One of the distinguishing factors of post-secondary education is the amount of studying involved in succeeding at your courses over the span of four or more years. Good techniques to alleviate some of the stress and provide you with the optimal results are difficult to establish, but with time you will begin to learn what works for you and what doesn’t. Don’t settle for methods that conflict with your lifestyle—figure out what fits your course schedule, workout routine, and social life so that you can maintain balance while also flourishing in your classes.
- Have a set study space and time
Before sitting down to spend the next few hours studying, consider where and when you are planning to do this. We all have different times throughout the day that are optimal for learning—some in the morning, some at night—and not adhering to what works best for you might leave you feeling restless or unable to focus and retain information. Prepare your study day ahead of time, find a location free of any unwanted distractions, like a library, and know that you need to have a clear head when trying to memorize historical dates or mathematical equations.
- Have everything you need with you
There’s nothing worse than sitting down, ready to tether yourself to your desk and study for the rest of the day, and realizing that you’ve forgotten a notebook, a novel, or even a bottle of water. Go into your study session prepared with everything you’ll need so that you can avoid getting up midway through and scouring the fridge for a snack or looking for that highlighter you were sure was in your bag yesterday. As soon as you sit down you should be ready to focus all your attention on your notes and only prying it away for unavoidable situations, like going to the washroom, having a workout, or eating dinner.
- Back up your study notes
One of the most dreadful feelings for any university student amidst exam month is having your laptop crash and realizing that all your notes from the past few months are gone. In order to avoid this and having everything you need so that you can study as much as necessary you should have alternatives to how you store your documents. Some prefer using a USB stick, some an external hard drive for bigger files. Another option is storing all your data in a virtual data room with intricate security settings and easy access from anywhere in the world. Rather than panicking when your laptop crashes or your external drives are damaged, rest easy knowing that everything is stored safely on the cloud.
- Have a pick-me-up ready to go
For some students, a necessary pick-me-up during long study sessions is a big cup of coffee. For others it’s a hardy snack or long jog. Whatever it is that gets you motivated and energized be sure to have it ready to go whenever you notice your productivity dwindling. Maybe work in a coffee shop so that you can get a refill when you need it, or have your bag stocked with food for those mid-study munchies. Go into your set study time ready with that extra boost you’ll undoubtedly need to push through the next few hours.
- Use colour coordination for your notes
Using colour to coordinate your notes is a great way to stay organized and distinguish the relevance of each one. Coloured stickies or highlighters can give you that extra level of productivity knowing what each note or book page signifies and how it can be applied to your exam later on. This works especially well when distinguishing character roles in a novel or highlighting dialogue that can be useful to remember when it comes time for your test.
- Take breaks
It can be easy to lose sight of time when in the middle of studying, but taking breaks throughout the day is important in maintaining your mental clarity and not feeling overwhelmed by your work. Once your start feeling your eyelids become heavy and your attention diverting, it’s time to step back from your work and go outside for a walk or just pop into the kitchen for a quick snack. Don’t give up your personal time for the sake of getting in an extra hour of rigorous studying—you don’t want to feel burnt out before you even make it to your exams.
- Don’t pull all-nighters
The quintessential tactic for most university students is to pull an all-nighter for an essay or exam prep. This might work in the short term for memorizing information, but almost instantly all that hard earned knowledge will be gone. Studying for short periods of time over a few weeks or a month has been proven to be more effective to actually learning information rather than just retaining it and then regurgitating it for an exam. As a new university student, don’t fall into this trap and refer to tip #1 on planning out a study time so that you can be more successful with your studying in the long run.
- Eliminate distractions
Maybe it’s the week before a major exam and you really need to buckle down; make sure that all unnecessary distractions are out of sight, and therefore, out of mind. You need to harness all your focus and direct it toward your studying so that in a week’s time you will feel completely prepared for your exam. Keep your phone on silent or in another room if it’s too tempting and avoid going online while studying because it’s incredibly easy to fall into a dark hole of late night searches and stress shopping.
- Combine your efforts with a study group
Studying alone can be quite overwhelming, especially in your first year in university amidst all the new experience and much heavier course load. Rather than doing it alone, why not opt to join forces with other students and create a study group for your specific class. This will help you bounce thoughts off of each other while also staying social and not feeling isolate during an otherwise stressful time. Schedule a weekly session where all of you can meet up and discuss the week’s lecture or prepare study materials for the exam period. More heads are better than one.
- Feed Your Brain
Most importantly, make sure to eat the right foods and nourish yourself enough when you are studying. It’s easy to forget to eat when you’re in the middle of a hardcore study session or even during a stressful month, but it’s incredibly important to stay physically healthy so that you can be mentally healthy as well. Prepare your lunches ahead of time and be sure to pack healthy snacks so that you don’t feel groggy or sick from eating too much junk food. Your mind, your body, and your final grades will thank you in the long run.