Almost every college student suffers from a bad study habit or two (or 1,237….) – something you just can’t seem to break or get over. But fear not, I’m here to help! As a reformed terrible studier, I feel like I’ve got the experience and know-how to lead you all on the road to a better GPA before it’s too late.
Trust me, I know how hard it is to break these habits, especially the ones you’ve been working at for 4 years, but it’s definitely worth it. Keep your eye on the prize and get moving.
Bad Habit: Neverending Facebooking
Ever since this little devil popped up in 2003, vulnerable college students have spent their valuable study time creeping that hot guy down the hall or following the drama currently happening on the quad. Seriously, you might as well just pack up the books and go see for yourself because you will not get anything done when Facebook is on. Now, I have some friends who recommend completely de-activating your account for exam season, but I think that’s a bit extreme, especially when some people (myself included) use Facebook as the sole form of communication between cousins all over the world.
The Fix: I’ve found keeping my laptop on the other side of the room or turning off my internet connection to be useful. By doing that, you make it way more difficult to get your creep on. Seriously, just having to get up or switch on Airport gives you more time to consider if changing your status is really a good idea. However, if you really can’t resist, let yourself “creep” to your heart’s content on 15 minute breaks. This is going to be something you need to wean yourself off of, so set Facebook breaks in between study intervals that get longer and longer each time. Example: Break after half an hour, then 45 minutes, then an hour and so on until you’ve realized that you’re not really missing anything. PS – This goes for any website you seem to addicted to (even CollegeCandy!).
Bad Habit: Studying with Friends
In my early years of college, I would get together with groups of 6 or 8 and try to study for an exam. The problem with this is that as soon as two people lose focus and start chatting, the whole group is compromised. And guess what? We never got more than a chapter done in a couple of hours at these mega sessions. At the end of the day, they were a huge waste of time. (Literally…I’d spend all day getting nothing done.)
The Fix: First up, avoid the large study groups. They never work. Now, if you want a single study buddy, do a test run. Get together to just review material from your last lecture and see how focused your new friend can be. This way, you’re not putting your grade in danger. And if you’re approached by someone who you know isn’t serious, it’s okay to say no. I used to be a total people-pleaser, sacrificing my important study-time to help out a “friend.” But now I’ve realized that it’s more important to make sure that I get a good grade than help out every random slacker from class. It’s okay to be a little (or a lot) selfish when it comes to school! Bottom line: bad study buddies are a surefire way to drop your grade, so choose CAREFULLY.
Bad Habit: Poor Environment
Does this picture sound familiar? You’re sitting in your dorm room, trying to study, while your roommate is blaring some punk-rock music, the air conditioning is on so high that you’re shivering and your back is killing you from your hard chair. Most of you have probably tried to suffer through this or a similar study-sabotaging environment with little luck. I mean, who wants to pack up all that stuff and change locations? That’s just gonna waste time, right?
The Fix: Wrong. If you’re study environment isn’t letting you get anything done, “wasting time” to change it up is doing quite the opposite. How much are you really getting down there, anyway? You gotta find your most productive study space and, much like finding a study partner, this one requires a test run. If your roommates or housemates aren’t exactly quiet types, you may need to find a space somewhere else, like the library. Wherever you choose, you need to try just doing some homework in different settings, lighting, temperatures, etc. Try with music and without music and see when you’re able to concentrate better. This is something better figured out early on in college, but you can still improve your studying by adjusting this senior year.
Just to give you an example, my study environment is in my room, at my desk. I’m sensitive to sound so either I can play classical or instrumental music (cue Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker or Explosions in the Sky), but sometimes when the rest of the house is loud, I wear earplugs. Also, I get cold easily, so I usually wear a thick hoodie and ALWAYS wear socks when studying. I like to have tea with me and my desk lamp on! I know it’s pretty quirky, but I’ve figured out how to keep myself at my desk for hours on end. By creating this ritual, you’re setting up psychological cues so your brain knows it’s time to get to work.
Bad Habit: Cramming
Everyone has done it. You’ve either left studying to the last minute or completely forgot about the exam until the day before so you spend all night trying to cram the textbook into your brain. Unfortunately, you will never do as well cramming as you would if you’ve been studying for a week or two. And to make the problem even worse, you’re depriving yourself of sleep AND probably filling your body up with coffee and other stimulants. Most students don’t realize this, but those three ingredients are truly a recipe for disaster come your exam. Not only do you know little material, but you’re at risk for caffeine intoxication (symptoms include anxiety, panic and headache, which you will probably suffer from because you’re stressed to begin with) and dehydration, all of which completely zap your focus.
The Fix: Time management, people! Setting up a schedule is the only way to prevent a cramming session. Yes, I understand that you have a lot of midterms at once (don’t we all), but you can begin studying 2 or 3 weeks ahead of time! Firstly, get into a routine of reading your textbook before class and then reviewing the material after class. That way, you’re inputting the material in three different ways (textbook, lecture, reading notes) and creating lots and lots of connections in your brain for recall. Next, schedule studying in your planner and if you don’t have a planner, get one! Figure out how to utilize that calendar on your Blackberry and your grades will thank you! Take a look at the material you need to know for each class and give yourself about a week for each chapter. When you’re reading through, try to repeat definitions and other key information back and use mnemonic devices and tricks to help you really solidify the material.