When I first started attending Briar Cliff University, college seemed a lot easier than high school. It’s like, I only have to go to class for two hours a day? And there’s not as much homework? What’s so tough about college?
Well, if you are like me, then you’re probably in for a rough ride when you take an exam you had no idea even existed five minutes before walking into class. Because, you see, college is set up differently than high school. As it turns out, you were actually supposed to be studying all that time between classes! Classes are set up, and some professors will tell you this, so that you spend an hour of studying for each hour of class time. So those three hours a day you spend going to class should be complimented by three hours of studying on the same day.
I’m not going to pretend like many people do this, or that you should do this in order to pass your classes. But knowing this is useful for learning how you have to study. If you have a semester ahead of you, don’t wait until the last week to start studying for your finals. But, if you realize you have hours’ worth of studying to do with only a few days (or less) before an important test, don’t worry. You’ll get through this. You will survive.
Planning Your Studying and Keeping Focused
The more time you have to prepare, the better. If you need to study for a few days, plan it out. Don’t go to bed the night before telling yourself you’ll study at some point the next day. Set out a time, plan a location, and be prepared for it. If you have to, plan to reward yourself after finishing a study session, either with food or an episode of your favorite TV show.
It’s important to stay focused and minimize distractions, so try and keep phone time to a minimum. Another alternative is to reward yourself with phone time. If you get through a difficult problem or spend a certain amount of time studying, reward yourself with a few minutes of Twitter or Instagram. Keeping your ringer muted can be helpful too, to minimize notifications you may get from social media. Otherwise, you may find it taking longer than you intended to study.
Music can be a distraction as well. I’ve heard that music with lyrics is particularly bad for studying, since it actively tries to take your attention. If you need some music to help you study, try to keep the volume low, and maybe try to listen to something a little atmospheric. Some “Lo Fi Hip Hop Beats to Relax/Study To” on YouTube may help, but I make no guarantees.
Location, Location, Location
Locations also play an important role, so much so that I made it a whole section of this blog. Many academic types will tell you not to study in the same place where you sleep, which makes sense. Doing academic work in a place you associate with relaxation and slumber can be disastrous to both your studying and your sleep, and may lead to further distractions. It can be a little hard to study when your roommates are watching Netflix or when you have to resist the urge to turn on your PS4.
The library may be a good bet if you enjoy silence and need to minimize all distractions. Our Bishop Mueller Library here on campus is designed to help you study. There are tables, chairs, and even printers and a computer lab if you need it. However, if you prefer a little bit of noise and want to reward yourself, head to a local coffee shop or restaurant. Feed your caffeine addiction and listen to some laid-back indie music while you work on memorizing your stuff. Plus, most places have free Wi-Fi, which can be helpful if you need to research topics. Bringing a friend along may also seem like a good idea, but can be incredibly risky. It works better if you both have the same material to study, but otherwise, plan on it taking longer to study and memorize material if you also have to socialize.
A Word on All-Nighters
We’ve all done it. We either forget about or put off studying until the night before. We have no choices left, so we fuel up on coffee or energy drinks and get to work, perhaps finishing in the early hours of the morning. Don’t get me wrong, all-night studying sessions aren’t inherently bad, but in general are not a good idea. If you have time, plan your studying over the course of several days to avoid cramming everything in one night. In the end, you will remember more and your sanity will thank you.
If you need to study for a test the next day, all-night studying sessions can be especially bad, because not only will you have to stay up throughout the night, but also during the day in order to attend class to take the test. If you’re falling asleep while taking a test, that night of studying may not help very much, and you’ll have to spend the next days trying to catch up on sleep.
Studying is not an easy task. A focused mind is required to study properly, and everyone usually does it differently. Simply by dividing study sessions up, you have an advantage on learning everything you need to before it’s too late. Finding a good place to study and keeping distractions minimized is important, and all-nighters should only be considered a last resort, never a first option. If you have a lot of studying to do in a short amount of time, then be don’t panic. You will prevail.