Many students are surprised at the differences in studying for college courses versus how they studied in
high school. 

Daily classwork is replaced by vast midterms and exams which require knowledge about concepts rather than simple memorization of facts. Students frequently discover they need to adapt their study habits to the college setting.  They learn that they have to study differently and more often. They realize that a majority of their learning takes place outside of class. You may spend less time in class than you did in high school, but you will need to spend far more time studying and doing homework. Most college classes require two-to-three hours of homework for every hour of class time. That means that a 15-hour class schedule has at least 30 hours of out-of-class work each week.
​Studying in high school

Teachers may often set aside class time for students to work on homework. Study time outside of class may be as little as two hours
a week.

  1. Students are expected to read short assignments that are then discussed and
    often reviewed in class.
  2. Teachers often remind students of their incomplete or pending work.
  3. Students will usually be told what they are expected to learn from assigned materials.

​Studying in college

  1. Students need to plan to study two to three hours for every hour they are in class.
  2. Students are assigned substantial amounts
    of reading and writing that may not be directly addressed in the classroom.
  3. Students are expected to complete homework listed on the syllabus without being reminded.
  4. It is up to students to read and understand
    the assigned material; lectures and exam schedules are based on the assumption that they have done so.

​Master study plan at a glance

  1.  Make sure you understand your assignments.
  2. Plan ahead; write down due dates.
  3. Divide large tasks into smaller tasks.
  4. Take study breaks.
  5.  Mix it up! Switch subjects.
  6.  Review. Review. Review.
  7. Focus … minimize distractions.
  8. Treat school as a job!
  9. Show up; be an active participant.

How to study:

Learn to say NO! 
Saying no to partying, movies, etc. does not make you a terrible person.

Study space.
Your regular study space should be as quiet and comfortable as possible and large enough to have easy access to everything you need for studying (text and reference books, paper, pencils, etc.).


Use two schedules.

Keep Switching subjects, study styles. 
After three-to-four hours of studying the same material in the same way, you are learning virtually nothing.

Do not study for more than two hours at a time. 
Your brain really does shut down, and any studying you do after that point is just a waste of time.

Use the 45/15 schedule.

Reward Yourself if, and only if, you have met your goal for that study session. For example, if you plan to study one chapter and you succeed, then you may reward yourself by doing something pleasurable. Examples of positive reinforcement are: food, exercise, video games, etc.

Tutoring is not a negative thing! 
Get help early before the academic damage is irreversible. Many schools offer free tutoring in a variety of subjects.

Key points:

  1. Highlight ideas in your textbooks and outlines.
  2. Give extra attention to words or phrases in bold.
  3. Prepare questions about the chapter that will be discussed in the following class. This will help you identify areas that you do not understand.
  4. Make correspondences between your class notes and your textbook. This will help you to fill in any background information not covered in class.
  5. Use index cards to write questions or vocabulary words on one side and the answers on the other side, and use them as flash cards. If you carry them with you, you can get through several of them while waiting in traffic, walking to class, in between classes, etc.
  6. Review what you have studied just before you go to bed. You will find that you will remember the words very strongly the next morning.


Memory and studying
Memorize from general to specific.
Study the big picture, then learn the details.

Cramming does NOT work!
Cramming for an exam only commits the information to your short-term memory.

Four basic reasons why you forget pieces of information:

  1. You don't use the information.
  2. You confuse it with other information.
  3. You decide the information does not match what you already believe.
  4. You never really learned the information in the first place.

Keys to remembering:

  1. Be interested. Pay attention. Consciously choose to remember. Establish a need to remember.
  2. Visualize. Picture in your mind what you wish to remember.
  3. Relate. Relate and form associations between the new ideas and information you wish to remember and information, ideas, persons, things, etc. that you already know.
  4. Repeat. Even though something is initially learned it will more likely be forgotten if not over-learned. Be sure to repeat information in your own words.
  5. Recall. Make up acronyms or mnemonics (ie. Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally = parentheses first, then exponents, then multiplication, division, addition and subtraction) or (Na, I don't want no Soda crackers = Na = Sodium).
  6. Reduce stressors in your life.  Healthy, stress-reducing behaviors, such as mediation, exercise and sleep are especially important for college students. Many campuses have counseling or health centers that can provide resources to help you deal with whatever might be causing stress in your daily life.

Seven is the magic number.
Repeat difficult information seven times a day for seven days. -OR- Create seven index cards with the word or fact written on them. Tape the cards in places where you go frequently (ie. mirror, fridge, etc.) then forget about them. After two weeks you will subliminally absorb the information.

Association is a key to memory

Next Page Back to college success menu