From High School to College or University – 2 – Preparing the Foundations of Successful Study

During the early days at college, you will be setting the foundations for all your future studies. This is, therefore, a crucial time in tilting you towards success or failure. As with anything new, you will soon form habits, and it is up to you to ensure that those habits are good habits.

There are certain areas of college life and study in which establishing good habits early on can help you towards your goal of good grades and a successful graduation. It is well worth focusing your attention on these areas before arriving at college, and in your first few weeks there. By doing so, you can establish some good study habits, and make your college life run that much more smoothly and successfully. The following are some of the key areas of your new life of college study where you will need solid preparation and attention from the outset.

Acknowledging the Competition

It is the brighter students at High School who will probably be the ones who make it to college and university. You were one of those, but you will notice a big difference in your relative position at college. Whereas before you may have been one of the top students in your class, once you get to college you will just be one of many bright students.

By being aware of this increased competition, and being mentally prepared for it, you are more likely to shine again in your new environment, rather than feeling overawed by the other intelligent students. Also bear in mind that with the right preparation and improvement of your study skills, and by establishing the right habits, you can perform better than even the most intelligent student.

Scheduling Your Time

One of the big differences at college will be the amount of “spare” time you have. You may only have 15 hours of lectures in a week, and it is up to you to schedule the rest of your time. Whether you succeed at college or not may well depend on how well you are able to organize yourself, and schedule your time to best effect.

So long as you are aware of the dangers of wasting that spare time, then you will have a chance of scheduling it wisely. Time management skills are therefore worth acquiring before you even go to college, and there is plenty of useful information online about managing time. Regard time management as an essential study skill, and prepare accordingly. It will stand you in good stead for the future after college as well, as time management is just as important in business or working life.

Harder Work

One thing is certain, and that is college work will be much tougher than High School work. If, after a few weeks, you do not think it is harder, then the chances are you have not grasped what you really need to do to keep up with and on top of your studies. You should go to college expecting to work hard, and then ensure that you do.

Note Taking

Another major difference between the learning methods at High School and college is the need, at college, to take copious notes in the lecture room. You should be mentally prepared for this at a minimum, but, like time management, you can acquire skills on note taking to make yourself more efficient. You will be pressed for time at college, so in every aspect of your study, it is wise to improve your study skill. That includes note taking.

Faster Reading

In the lecture room you need to become efficient at taking notes. Outside of the lecture room, you will have an enormous amount of reading to do. Such a volume may seem overwhelming, but reading is another area where you can improve, and thus increase your ability to study effectively. Speed reading is a talent anybody can acquire, and if you can acquire it before you reach college, so much the better.

Memory

Once at college, you will be bombarded with information, facts relating to the subjects you are studying. Being great at reasoning and making use of facts is no use if you cannot remember those facts in the first place. Improving your memory is therefore something you will benefit greatly from. Even if you think you have a good memory, you can improve further.

I went back to studying, for a professional qualification, 12 years after leaving school. Not being academic as a student, and having a “poor” memory, I knew I would have great difficulty competing mostly against 21/22 year olds fresh from university. So, I focused on my memory, learnt as much as I could about memory techniques, and that was enough (plus hard work, of course) to not only help me keep up, but in some cases keep ahead of the competition.

Improving memory really does make a big difference to your study prospects, and also in later working life. It is another study skill that will always be with you as you move on to other things after college or university.

By preparing yourself in the areas of note taking, time management, faster reading, and memory, you should have a head start on other students, even if they are brighter than you. By such preparation and focusing on your study skills before going to college, it is you who will appear the brightest, as you come across as well organized, able to grasp and recall facts with ease, and able to get through a lot more work in a shorter time than those around you.

How to Study for a Comprehensive Final Exam

One of the great difficulties between high school and college is the prevalence of comprehensive final exams. In high school, most courses test primarily on the material that has been covered since the previous test. In college, suddenly students are expected to know material that has been covered since day 1. By the time that the final exam rolls around, this could mean material that was covered almost six months earlier. For students where learning new information often seems to force out old information to make room (just kidding), the comprehensive final often serves as a bit of a culture shock. Luckily, there are some tips that can be followed in order to best assure that students can make this adjustment and excel in their collegiate careers.

