How to Actually Study in College


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My freshman year of college was a struggle.

I had a lot of work-heavy classes and I honestly had NO idea how to study. Throughout high school I never really found it necessary to study to get good grades (a story I heard constantly from my peers). So freshman year gen-ed classes, especially Calculus, hit me like a truck.

I needed to figure out quick how to actually study.

So how did I go from being an overwhelmed student to on top of my studying game by sophomore year? By following these steps:

1) Turn your phone off

Sometime I look back at generations that didn’t have this problem and get a little jealous.

How many times have you tried to study and then ended up down a 2 hour social media hole? I know before I was turning my phone off to study that happened like every other study session.

The distractions keep your brain from focusing. Each text or alert will pull your attention away from what you are studying which results in poorer retention and studying taking way longer than it needs to.

If you’re using a computer to study then close out all the tabs that you don’t need. Trust me you don’t need Facebook or Pinterest up on any tabs to help you master accounting.


2) Use the syllabus

For most classes the syllabus is your bible to acing a class.

You’ll need it for the basic due dates but usually professors also include what chapters and readings are assigned to which week and a summary of what chapters/subjects will be included on each exam.

It happened to me plenty of times where the week before we start to learn a new chapter but it isn’t actually on the exam happening that week. You don’t want to spend time studying things that aren’t needed yet.

That being said… it’s also important to review what you learn each week.

Taking 15 minutes to go over notes allows you to catch things you don’t understand before any other concepts get added on top of them. I find this to be particularly important in any math based classes.

Use color coded highlighters for the notes on the syllabus:

3) Make your own study guide

Get creative with it and make it what you need. Professors and/or TA’s often hand out their own study guides and they are good bases. However, they tend to be too broad and can include parts that you are confident on and not as much on parts you need to work on.

Struggle with memorizing formulas but understand how to use them? Then make your study guide focused on memorizing them not necessarily using them.

I highly recommend using a color coding method. For example, green = formulas, pink = definitions, red = super important, etc.

This helps your brain easily group the right things together and help visualize the different pars that you need to study.

My favorite pens for color coding my notes were Staedtler TriPlus Fineliner pens. The best part of these pens is they don’t bleed through notebook pages so you can use both sides which is so much more efficient!

I still use the all black pens to this day in my planner and at work!

4) Don’t be afraid of outside resources

The reality is sometimes the professor and/or textbooks aren’t good enough or just aren’t enough information.

So don’t be afraid to use online resources or tutors to help. The only way I was able to pass calculus was through Khan Academy videos. They were able to break down concepts in a way that helped me learn so much more than any math textbook can.

The internet has an amazing amount of resources out there and your college probably does too!

If you are seriously struggling in the class don’t be afraid to ask about tutoring or office hours (professor or TA whichever you would prefer).

If you end up not getting the grade you wanted or even failing a class because you didn’t take advantage of outside resources you will end up regretting it.

5) Master one chapter at a time

Don’t move onto the next chapter until you have mastered the first one.

Most subjects textbooks and courses build on the last chapter or the last lecture. It is so important to have a solid understanding of a chapter/week before moving onto the next.

You don’t want to get into week 5 and be helplessly confused because you never understood the concepts taught in week 1!

Keep track of what you have mastered and what you need to continue to master.

Post it notes will be your best friend for this I swear. Color code different pages with post-it notes. I used a system where blue was things I should review but understood, pink was things I was OK on but need to master, and orange meant I really needed to study this.

I usually stuck to the actual Post-It note branded ones because they hold up the best- find them here.





Studying in college is beyond important but remember to breathe and not let your courses overwhelm you. If you’re overwhelmed then go take a walk outside and get a cup of coffee before resuming.


College Graduation Cap


For more college resources check these out:

How To Dress for an Internship Interview

7 Important Items To Do on Day 1 of Classes

Never Do Another All Nighter

How to Prepare for Graduation





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