Good study habits are essential to making the grade. Whether it’s your first time in college or you’re in the homestretch and want to finish strong, refreshing your approach to how you study can help set you up for a successful quarter and beyond.

College courses are different from high school classes, and the study habits you developed in high school may not be as effective. Take time to test out some different methods and see what works for you and what doesn’t — figuring out your most efficient and impactful study style now can save you headaches later.

Here are just a few tips for finding a successful study plan.

1. Start studying right away

Don’t wait for homework to start piling up to decide to study. The start of a new quarter, when exams are still a ways out and homework tends to be lighter, is the perfect time to create a study routine, read ahead, and test out study methods to see what works for you.

2. Get and stay organized

At the start of each quarter, check the syllabus for the dates of important assignments and exams and write them down in your organizer or planner. Include dates of all your commitments including classwork, social events, work, etc., and create a study schedule that ensures you have plenty of time to get it all done ahead of time instead of relying on a last-minute cram session.

Make sure to organize your class materials. Use stickies to mark important pages in the textbook, keep all your notes together in a notebook specific to each class, keep your study space clean, create a filing system for old assignments so you can reference them easily, write down your professor’s office hours and contact info and keep it handy, and keep your syllabus in a safe, easy-to-access spot.

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3. Find a study buddy or group

Friends and study partners can help boost your grades by keeping you accountable, supplementing your lecture notes with material you may have missed, giving you a sounding board to make sure you’re understanding difficult concepts, and introducing you to new study methods you might not yet have tried. Friends can also help give you an outlet for stress and keep you sane when exam time hits!

4. Learn how to take notes

Taking good notes is key to being able to recall important information, and the act of writing things down also helps you learn and remember information more effectively and efficiently. 

The goal is to make sure to record the main concepts of the lecture or textbook without writing absolutely everything down. Tune in to your instructor; if they present a bullet list of main concepts for the lecture, get extra excited about a particular point, or even announce “this will be on the exam,” odds are you should write it down. It’s also ok to record lectures so you can listen to them later, as long as the instructor gives you permission to do so.

5. Become the teacher

How well do you know the material you’re studying? Try to teach it to a friend, family member, or study buddy and find out. When you explain a concept to someone else, it shows you which information you really have down and which information you don’t quite get yet.

6. Get sleep smarts

Sleep is essential to brain function. Lack of sleep lessens your alertness level and ability to concentrate. Sleepiness makes it harder to focus and pay attention, which means you can be more easily confused and struggle with logical reasoning and complex thought. Sound like a recipe for studying success?

Getting enough sleep is hard when you’re balancing work, school, and family and social obligations. But making an effort to establish a sleep routine can help.

7. Ask for help

Your instructor has office hours for a reason. If you don’t understand a concept, are afraid you missed a key point during lecture, aren’t sure how the lecture ties into the reading, want to make sure you’re studying the right material for an upcoming quiz, or really need any help at all related to the class, make an appointment to meet with your instructor. They’re committed to your success and will help you find solutions.

Signing up for tutoring is a fantastic way to make sure you’re fully absorbing the material and getting the most out of college. There’s zero shame in going the extra mile to ensure you have a firm grasp on what you’re learning.

8. Take breaks

Take a 10-minute break every hour and try to take at least a day off each week. Taking time for yourself to decompress and re-energize will help keep you from getting overwhelmed or burned out. And, after a break, you’ll probably find you’re ready to hit the books feeling more mentally refreshed and acute than when you left off.

College can be an exciting and life-changing experience, and adjusting to college life can take time. Making the effort to learn effective study strategies can help you manage this new chapter like a champ. Give yourself permission to try multiple methods to find what works best for you, and remember that it’s OK to not always have all the answers — you’re in college to learn!

Learn more at Shoreline.edu.