As the back-to-school stretch officially kicks off, it can be challenging to transition from summer-mode back into study-mode. After all, you may be daydreaming you are still out on the lake, enjoying those late night summer bonfires with friends or still reminiscing about that fun family vacation. However, as you settle back into your class schedule, the time has come to switch your mindset back to your education, establish your study routine and set yourself up for success this year and in the future.
In fact, a recent report from Princeton University found that men and women who haven’t been to college actually tend to live shorter, less healthy lives, and are losing ground compared with college graduates. (1) Although this may sound extreme, it is evident that an education is very important to live the life you want to live. Not only does it empower you to learn and develop the skills and experience necessary to land a job in a long-lasting career, it also develops your knowledge, perspective and awareness in the world.
So whether you are now in high school, college, pursuing an advanced education, or studying for an upcoming exam or learning a new skill, it’s important to ensure you implement the right study tactics to maximize your educational experience and learning potential. After all, simply spending more time studying doesn’t always equal success. Finding smarter study habits can. Let’s look at some different study strategies you can inherit that may make a big difference in your learning and education journey.
Before we dive in, remember that every person is unique and different in his or her own way, so what may work for you may not work for someone else. The key is to continue growing as a person and as a learner, and to never be stuck or discouraged. Here are some science-backed ways provided by author Daniel Wong (2) to keep your studying efforts working for you:
- Mix it Up: we’ve all heard some person say “I’m more of a visual learner,” or “I need to be hands on and do-it-myself to wrap my head around it.” In reality, there are several different learning styles and although you may gravitate toward one, the key is to use several different types to stimulate different parts of the brain and help make it stick.
For example, this could include: reading class notes, skimming the text book, creating flash cards, completing practice problems, watching online videos or teaching someone else what you’ve learned.
- Don’t Cram: cramming for a big exam or project happens to the best of us, but don’t plan on it. In fact, studies show that periodic reviews of subject matter beat (attempting to) cramming it all in the night before. And if you want to get really specific, there are even articles available online that outline the most productive review intervals to best equip your mind to store that information into your memory.
Tip: as you get your syllabus and plan for your upcoming semester, begin marking big tests or project dates on a calendar and pre-plan days ahead of it to study.
Sit at the Front of Class: sounds cliché, but it actually works. A study shows that students who sit in the front rows receive average scores higher than middle and back rows.
- Focus on One Thing: in other words, avoid multi-tasking. By avoiding distractions, you can focus on one thing at a time, and do it (or learn it) well using your full attention span, rather than just a portion of it. In return, this can actually shorten your time spent studying so you can get back to your other activities.
Consider: turn your phone on silent and don’t touch it (or put it on airplane mode if you’d really like to buckle down), close your Internet browser or turn off your computer, clean up and clear clutter from your study area.
- Get Creative: find creative ways to learn the information – which can even help entertain yourself! This not only makes the studying process less dry and more enjoyable, but also has shown to help retain the information.
This could include tactics such as: make up acronyms to help learn or memorize specific phrases, come up with creative questions or statements to help learn a topic or connect what you need to learn with something you already know.
- Go Old School: although technology is great to make certain things more efficient, sometimes you need to take it old school to help train your brain. Although it can end up being more time consuming, it can also do the trick to process the information.
Examples include: handwriten notes or key study information or read it out loud
- Manage Yourself: from managing stress to visualizing success, how you take care of yourself can make or break all the work you do studying. Don’t forget to find the time to set yourself and your mind up for success.
Examples include: get plenty of sleep, drink water, exercise, meditate or do yoga, eat healthy (bonus for memory stimulating foods such as: blueberries, eggs, almonds and fish).
- Celebrate Success: just as important as the preparation is the post-celebration. Reward yourself for a disciplined schedule and successful study habits. It doesn’t have to break the bank, but it is important to provide yourself positive reinforcement for a job well done.
Examples include: go out to dinner or just dessert, take a night off studying and watch a movie, go on a hike or weekend getaway
By establishing a solid study process now, you are already building a framework for success, not just this semester or school year, but also for future employment and projects you’ll work on. Pay attention to what works for you (and what doesn’t), and implement these best practices into your life. Although your grades will be an indicator of how well you performed in the short term, learning is an ongoing element of a successful and fulfilled life. By learning how you learn best, you’ll be leaps and bounds ahead of your peers. Because at the end of the day: “Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.” –Robert Collier