As the school year approaches, students are tasked with more academic challenges than the previous year, especially after online learning. Students’ study habits are becoming more of an independently-learned skill.
Studying is just that: a skill. Developing effective study skills takes practice and direction.
Where do I begin?
Different schools require different course requirements, and those required courses aren’t always a student’s strong suit. For someone who isn’t particularly interested in literature, it may be difficult to analyze a 19th century novel. That’s normal. For someone who loves literature but is less inclined toward math, trying to understand certain concepts can be frustrating. However, it’s necessary to learn concepts from different course subjects.
So, how can we get through this?
Here are 6 different steps you can take to prepare yourself for a successful study session.
1. It’s all about attitude
Our attitude toward our education can make or break us.
If you approach a topic with the attitude that you can’t understand something, you’re less likely to succeed.
Trust us. We know it’s easier said than done. However, there are things you can do to improve your headspace before tackling a difficult subject:
- Make sure you’re hydrated and that you’ve eaten. It sounds repetitive, but it’s repetitive for a reason! If you’re physically feeling unwell, that will influence your attitude and lead to more frustration (the word “hangry” didn’t come from nowhere).
- Find a quiet, clean environment. Our environment influences us more than we know. If there is chaos around us, that will increase any existing frustration. If you have a busy household, grab your textbooks and a blanket and go outside. If you’re in a more suburban area, ask a friend or family member to take you to a library or a quiet café (side note: actually going somewhere to study is helpful in motivating you to truly study).
- Be kind to yourself. There’s a difference in saying you can’t do something and acknowledging that something may be difficult. However, you wouldn’t be where you are if you weren’t capable of success. For some reason, there’s pressure to immediately understand course concepts. This isn’t realistic; it takes work! Before studying a subject that is personally challenging, tell yourself that even though it’s hard, you’re capable of the hard work it will take. Giving yourself positive affirmations will improve your attitude.
2. Take it slow
A lot of us are perfectionists when it comes to learning. That’s why a lot of “good” students tend earn lower than average grades. When you’re used to making higher than average grades, it can feel devastating and pointless when something just doesn’t make sense.
First of all, try to forget the pressure of making perfect grades. We’re human. If we knew everything, we wouldn’t need education.
With that being said, a common and effective way of learning new subject material is starting with concepts you already know. This allows you to build confidence in a subject. You’ve already learned and understand concept A, so what makes you think you can’t do the same for concept B? Hint: you can!
3. Ask for help
Your family, friends, and teachers want to see you succeed. Asking for help isn’t something to be ashamed of. Nobody succeeds on their own, no matter what it looks like on the outside.
If you don’t understand something, speak up. If you’re feeling shy, send your teacher an e-mail or text a friend.
4. Be mindful of who you’re around
To go off the last point, be mindful of who you surround yourself with. Success and ambition thrive when you’re around someone with the same mindset. Some of the best studying is done when you’re around others who want to do well.
5. Take breaks
When you’re learning new material, give yourself a break. A mental break will help keep your mind refreshed, and you may be surprised at what you retain when you go back to the textbook.
It’s recommended to take at least 15 minutes every couple of hours to stay refreshed. Get yourself a snack, take a walk, watch a video on YouTube… clear your mind for a bit. Trying to constantly cram information will cause more headaches.
6. Write it down
Handwrite. Your. Notes. It is so easy to be distracted when you’re on your laptop. There’s also proven benefits of handwriting notes.
Don’t go overboard, either. Write down the important points. Here are some helpful tips to distinguish what’s important:
- If it’s a vocabulary word, it is likely important. Assess what the vocabulary word means and how it relates to the subject you’re studying.
- Check the syllabus or study guide. Usually, teachers will provide a syllabus at the beginning of the semester that highlights the topics you will be learning. Keep those in mind when you are reading. If your teacher provides study guides, use them. They aren’t going to waste their time compiling information for you if they don’t plan on using it.
- If you are taking notes during a lecture, your teacher will likely give you some verbal hints. Phrases like “this is important because,” “a main reason for this is,” and etcetera will indicate that you should write it down and study it.
Additionally, use highlighters and bullet points to organize your thoughts. Find a structure that works for you. Maybe highlight dates in yellow and highlight vocabulary terms in blue. Be creative. If something doesn’t make sense, write down questions and ask for clarification as soon as you can.
As you can see, studying is more than simply reading through a textbook or listening to a lecture. It takes time. We hope that these 6 tips will help during your next study session!