By Rojda Filiz Y., Student Health Ambassador
With the new school year beginning, it’s an opportunity to start on a clean slate. Here are a few of my personal favorite tips for staying on track throughout the semester and studying smarter.
1. Find out what kind of learner you are.
Are you a visual, auditory, or kinesthetic learner? Experiment with different methods of studying for each class. Keep in mind that one method might not work for all of your classes. Do you learn best when you’re rewriting your notes in different colored pens? Drawing diagrams? Making note cards? Listening to your audio recording of lectures? Repeating notes out loud? A combination of a few methods? Stay open-minded and you might discover new methods that works well for you.
2. Get (and stay) organized.
Decide early on whether you’d like to go digital or traditional this semester. Keep all your notes in one place (iPad vs. pad of paper) to stay organized. It’s also okay to differentiate between classes. For those taking the digital approach, here are a few of my favorite apps.
3. Keep busy.
A relaxed schedule can sometimes breed procrastination (“I have so much time! I’ll study later.”) By getting involved on campus or taking a part-time job, you’ll likely manage your time better. However, be careful not to spread yourself too thin!
4. Take breaks.
As you study for psychology (or any class, for that matter), build in time to relax and take a mental health break! A snack, a short walk, five minutes of social networking: whatever does the trick for you. Knowing that there’s a little reward waiting for you at the end of that chapter makes it easier to be productive.
5. Do your most dreaded work first.
If that paper (or lab report, or any other assignment) is stressing you out, you might as well get it done first and say sayonara to the stress. Begin tackling dreaded assignments early by breaking up large tasks into small, manageable ones. Do your work during the times of day and in environments where you’re most likely to stay focused.
6. Review, review, review.
Make a habit to review your notes within 24 hours of class every day to help the info stick! Here’s a tip – review your notes for a few minutes right before going to sleep; During sleep, the brain strengthens new memories so there’s a good chance you’ll remember that calculus formula you reviewed right before dozing off. Just avoid bringing homework into bed with you, since that can make it harder to get a good night’s sleep.
7. Don’t forget to eat (healthy).
Whether you’re in class all afternoon or in for a long study session, it’s important to keep blood sugars level to stay energized and alert. Keep water on hand and pack some healthy snacks (see the image below for a recommendation of good snacks). In particular, Omega-3 fatty acids (which are found in certain fish, nuts, and olive oil) are known for their brain-boosting potential. One study found that eating a combination of Omega-3-and Omega-6 fatty acids before an exam actually reduced test anxiety!
8. Study with classmates.
When you explain something to another person, it helps to reinforce what you’ve learned and can make it fun! Cautionary note, though – group work can also mean major distractions. Pick a few studious friends and get together twice per week to review the material. Put one person in charge of delegating tasks and keeping the group on target with its goals.
9. Space it out.
Time management is one of the most important skills a student can have. Avoid planning for your week with the vague goal of studying for a history exam (for example). Instead, break that goal up into smaller tasks like re-reading the textbook, reviewing notes, and re-enforcing the material with classmates. Put your tasks on the calendar to stay on track.
Fun Fact: The learning technique “spaced repetition” involves breaking up information into small chunks and reviewing them consistently over time. Put this technique into action by learning a few pages of your notes each day. It works much better than trying to memorize the entire semester in one sitting!
10. Switch-up your location.
Research suggests that studying the same material in different locations each day makes you more likely to remember that information . This is because every time we move from the library to the coffee shop, we force the brain to form new associations with the same material – making stronger memories.
SPREAD THE HEALTH: Finding out what kind of learner you are, staying organized and busy (but not too busy), taking breaks, setting priorities, reviewing your notes (sometimes with classmates), and maintaining healthy eating and sleeping habits are just some of the ways you can achieve your full potential this semester.