Study Skills For College

Whether you teach students who are heading off to college in a few months or you have a child who is heading off to college in five years, there are a few study tips that can dramatically improve their odds of success.
How do I know?
I’ve lived this story. If you have not heard it before, the short version of my story is simply that I struggled all through elementary, middle, and high school. As I started college, I knew something would have to change or I wouldn’t survive school. So, I found a couple of books about preparing for college and took advantage of a few resources on campus. My grades skyrocketed immediately…to a 3.9 during my first semester!
Because I had accidently learned study skills. For the first time in my life, I knew how to study with STRATEGY. When I think back about that first semester, there are a few significant tactics that made the most impact:
First, I read my textbook *before* class. One great thing about college is that professors give a syllabus detailing what sections of the textbook will be taught each day, so I took advantage and read before class. As a result, I was able to pay better attention during class lectures (instead of dozing off) because I had a background “framework “to help me understand and organize the information in the lecture. At that time, I was a very weak reader, so tackling a textbook was a challenge for me. But, before long, I developed a shortcut for reading pictures and visuals that dramatically increased my reading speed and comprehension. Reading the textbook before class clearly had more impact on my success in college than anything else!
Secondly, I reviewed my notes within 24 hours. The brain stores new information in short-term memory for up to 24 hours before it “dumps” that info in favor of more recent information. I learned how to prevent that “dump” by reviewing my notes within 24 hours, allowing me to file new learning into my long-term memory. During this daily review, I reread my notes looking for connections; connections I could make to the textbook (this is one of many reasons why reading my textbook before class was so valuable) or knowledge I had from previous classes or life experiences. I would ask myself questions, draw diagrams I remembered from class but did not have time to write down, and add details I missed. I also highlighted areas of confusion and was sure to get clarification during my next class.
I was surprised at how quickly I could review my notes from a full day of classes…often in ten minutes or less. These ten minutes easily saved me hours of “cramming” later!
Finally, I took advantage of the “most wasted hours of the day!” I once read that the hours between 3-6 PM are the most wasted in a college student’s life. (I’ve since come to realize this is true for students and adults of all ages.) So, I challenged myself to make them the most productive hours of my day. Instead of lounging around the dorms between classes and dinner, I found a spot in the middle of campus to review my notes from the day, catch up on reading for the next day, and complete as much homework as possible.
It was sometimes hard to stay motivated after a long day of class, but I stayed focused by thinking of the time I was freeing up for myself later in the evening. (It was much more fun to hang around the dorms in the evening instead of the slow, boring hours of the late afternoon.) Sometimes, I would bribe myself with a Diet Coke or even allow myself to take a short, 20-minute nap.
These tips launched me on my way to a successful college career…and became the first elements of SOAR. I used them throughout college and grad school but continue to teach variations of them to students as young as fifth and sixth grad because learning *how to learn* is generally a universal process.
I also use them as an adult. People often ask me how I manage my growing business along with my growing family. It’s simple. I use my study skills. EVERY day!

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