The high school years are a highly regimented period. Between a full day of classroom activities, after school sports and clubs, plus hours of nightly homework, most high school students have very little free time. Once they arrive on a college campus, however, that highly structured existence abruptly ceases. Add to that the stress of living with a roommate (possibly for the first time), navigating a new environment (often an enormous campus), plus the daily pressure to select a major, and it’s no wonder that many college freshman, even those with previously stellar grades, can simply implode.
College life is a balancing act. And, students can be successful if they arrive prepared from Day 1.
Mastering Basic Study Skills
What exactly are study skills? If you have ever struggled in school, this is likely a catch phrase that has been bandied about by well-meaning teachers and administrators, but not always fully explained.
According to Wikipedia, “Study skills, academic skills, or study strategies are approaches applied to learning. They are generally critical to success in school, considered essential for acquiring good grades, and useful for learning throughout one’s life. Study skills are an array of skills which tackle the process of organizing and taking in new information, retaining information, or dealing with assessments.”
And, study skills can be learned.
First, Organization is Essential.
OK, you need to get organized. Sound simple? For some, organization is intuitive or quickly learned from the adults in their life. For others – those who lose completed homework in the depths of a chaotic locker or repeatedly forget upcoming assignments – getting organized appears overwhelming.
Organization starts with establishing a daily routine. Setting up a dedicated work area (clear off that dorm desk!) and keeping supplies close at hand can make a dramatic difference for students who have a hard time even getting started.
Not Everyone is the Same. Creating Organizational Systems that Work for YOU.
Creating a “work system” is also a key component. Whether it’s a three-ring binder for all homework, a calendar for upcoming tests, sticky notes, or a computer system with detailed steps spelled out for projects — the system that works best is the system that fits you.
Learning Time Management
Setting a schedule is a tough task for most college students. “No longer is there a teacher reminding you to turn in a project. Now teachers expect the student to be responsible or pay the consequence. While on one hand, there is more time off. Instead of an 8:00-3:00 day, now you might have only two classes on a Tuesday and Wednesday and then have the rest of the day off. At the same time, you may have five to six finals all in the same week,” explains the author of Top 10 Study Skills for College Freshmen.
Improving time management means learning two important concepts: setting goals and planning ahead:
- Set the goal – maybe handing in a report one day early. Then take that goal and plan ahead. How much work needs to be done each night in order to complete the task?
- Prominently posting a calendar or (using an online version) is another easy way to keep track of completion goals.
When Specialized Study Skills are Needed.
Finally, there are specialized study skills – such as effective note-taking, learning how to make an outline, recognizing style strategies, and reading for meaning — that can all be incredibly helpful, especially as your college level work ramps up. Here are the top
Test preparation. Well in advance of a big test, first determine the type of test (short answer, multiple choice, essay) and the material the test will cover. Next, take steps to prepare including a nightly review of outlines or notes or formation of a study group. In addition, taking practice tests will help develop a plan of attack and help determine how much time is needed for each question. Finally, eliminate test taking anxiety with relaxation and visualization techniques.
Mnemonic devices. These are, very simply, phrases or rhymes that are used as a memory tool. These devices can help students remember common lists or orders that need to be memorized. An example is “Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally” which stands for the specific order necessary to solve a math problem: parentheses, exponents, multiplication, division, addition, subtraction.
Graphic organizers. A graphic organizer is perfect study tool for a more visual learner. This visual display is basically a map that depicts the relationships between facts, terms, and or ideas. Graphic organizers are also sometimes referred to as knowledge maps, concept maps, story maps, or concept diagrams.
Need more help? 1-on-1 study skills tutoring may be the answer. Since 1985, Back to Basics Learning Dynamics in Wilmington, Delaware has offered 1-on-1 study skill instruction for kids of all ages. To learn more, please call 302-594-0754. Make freshman year, the best year ever!