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Did you know that full-time col­lege stu­dents spend an aver­age of 15 hours a week hit­ting the books? If you’re study­ing for 15 hours or so every week, you’re right on target! 

With your extracur­ric­u­lar activ­i­ties and oth­er to-dos on the side, will a 15-hour week­ly study time be enough? Cer­tain majors, espe­cial­ly in STEM fields like Biol­o­gy, Engi­neer­ing, and Chem­istry often demand more time for research and study­ing. Your pro­fes­sors expect you to prompt­ly accom­plish the aca­d­e­m­ic require­ments and meet their standards. 

For­tu­nate­ly, there’s good news for col­lege stu­dents pur­su­ing their first bach­e­lor’s degree: aca­d­e­m­ic excel­lence can be achieved despite these challenges!

Key Study Tips for College Success - fact

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Set SMART Goals

Goals keep you focused and moti­vat­ed despite the dif­fi­cul­ties and dis­trac­tions com­ing your way. When we say SMART goals, we mean goals that meet the fol­low­ing characteristics:

  • Spe­cif­ic. Define in clear and con­cise words what you want to achieve in terms of your study habits, like focus­ing more on math and sci­ence subjects
  • Mea­sur­able. Ensure that you have quan­tifi­able goals for track­ing your progress, such as a spe­cif­ic num­ber of hours spent read­ing your books 
  • Achiev­able. Set real­is­tic goals based on your cur­rent conditions 
  • Rel­e­vant. Make sure your study goals are aligned with your over­all aca­d­e­m­ic goals 
  • Time-bound. Set dead­lines that will make you respon­si­ble and account­able for your actions 

Your SMART goal can be: “I will spend at least two hours study­ing dif­fer­en­tial cal­cu­lus every week­day and one hour on week­ends for 30 days to improve my sub­ject under­stand­ing and get at least a B+ grade.”

SMART study strate­gies for suc­cess in col­lege also apply to aca­d­e­m­ic paper writ­ing, exams, pre­sen­ta­tions, and the­sis defense.

Create a Conducive Study Environment

Aca­d­e­m­ic excel­lence in high­er edu­ca­tion hinges on your study envi­ron­ment. Fun­da­men­tal­ly, your envi­ron­ment should match your per­son­al pref­er­ences for study­ing. Some stu­dents pre­fer to study in the library over a bustling café. Nei­ther is bet­ter than the oth­er; it’s all about what match­es your preference.

Stud­ies, how­ev­er, have shown that the fol­low­ing envi­ron­men­tal con­di­tions are ide­al for studying: 

  • Ensure your phys­i­cal com­fort in what­ev­er room you’re study­ing in. An ergonom­ic and com­fort­able chair-and-desk set­up is a must, as is cool room temperature. 
  • Min­i­mize, if not elim­i­nate, dis­trac­tions, such as turn­ing off the tele­vi­sion, set­ting your cell­phone to mute, and set­ting up a study area away from intru­sive foot traf­fic. You may, how­ev­er, pre­fer either back­ground music or white noise if it keeps you focused. 
  • Nat­ur­al and arti­fi­cial light are a must, but be sure that these aren’t too harsh on your eyes. 
  • Orga­nize and per­son­al­ize your study area, such as orga­niz­ing your study mate­ri­als and post­ing moti­va­tion­al quotes on your wall. 

You should also con­sid­er whether you’re more focused dur­ing the day or night and adjust your study time accordingly. 

Practice Good Time Management Habits

Even with a full load of cours­es, you can still achieve aca­d­e­m­ic excel­lence and throw in extracur­ric­u­lars, too, with effec­tive time man­age­ment habits. 

  • Set clear goals before study­ing, break your goals into man­age­able tasks, and stick to the allot­ted time. 
  • Pri­or­i­tize your tasks and use pri­or­i­ti­za­tion tech­niques, such as the Eisen­how­er Matrix, in deter­min­ing the urgent and impor­tant tasks.
  • Allo­cate spe­cif­ic time slots for your study peri­od, such as for read­ing a chap­ter, writ­ing an aca­d­e­m­ic paper, and solv­ing prac­tice equations. 
  • Avoid mul­ti­task­ing dur­ing study time. You should focus on a sin­gle task at a time, which results in greater pro­duc­tiv­i­ty in learning. 
  • Set time lim­its, too, so you can attend to oth­er cur­ric­u­lar and extracur­ric­u­lar mat­ters on your cal­en­dar. Bal­ance is the key to col­lege success. 

Most impor­tant­ly, say no to activ­i­ties that can get in the way of your sched­uled study time that aren’t life-or-death sit­u­a­tions or aren’t of equal importance.