* Proper Note Taking: It sounds cliché, but there really is no substitute for good note taking in college. This means more than just taking a lot of notes. Anybody who knows shorthand can write down everything that the professor states, but that does not mean that they will have a good list of notes to work off of. In fact, this would lead to information overload and the student would never be able to filter out the important information that they need to focus on. A great way to ensure that notes are organized in a manner of importance is to take them in outline format. Outlines allow the student to organize their notes into grouped topics. The important matters of the class discussions are shifted farther to the left in the notes while the details are located more to the right.

* Regular Reviews: The worst thing that a student can do for a class with a comprehensive final examination is to wait until right before the final before reviewing the notes dealing with earlier topics. At some point, ‘out of sight, out of mind’ factors in and the student will never be able to recall all the important details throughout the semester based solely on their previous notes. However, this is easily countered by reviewing previous topics throughout the entire semester. This does not mean that the student needs to study everything every night. But rather, they should make sure that they have gone through all their notes on more of a weekly basis. They will likely find that even if they do not study every detail, the details will still stay fresh in their mind thanks to simply keeping the information in the short term memory queue.

* Do Not Panic: It sounds daunting, but at the end of the day, the comprehensive final is still just another test. It is likely going to be in a similar format to the tests taken earlier in the year – and if it differs greatly, the professor will almost always lay out those differences. In fact, many students often find comprehensive finals to be easier than sectional exams. This is because there is so much material to be tested on that the test givers may focus primarily on the most important and most easily recalled material. Meanwhile, typical exams may dig deeper into the details and harder to find items since there is less overall material to be tested on. It is also not uncommon for comprehensive finals to regurgitate test questions from previous exams that the student has already taken. At the end of the day, it is important for the student to keep to what works for him or her. Incorporate the items above into their previously successful studying habits and they will find the final exam to be no sweat.

How to Study and Developing Study Skills

Study skills refer to the ability to read, memorize and retain class portions, text book content and other study materials. Developing study skills depend on individual’s capability, grasping power, interests, environment and self discipline. Here are some methods to develop study skills and hone them better with few useful techniques.

1. Visualization

This method refers to seeing imagery through the mind on what has been taught, including block diagrams, pictures, matching real world objects with the concepts read. It also develops your creativity, imagination and cognitive skills.

2. Group Study

Joining a study group on few topics lets members to share and collaborate among others. The study materials can be divided for individual preparations, which then can be delivered as a short session or flash cards to other members in the study group. This is one of the most common study methods.

3. Writing what you read

Writing whatever you have just read immediately helps to retain the fresh knowledge and also boost your confidence in the exam. Apart from that, you can train yourself to be patient to really absorb the knowledge through hard work and also improve written communication skills.

4. Learning by doing

This is one best form of developing a study skill – doing things practically based on what one read in the text book although it may not be possible to experiment or implement everything practically. One has to develop the habit of experiencing them practically if there any opportunity exists. For example, college lab exercises, applying them on real world situations.

5. Flash cards

This is the most common method of keeping tab of topics read. It is done through a small post card where key words are noted down for quick reference. Majority of the students keep them handy instead of keeping complete notes or text books. This helps in developing hints to the topics and improvising the whole content from the keywords.

6. Mind maps

It is the best technique to relate topics and associate links among them. Mind map is a powerful tool which follows a tree or hierarchical structure to a particular topic. It is also a great brainstorming method to generate more ideas for essay writing, comprehension, and critical thinking. It sharpens the thought process by looking at various perspectives to the subject.

7. Group discussion and quizzes

Revise the topics through a group discussion with friends to further improve your memory. It is better to allot 30 minutes of time for discussion and clarifications. To make it more interesting, conduct small quizzes through rapid fire rounds, puzzles and other form of investigative learning. This also builds communication and social skills.

8. Relaxation methods

It is vital to keep a healthy mind and body. Taking breaks and rests for 10-15 minutes between studies keeps the mind relaxed. It is recommended to have a minimum of seven hours sound sleep. It rejuvenates both body and mind. The mental pressure can be released by playing sports, doing work outs and spending quality time with family and friends. Practicing meditation, deep breathing exercises and yoga are great methods to improving concentration and focus.

In summary, study skills are both innate and acquired by nature. They may vary across individuals but several common and working practices can be derived and applied by all students to hone and improvise their existing skills.