Everyone will tell you the exact same thing when it comes to studying. It’s always the same rhetoric of do this and not that, or that and not this.
Now, I’m no straight-A student and I’m not here to give you some miracle study method to get straight-As. I’m just here to share what works for me while I work full-time and commute to school and go to school full-time.
- Study each day you have class. Since I copy notes from class to make the legible (cursed with doctor handwriting), I first copy notes I took in class with the notes I took about the section. So, for example, if we’re going over chapter 24 tomorrow, then I’ll copy my in-class notes from chapter 23, then read through chapter 24 and take notes about that section, leaving room at the end for notes from the next class session. I also use this time to do any homework for that class, make flashcards, or work on any papers due.
- Study in blocks. Pick a class and work through it until you’ve finished that work for the day. If that means working for 20 minutes on an essay then 3 hours on a science project, so be it. Get done what you can while you can.
- Study on days you don’t have class. Even though there’s nothing you should absolutely be freaking about getting done, review flashcards, get ahead in the reading, work extra on the project due next week to finally be done with. Maybe this means editing and printing all your essays ahead of time so make sure you’re turning in your best work. While I’m all for taking a breather from the intensive course load of college, there’s no reason to let the day slip by when you can be getting ahead of all those yuppies in your intro to philosophy course you’re only taking for easy credit to boost your shitty GPA.
- Teach about your shit. If you’re like me, then you live with someone. Teach them about the stuff your studying. It’s one of the highest recommended methods of learning and studying because if you’re able to effectively teach the material, then you know the material. If you live alone, then call your dad or your sister or your grandma and teach them. Even if they have no clue what you’re talking about, talking about a difficult subject can help you work through the problem. (And I’m sure they’ll just be happy to be included in your life even if grandma bashes evolution and your mom has no clue what business statistics has to do with anything. They’ll be glad you called and that you’re studying hard).
- Use your free time. If you commute like me, then download some podcasts or listen to Youtube channels while you drive. I usually have about an hour to kill on my way to school. So if I fill my time with podcasts, lectures, and Crash Course videos, then at least I might get something to stick in this brain of mine. Is it boring af? Hell yeah it is. Would I rather be singing fun songs and pumping myself up for the day? Fuck yeah I would. But if it means that I can look preppy, bitchy Stacy who thinks she’s better than me in the eye at study group and learn her a thing or two about evolutionary biology and environmental factors that play a key role in symbiotic relationships between predator animals in several documented cases, then damn straight I’m going to show her up. (We all knew I was bitter already so stfu)
- Watch your learning. Sometimes you get home and you are so unmotivated to study because you worked all day and you went to the stupid lab tonight and now you’re just tired and mentally exhausted. So turn your background noise into learning. Instead of turning on your fave reality TV marathon, see if NatGeo is having some interesting documentary marathon going on, or if you have a smart TV, turn on Youtube and find a channel or two that shows a bunch of the concepts you’re going over, like Crash Course or Khan Academy. Even if you don’t really try to retain any of the information, the general vibe of learning attached to these programs will motivate you to at least pick up your books for half a minute.
- Study only what you need to. You’re not going to sit there and study the alphabet or your multiplication tables right? Why not? Because you ALREADY KNOW THAT SHIT. So don’t waste time by studying everything you already know. So how do you find out what you don’t know? Take a sample test, or work through a homework module. Every time you stop and think too hard about a question, put down that subject on a list to study. Or if it’s something you think you answered right but did not at all, then add that to the list. Then pull up youtube videos or crack open the text book or just google in general to see where you’re missing the idea or why you’re confused about the concept in the first place. And don’t forget that your professors and the TA’s are there to help and just an email away. (seriously if you can’t do office hours because of scheduling conflicts or whatnot, then shoot them an email and see if they have time to help via email during office hours)
I’m not going to guarantee that these tips will nail you an A. But when you’re spread thin across work and school, I’ve learned that doing a little is better than doing than nothing at all. Maybe this will help you, maybe it won’t. But don’t think that there is any one right way of doing things, even with all the studies out there about the proper ways to study (studies are misproved and expanded on all the time, so something that may have been proven in 2007 may be irrelevant by now). Just don’t beat yourself up when you get overwhelmed by the tons of shit your professors pile onto you. There’s a phrase, ‘you can’t eat an elephant in one bite’, or something like that. It just means that taking baby steps will get you further than rushing headfirst into disaster.