Study skills: Succeeding in college means more prep time

by MBJ Staff

Published: October 30,2009

Developing strong study habits may not be easy, but it’s something that pays off many times over. Get your study routine in motion in high school and it will help you in college and throughout life. You will really need good study habits in college where the distractions of new-found freedom can sideline the brightest students.

Sue Mossing has been an academic advisor at the University of Mississippi for eight years and is a licensed professional counselor, too. She says college life presents many opportunities for students to be distracted from their studies.

“In high school, you could do it all — study for tests, finish all homework assignments, work a part-time job, be on a sports team and still have time to go out with your friends,” she said. “Remember how much more time college classes will take than high school classes and set aside enough time for school (which is why your parents are writing those big checks to the university).”

She reminds students that in college, friends are around 24/7 and someone always tempts you to go have a good time rather than study for exams. “Brace yourself and begin to practice saying no. No does not have to mean not ever, it’s just not now,” she said. “On the other hand, everyone needs some time away from their studies to make new friends and keep up with old ones. College can be a lonely place and everyone needs friends and family.”

Mossing suggests some ways to overcome those distractions and stay on track in high school as well as college. “Plan your work and work your plan,” she says. “Establish SMART goals and set aside the time to attain those goals. SMART goals are: Specific, Measurable, Acceptable, Realistic and Time-specific. No one expects you to be all work and no play. However, maintain a balance between academics, social and physical activities.”

Her advice for forming strong study habits include:

• Learn to use a planner before you go to college. There are all sorts of planners for all sorts of people, so figure out what works best for you.

• Figure out what time management system works best for you and start practicing it now. Experts say that any new behavior takes about six weeks to become a habit.

• If you tend to procrastinate, practice setting deadlines for yourself. For the biggest challenge, make a list of the jobs that have been piling up around you and assign due dates to them. If you can’t think of anything, ask your parents! Typically, the sense of accomplishment one gains outweighs the effort it takes to actually do it, and it will serve as good practice for the long hours of reading and studying that are necessary for success in college.

• Learn to test yourself to gauge your comprehension. There is knowing and then there is KNOWING. When you recognize that mitochondria, nucleus, ribosomes and endoplasmic reticulum are all organelles of a cell, you know it; but when you can teach someone else how each one functions and works together to maintain life, then you KNOW it on another level. Don’t simply assume that since you can recognize the words on the page that you know it — test yourself! Connect the dots and apply your lessons to what you already know about the subject or the world.

• Create a study sanctuary. Locate an area where you can organize what you need to study: books, papers, pens, index cards, etc. Experiment with the space, light, noise, temperature, chairs, etc. Figure out what factors improve your productivity and make a mental note of it. When you get to college, you’ll need to recreate that study sanctuary. You can even make your study sanctuary a mobile unit. Knowing what environment works best for you will help you recreate your study sanctuary so you can get down to work sooner.

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