8 Crucial Study Skills to Master Before College

  • Study with a group. In college, finding a study group can be a matter of going outside your comfort zone or seeking studymates beyond your good friends. Practicing in high school, while you know more of your classmates, will help you develop the collaborative and creative skills that you’ll need to tackle your more difficult courses in college. Find classmates who complement your academic strengths and seek out those doing the work you aspire to, then follow their example.
  • Take advantage of (free) available resources. Teachers often assign outside resources or create study sessions that students don’t take full advantage of. Be the exception! Seek outside help when you need it and always speak up when you feel like you’re falling behind. Learning to take initiative early in the semester will help when you’re in college and no one is keeping track of you or your grades. Ask your counselor for information about outside study groups or homework clubs that can help with the subjects you might be struggling with.
  • Plan ahead. You need to give yourself plenty of time to learn material for a test or unit, and so studying a little bit every night, rather than starting several hours before the big exam, will only help improve your test outcomes. Spacing out your studying and reviewing on separate days and times can help your brain remember material more effectively, in a way that cramming (everyone’s favorite ineffective study skill) before a test won’t.
  • Find your note-taking style. Check out Cornell Notes, draw yourself pictures, type if it’s faster or handwrite if it’s not, use visual cues or anything else that works for you, but make sure to find a style that’s effective and personalized. Having your own personal strategy will help you feel comfortable and confident in class and individually.
  • Avoid the internet (when you need to). Sometimes the internet can be a great resource– you can find academic papers, extra sources, or fast information you might have to search for hours in the stacks to find– but other times it’s a productivity black hole. Knowing when and how to avoid the internet (go somewhere you don’t know the wi-fi password, put your phone on airplane mode, disconnect your computer from the internet or use website blocking software to avoid Facebook or Snapchat) can help focus your attention on your work, and not on endless distractions.
  • Organize, organize, organize. Does your three ring binder system only ever result in a massive pile of papers falling into your backpack? Try an accordion style binder, or break your courses into smaller separate folders. If it’s not a matter of keeping track of paper, but rather your internet papers, utilize Google Drive (it’s free) and organize your essays and assignments into folders by course. Getting ahead on organization (and learning from your mistakes) will help you hit the ground running in college, when you have a whole campus to lose your materials and not just a locker.
  • Revise. Lots of students think of editing and revising as interchangeable terms, but editing is finetuning details while revision involves rewriting, drafting, and sometimes starting over when the first draft (or third) isn’t what you’re aiming for. Learning to revise in high school, and most importantly giving yourself the time to revise, is crucial for your papers when you reach college. Need a good way to practice now? Start your Common App essay early with the help of a Hughes Advisor– we’ll help you learn the art of revision and you’ll end up with a fantastic college essay at the end of the process.
  • Sleep. Staying out late the night before a test, or agonizing over it all night, won’t help you stay sharp the morning of. Get a solid night’s sleep and your brain will work more efficiently. Don’t trust us? Check out the National Sleep Foundation’s findings, that state “Teens need about 8 to 10 hours of sleep each night to function best. Most teens do not get enough sleep — one study found that only 15% reported sleeping 8 1/2 hours on school nights.” Break that trend– go to bed early and wake up refreshed and ready!
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