When you start classes, it’s normal to be nervous about how to study for a test or fit coursework into your daily life. Whether you’ve been out of school for years or you’re just unsure about beginning a new program, we’re here for you. To help you build good study habits, we’ve compiled our favorite study tips for college classes provided by South University faculty and staff, including:
- Mark Fabbri, PhD, Online Programs, Psychology Chair
- Alexandra Young, Academic Manager
- Rachel Mitchell, MLIS, Director of Online Library Services
1. Carve out time for studying in your day.
Mark Fabbri, our Online Programs Psychology Chair explains, "Finding time can be the greatest challenge to studying. We all have busy lives and sometimes putting studying on top of the list is difficult."
To address this problem, use a journal to track how you spend your day, noting when you’re doing something valuable versus simply passing time—but don’t count all down time as wasted. For example, Fabbri prioritizes playing Minecraft in the evenings because it’s his way to relax.
"I also have a grandchild to watch, parents to care for, my daughter's new novel to proofread, and I need to somewhere find the time to work and exercise," says Fabbri, who is currently working on adding another degree to his extensive credentials. "By looking at what I do daily, I was able to block out 1 to 2 hours a day to read and study early in the morning when I first get up. That also seems to be when I am most alert for studying. Everyone is different, but the key is finding the best time to study for your own schedule."
2. Be smart about the places you study.
Fabbri asserts that where you study is equally as important as when. "Removing distractions so you can focus on reading your text or articles needs to be a priority," he says.
Don't study in front of the TV or somewhere your children or housemates will distract you. Quiet libraries are often among the best places to study, as are coffee shops. If you study at home, play white noise or classical music (some of the best music for studying) to drown out distracting noises.
3. Make your study habits routine.
"Consistency is critical to success," says Alexandra Young, an Academic Manager at South University. "Do your school work at the same time and in the same place every day to start forming good study habits."
To stay on track, set regular reminders through South University"s online learning platform Brightspace or mark time off for repeat tasks on a physical calendar or agenda. Just remember—creating a routine isn’t easy. If you slip up, don’t feel guilty. Recommit to your routine the very next day. “It can take months for good study habits to stick," Young says.
4. Study in short bursts.
Cramming in all your studying at once is not effective. "You will learn the material for your assignment then forget it,” says Young. It’s also not the best way to study for a test, as you might forget what you studied by the time the test is in front of you.
Young advises studying for 20 to 30 minutes at a time and then taking a 5-minute break, repeating this process 1 to 2 hours a day. "Set a timer for studying. Stay focused and don’t check your phone. If you struggle with getting distracted, use software or apps to block extraneous websites for set times," says Young. "During your break, stand up, walk away, and give your mind a chance to rest."
5. Plan ahead and start early.
Planning ahead leaves room for surprises, says Director of Online Library Services, Rachel Mitchell. "Waiting until the last minute depletes any margin you might need due to technical issues or unexpected circumstances," she says. "It's possible you'll need clarification on an assignment or reading. When you procrastinate, there's no time left to hear back from an instructor, colleague, or tutor."
Mitchell suggests noting important course dates in your calendar and setting deadlines for yourself ahead of those dates to give yourself that extra wiggle room. She also likes psychologist Tamar Chansky's recommendation to "set up the launch pad and walk away." The idea is that if you set yourself up for a task beforehand, you're less likely to procrastinate later. "Before your study session, get out your computer, pen, paper, whatever you need," says Mitchell. "Take a quick break and then come back to everything all set up and ready to go."
6. Ask for help.
Admitting you don't know something can feel intimidating, but South University makes so many resources available to you--including tutoring, the library, instructors, and writing centers.
"As soon as you have a question, reach out! Asking saves you time and energy," says Mitchell.
"If you’re unsure about an assignment, contact your instructor right away. Anytime you need help with research, citations, or finding information on a topic, contact the library. We are here to help!"
Young agrees, adding that Admissions Representatives and Academic Counselors can also help with questions about how to study in college. "If your graduation team knows your concerns, they will be better equipped to point you in the right direction."
Get moving on your academic success!
Students can find contact information in the Campus Common for their Admissions and Academic support teams, instructors, campus or online libraries, and other resources that can help you build your college study skills.
If you’re interested in learning about South University and our programs, request information or call 1.800.688.0932 today!