Create Daily and Weekly Schedules

Make dai­ly and week­ly sched­ules for study­ing and meet­ing oth­er aca­d­e­m­ic require­ments. You should strive to stick to your sched­ule so that you can meet your com­mit­ments, too, such as par­tic­i­pa­tion in extracur­ric­u­lars and social gatherings. 

  • Deter­mine the blocks of time that can be used for studying. 
  • Write down the read­ing and writ­ing assign­ments that must be done, the exams and quizzes you must pre­pare for, and oth­er aca­d­e­m­ic require­ments that must be com­plet­ed for the day and week. 
  • Alter­nate your study peri­ods for dif­fer­ent cours­es to avoid burnout and main­tain focus. 
  • Take short breaks dur­ing your study sessions. 
  • Use apps to cre­ate your sched­ule, post your sched­ule on your wall, or do both — what­ev­er works best. 

But don’t be too rigid that you won’t adjust when some­thing impor­tant comes up, either! Being flex­i­ble in your mind­set con­tributes to col­lege success. 

Stay Organized

If you’re the type who thinks bet­ter with a bit of a mess, then it’s alright — each to his own. But it also pays to be more orga­nized in your study area and mate­ri­als since it’s eas­i­er to think and find things when things are in place! 

  • Keep your learn­ing mate­ri­als orga­nized by using fold­ers and note­books for every class, as well as label­ing them. 
  • Use dig­i­tal tools, such as OneNote or Ever­Note, to store your notes and documents. 
  • Use task man­age­ment apps, such as Asana and Trel­lo, to keep on top of sched­ules and deadlines. 
  • Use a col­or-cod­ing scheme on your text­books, notes and doc­u­ments if it facil­i­tates your faster learn­ing and track­ing of study mate­ri­als. High­lighters and Post-Its are great for this reason. 

Keep your study area orga­nized and clean, too, so you don’t waste time find­ing things, and you can study with a clut­ter-free mind.

Use Active Learning Techniques

You will become more engaged in your study mate­ri­als when you adopt these active learn­ing techniques: 

  • Par­tic­i­pate in group dis­cus­sions and group study sessions. 
  • Engage in role-play­ing with your class­mates to under­stand bet­ter your learn­ing materials. 
  • Read case stud­ies relat­ed to the the­o­ries being dis­cussed to under­stand their real-world applications. 
  • Para­phrase the con­cepts in your own words and make a sum­ma­ry of the infor­ma­tion you’ve learned. 
  • Teach the infor­ma­tion to anoth­er per­son or exchange opin­ions about it. 
  • Test your­self about the new infor­ma­tion, such as using flash­cards, prac­tice quizzes, and back-and-forth ques­tions with your classmates. 
  • Use mem­o­ry aids and mnemon­ic devices to remem­ber com­plex sequences, for­mu­las and infor­ma­tion. Exam­ples include key­words, musi­cal and rhyme mnemonics. 

You should be able to remem­ber and retain infor­ma­tion better!

Take Regular Breaks

Aca­d­e­m­ic excel­lence isn’t just about your grades! It’s also about bal­ance — after all, what good are 1.0 grades when you can’t enjoy rest and recre­ation, as well as enjoy your col­lege journey? 

You should take reg­u­lar breaks dur­ing your study ses­sion. You must also take a break from study­ing and just enjoy being a col­lege stu­dent. It’s good for your health!

Review on a Regular Basis

Don’t just read your learn­ing mate­ri­als dur­ing your study time, either. You should review your notes dur­ing your idle time, such as when you’re in the sub­way going to school, wait­ing for your order, or queu­ing in line. Your brain will absorb more of the infor­ma­tion because it’s in a more relaxed mode. 

Seek Support and Assistance 

Every sur­vival guide for bach­e­lor’s degree stu­dents empha­sizes that no col­lege stu­dent should be an island! Even the best and bright­est will ben­e­fit from the sup­port and assis­tance of peers and pro­fes­sors, fam­i­ly and friends, and the cam­pus community. 

You should reach out for sup­port and assis­tance when you need it — there’s no shame in it. Besides, that’s what stu­dent sup­port ser­vices are for in college. 

Stay Healthy

Of course, stay­ing healthy is a must for col­lege stu­dents to reach their aca­d­e­m­ic goals! We can’t empha­size enough the impor­tance of get­ting suf­fi­cient sleep, eat­ing bal­anced meals, and exer­cis­ing reg­u­lar­ly as well as man­ag­ing stress for col­lege stu­dents with ambi­tions of aca­d­e­m­ic excellence.

