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  • Writer's pictureAmanda Barnwell

11 Study Tips for Back-to-School Success

As you get ready to head back to school this week, consider incorporating these 11 study tips into your routine. A bit of work upfront putting good strategies and organization into place will help you be more successful with less effort. Win-Win. Give these a try!

  1. First things first: find a calendar or scheduling tool that works for you. Some people like to write everything out on paper. Others prefer to manage their whole life on their phone. Whatever your preference, choose a scheduling tool that fits your specific needs. Use the first day of classes to fill out your fall semester calendar, and create a go-to resource for keeping your day-to-day life running smoothly. Consider adding more than just your class assignments. Include all aspects of your daily schedule to help you stay on top of it all: homework deadlines, major project due dates, extracurricular commitments, work schedule, and even social events. Think of it as your “fall semester life”, at a glance. Try to make a habit of checking it daily, or even throughout the day, so you won’t fall behind.

  2. Keep it together, literally. Now that your schedule is all planned out, you’ll need a way to keep track of your actual class notes, worksheets, syllabi, etc. as you go along. Give some thought to what kind of organizational “system” makes the most sense for you. Maybe you prefer to have a notebook for each of your classes, along with a separate folder for handouts. Perhaps you’d be better off with one large binder and color-coded, pocketed dividers for each class so that everything is in one place. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how you do it, just that you do it and keep up with it.

  3. “Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small jobs.”― Henry Ford This might be the BEST study/life hack out there. Seriously. Whether you are working on practice problems for your math homework, or you have a big upcoming project, or you’d like to run the New York Marathon: the fastest and easiest way to your goal is to break it up into smaller, more manageable tasks. For example, try working on 5-10 homework questions at a time, and then taking a short break before doing the next 5-10 questions. Or, for a research paper that will be due in two weeks, spend an hour each day working on it: gather sources and excerpts/quotes one day, write your outline the next day, write your intro paragraph the next, etc. By doing a little each day toward your goal, and starting early, you will get there much more easily- and probably quickly- than you thought you could. Plus, this will allow you to use one of the "13 Habits of 4.0 Students" mentioned in my previous post, and turn in your work early for possible feedback from your teacher (and potentially, a higher grade).

  4. Create a daily routine. The best way to build good study habits is to develop a regular study routine. Choose a time each day to hit the books, and do your best to stick to it. This will help make homework time to feel more “automatic”, and ultimately, easier to keep up with.

  5. Be realistic. When looking over your homework for the day, be sure to budget enough time to get all of your tasks done. If you know that it will take you an hour to read a chapter in your chemistry textbook, for example, and another 30 minutes to answer the questions at the end of the chapter, followed by an hour of preliminary research for your English paper, you can then make sure to start your homework early enough to finish everything at a reasonable hour.

  6. Minimize study time by going “distraction-free”. While you may not be able to avoid homework, you can take steps to keep your study sessions as short as possible. Do this by finding (or creating) a study space that is free of common distractors: television, phone, social media, video games, noisy siblings, etc. There are so many tricks you can use to keep yourself focused and working efficiently, that they deserve their own blog post. I’ll put that together for you soon. :) In the meantime, search out a quiet area at home, in the library, or even a local coffee shop or bookstore to get your studying and homework done. You’ll get more done in less time, and be able to get back to the other tasks on your to-do list.

  7. Maximize your class time. Be sure to really utilize every minute of class time this year. After a short lecture, your teacher might give the class time to complete a worksheet or lab, take notes, or work in groups. Take advantage of this time, and get as much accomplished as you can while your teacher is close by to answer questions. If you find that you’ve finished the day’s work before your class period is over, resist the temptation to socialize, and really maximize your remaining few minutes by organizing your notes, asking the teacher for clarification on anything you’re not 100% on, update your calendar, or even work on homework for another class. The more you can accomplish during the school day, the less you’ll have to worry about as homework.

  8. Review your notes often. At some point each day, read over your class notes, add new vocabulary terms to your flashcards, and highlight anything that you need help with. By making this a part of your daily routine, you will be able to catch potential problems before they arise, and keep your stress low. You’ll also make it easier to memorize information for your quizzes and tests, since the material will be something you’re seeing every day. This is a perfect way to use the last few minutes of class time on those days when you finish your work early. :)

  9. Don’t let a bad grade keep you down. No one likes doing poorly on a test, or fumbling on their lab report, but one bad grade isn’t going to ruin your GPA. Try to think of each grade you get (on homework assignments, quizzes, papers, etc.) as a snapshot: a measure of how you are currently doing in your class. This way, you can use a not-so-great grade as valuable feedback about how well you are learning. Whenever you get a grade that is lower than you would have liked, use it as an opportunity to reassess your study habits, seek help from a tutor or your teacher, and make a better plan for your next assignment or test.

  10. Make a friend in each of your classes. It happens to the best of us: you sit down to start your homework, only to realize that you don’t have the page numbers written down for today’s assignment, or that you left your textbook at school. If you haven’t made an effort to connect with any of your classmates, you’ll most likely be out of luck. Despite what you might think, networking isn’t just for college students and adults. It turns out to be a simple, yet hugely effective, strategy to having a successful high school experience. Try to introduce yourself to at least one other person in your class and exchange contact information. Not only will you expand your social circle and gain an instant study partner, you’ll also have a trusted backup for homework-related emergencies.

  11. Don’t be afraid to shake things up a bit. If you find yourself falling into a mid-semester slump, or feeling less motivated than usual, don’t be afraid to try something different. Maybe you would benefit from a change in scenery? Try heading to a coffee shop or bookstore to get your homework done. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or confused about course material, reach out to a few classmates about setting up a weekly study group. Remember: you are in control of your own studying process, so make adjustments as needed to keep yourself moving forward as easily as possible.

Wishing you an amazing back-to-school week!


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