yourself that this will be more work than you may be used to doing and embrace it. Realize that this is your life and your choice to be at that school and that you want to do the best you can while you are there because, in the end,  all of that work is going to benefit you.

Now, prioritize your work. Think about things like; the credit hours for that course (usually more hours means that its grade has a higher effect on your GPA), how well you're doing in that class currently, when things are due, how long will the task take to be completed, is there anything special I need for that assignment (like a calculator), the difficulty of the assignment, and even your interest in the course. Morale definitely plays a role in your studies and your disinterest in a certain subject will affect your work ethic. Realize that this list offers only a few suggestions. The situations are endless, so you have to decide how you want to organize your workload. Focus on what affects you the most.

When you decide how you want to organize, make a To-do list with specific goals; ie. Read pg 37-41, memorize the 3 kinematics equations. Avoid vague terms like "study science". Using vague words makes it hard to measure when you've accomplished what you set out to do. Measureable goals are attainable goals.

Once you've done that, find an area to study that is conducive to your unique study needs. Some people prefer private study corrals in quiet places like the library or in a rarely visited building on campus (this is my favorite), other people enjoy finding a relaxing place outdoors such as under a tree or at a picnic table, while others like to study in their room or in a public area with a lot of through traffic like a common room in a dorm. Finding what suits you is paramount to your success with academics. Don't lie to yourself. You may LIKE to study somewhere but do poorly in that environment because of distractions. Realize your full academic potential with a little self-discipline.

 After all this is in place, do SOMETHING. Pick something from your list. Do it. It doesn't have to be the most pressing thing, but just get something done. Use that tiny success to set in motion the harder projects. You'll be surprised how fast things move along once you get a few items crossed off your list. The small accomplishments add up and eventually you will get done, often sooner than you think. There IS enough time in the day to do everything. Embrace this and you will be on your way.

Final Tips

Focus! Don't let yourself get distracted by friends, the internet, video games, or anything else. Keep telling yourself why you came to college. You want a good GPA. You want your degree. You want to graduate.

If you are having trouble focusing, assess your situation. Are you studying in your room? Are your friends coming by every few minutes to make you lose your momentum? If so, try changing your study environment as suggested earlier. This can really help more than you think it will.

-If you are still having trouble focusing after trying everything, get tested for a learning disability. Things like ADD, ADHD, or dyslexia are real conditions and most colleges are happy to make accommodations for you.

-Understanding that even though you are smart, you still have to work for your grades is extremely important. Being the smartest doesn't guarantee any success in the real world. The people that work harder WILL catch up eventually. They will go through the grind and come out better at the subject than you. Don't become complacent in your abilities. Always work to improve. That attitude will get you extremely far in anything you do.


Hopefully, this article helped you out a little bit. Thank you for reading! Please leave what you think below in the comments!



Jun 12, 2011 1:38am
Great job.
Jun 12, 2011 8:53pm
Bless you - articles and tips like this should be wired into every student's brain before they hit college - speaking as a professional procrastinator and ADD absent-minded scatterbrain!

Points that particularly hit home with me were the idea of figuring out beforehand how long a particular assignment will take, and your advice to break everything down in a to do list - small, manageable pieces are ALWAYS more easily achieved than feeling weighed down by the entirety of what you need to do.

Finally, thank you, THANK YOU, for addressing the subject of learning disabilities and encouraging people to go and get tested if they suspect they may be having trouble beyond "normal" college pressure. The biggest mistake I made in university was not heading straight to my Office of Students with Disabilities to get help for my severe ADD - they would have been able to offer support and accommodations that would have dramatically changed my university experience for the better had I sought them out.

So well done, thanks for a great article ;)
Jun 13, 2011 8:58pm
Thank you dreamaker and heywatchthehorns for the comments. I truely appreciate the feedback.

I am really glad the points about effective lists and ADD hit home with you heywatchthehorns! I know that the lists concept was the best thing that ever happened to my productivity. Also, I added the learning disabilities section because of my first year college roommate. He was an extremely intelligent guy, but struggled until the second half of the spring semester because he had ADD but had never been tested. Fortunately, he got tested and was found to have it, given the proper medication and his final grades shot up!

Again, thank you for the feedback!
Jun 17, 2011 10:37am
Nice points. An effective list with actual things to accomplish and an uninterrupted place are two of the best things for effective study.

Congrats on the feature!
Jun 24, 2011 2:36pm
I just finished uni, the best way to study for me is to work with friends, just having 3-5 of you in one room really helps especially when you're doing all nighters!
Jun 26, 2011 10:43am
I appreciate your input, landocheese and RomanNova. Your two comments are a great example of how different people study!
Jun 26, 2011 7:51pm
How did you know I needed this article. :) I am going to print it out as a reminder to me when I return for fall semester. Assignments take too long for me and I tend to get distracted when I try to focus. It took a while to figure out, but I learned that I focus more early in the morning, instead of late at night.
Jun 29, 2011 6:28pm
I'm so glad I could help. Just follow these tips and maybe some things you figure out on your own and you'll be fine, I'm sure.
Jun 30, 2011 5:01pm
Nice article. I help students with SAT/ACT, so I see a lot of graduating Seniors who go off to college. Many get in trouble right away because of poor time management skills. Thanks for addressing this important topic.
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