Know Your Style of Studying and Learning

If you want to max­i­mize the effec­tive­ness of the bach­e­lor’s degree study tips, as dis­cussed above, you should first know your study­ing and learn­ing style. Once you do, you can per­son­al­ize these study tips based on your strengths and pref­er­ences. You can then engage more active­ly and enjoy bet­ter reten­tion of the study material. 

Take a look at the main char­ac­ter­is­tics of each type of rec­og­nized learn­ing style to deter­mine your style. 

Visual Learners

  • Pre­fer visu­al aids, includ­ing charts, dia­grams and videos 
  • Likes to high­light key points using a col­or-cod­ing scheme on the study material 
  • Learn bet­ter through obser­va­tions, illus­tra­tions and demonstrations 

Auditory Learners

  • Pre­fer ver­bal instruc­tions, lec­tures and oth­er forms of lis­ten­ing-based learn­ing format. 
  • Retain infor­ma­tion bet­ter when it’s dis­cussed or read out loud 
  • Ben­e­fit from par­tic­i­pa­tion in oral pre­sen­ta­tions and group discussions 
  • Enjoy mem­o­riza­tion in infor­ma­tion reten­tion and the use of mnemon­ic devices 

Kinesthetic Learners

  • Learn bet­ter through hands-on activ­i­ties or learn­ing by doing 
  • Ben­e­fit from move­ment-based learn­ing, such as pac­ing while memorizing 
  • Retain infor­ma­tion when paired with a phys­i­cal engage­ment like inter­ac­tive tasks, role-play­ing and experiments

Reading and Writing Learners

  • Pre­fer learn­ing through text­books and oth­er writ­ten materials 
  • Retain infor­ma­tion bet­ter when mak­ing lists, tak­ing detailed notes, and cre­at­ing summaries 
  • Ben­e­fit from mak­ing their out­lines and stat­ing ideas in their own words 

Your learn­ing style can be a blend of two or more of these learn­ing styles. You can choose the more dom­i­nant style and adjust your study tips accord­ing­ly. For exam­ple, if you’re more of a visu­al learn­er, you can use the col­or-cod­ing tech­nique while also cre­at­ing your out­lines, sum­maries and notes.

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the most effective study method?

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer because every col­lege stu­dent is dif­fer­ent. We must say instead the most effec­tive study method meets these criteria: 

  • It’s aligned with your study­ing and learn­ing style, strengths and preferences. 
  • It encour­ages active learn­ing instead of pas­sive learn­ing, mean­ing the use of para­phras­ing, sum­ma­riz­ing and shar­ing infor­ma­tion with others. 
  • It leaves suf­fi­cient room for breaks, includ­ing sleep, rest and recreation. 

If you haven’t found your best study method yet, then it’s nev­er too late to start explor­ing dif­fer­ent tech­niques now.

What are some good study habits for college students?

In addi­tion to the study habits dis­cussed above, we sug­gest the fol­low­ing for aca­d­e­m­ic success: 

  • Be con­sis­tent with your sched­ule and prac­tice discipline. 
  • Be flex­i­ble and adapt­able in your study times, but strive to meet your tar­get hours. 
  • Be engaged in and out­side of your class­es. Extracur­ric­u­lar activ­i­ties are cru­cial in main­tain­ing good phys­i­cal and men­tal health, which, in turn, is a must for effec­tive study time. 
  • Cel­e­brate your progress so you can stay pos­i­tive and motivated.

How can I focus 100% on studying?

  • Cre­ate a con­ducive environment. 
  • Sit on a chair instead of on the sofa or bed where it’s easy to be lazy or sleep. 
  • Study in a bright­ly lit room. 
  • Be pre­pared to study — it must be your mind­set from the start. 
  • Try to Five More Rule to stretch out your study time 

How do I improve my memory and focus?

  • Get suf­fi­cient sleep, usu­al­ly 6–8 hours, and enjoy rest and recre­ation to reduce stress. 
  • Eat a healthy diet. 
  • Exer­cise regularly. 
  • Prac­tice mind­ful­ness, such as yoga, med­i­ta­tion and deep breath­ing exercises. 

How can I learn fast and remember more?

  • Say the infor­ma­tion you want to remem­ber out loud. 
  • Take hand­writ­ten notes instead of tap­ping on a keyboard. 
  • Test your­self more times than you did previously. 
  • Change the way you remem­ber information. 
  • Teach the infor­ma­tion to some­body else. 


Edu­ca­tion Week 



UCSD Psy­chol­o­gy