20 great tips for college study habits, passing hard courses, and reducing stress

By Ben Alonzo

It’s that time of year when the fall semester starts and all of those assignments get your attention. No matter what course you’re taking, there’s a good way to handle it. Things get even more difficult when you try to juggle a job during a full-time load. The good news is you have hope and a great study habit with good time management will get you further, make the semester smoother, and ease test anxiety. Here are some free tips for studying, staying focused, and getting ready for those midterm and final exams.

Smart College Student

So you’ve figured out your semester schedule, great. The fun is about to begin and you should start things off by being a smart student. A smart student takes assignments one step at a time and also manages their time wisely. Not all colleges are the same, but the way you handle work in-class or at home should be very similar. You’re going to have distractions, life events will happen, that car might break down, you might oversleep, however, students that properly pace themselves and plan ahead will experience much smoother learning.

College is really about learning and the best learning only happens when you put effort into the course and minimize your distractions. Thankfully, thousands of people before you, through their experience, have discovered and tested great methods to make it as easy as possible and reach the ultimate goal of passing that class – going to the next thing in your life. You can do it!
Smart Student Tips

These are tips that will help you conquer every semester:

1. Manage your time. Sure, things happen (parties), but know when you haven’t dedicated enough time to your academic subjects. Some courses require a minimum amount of study time. Taking away from this could make the course harder (maybe impossible) to pass. You should schedule leisure stuff (partying, vacations, and concerts) outside of important dates: before or on exam dates, the beginning of a course, lab dates, etc. Always give yourself enough time to study each week. If you find your grades going down, immediately study more, reach out and address it.

2. Study ahead. Being prepared for something when you come into a class makes it much easier. Students also say that being prepared lessens anxiety. It’s usually typical for the people that study ahead to get higher final grades because they spend more time studying.

3. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. A good instructor likes questions. Don’t interrupt, but also don’t wait until after an exam to ask questions. The answers might put you on the right path or make something easier.

4. Look up concepts on YouTube. College isn’t just about remembering answers. A good student should know how we get answers (the process and reasons why). Don’t be afraid to spend time learning! You should look up multiple examples and research how the answers were obtained.

5. Large projects mean you should break them up over time. Some students get overwhelmed, even thinking something is impossible. By spending a little time each day, you can continue to tackle large projects. The end reward is much more than a good grade – you feel accomplishment.

6. Learn acronyms and mnemonics. These are easy ways to remember entire processes or concepts. Medical science example: DECAP-BTLS stands for Deformities, Contusions, Abrasions, Punctures, Penetrations, Burns, Bleeding, Tenderness, Lacerations, and Swelling. It’s much easier to remember all of that by just saying “dee-kap-bee-tee-el-es.”

7. Be comfortable at school. Show up to class with comfortable clothes and shoes. If it’s cold, remember to break a jacket or heavier shirt.

8. Bring a drink to class. People get dry throats or just are more comfortable with a drink. Ideally, you should drink water or decaf teas (for health reasons). Of course, don’t spill anything – use a closed cup or mug, and don’t leave your trash behind when class is over.

9. Get enough sleep. Sleep is underestimated for college. Don’t stay up too late, especially if you have a class meeting at 8am the next morning.

10. Make hand-written or typed out notes for your class. This will force you to study the material, keep up with the pace of the course, and may even come in handy if the instructor says you can use notes on an exam. Take good notes!

11. Bring helpful items to class, such as a calculator, pencils, pens, paper, and your textbook. You’ll be ready to take notes or reference something from the book. This is also a sign to the instructor that you’re a good student.

12. Take only courses you’re interested in (if not prerequisites or required for something else). Students that are interested in the subject do much better than those that can’t stand the subject.

13. Choose a meaningful major that you’ve researched to be useful in the future, helpful with future employment, and that can transfer (credits) to any accredited college. A college may offer many degrees, but their utility in the future should be determined by your own research. Your major is your decision. Remember that you can always change majors.

14. Give yourself some time to watch a movie or read a book (outside of class requirements) on the subject you’re studying. This does several things: entertains, educates, and may even raise your interest in the subject. It also refreshes you because you’re not under a due date or tested for the external things you do outside of a class requirement.

15. Beware of the group project. Many students hate the group project. If you find yourself in a group where nobody is doing their share of work just communicate with the instructor about it. Address problems early because poor group work can suck the enthusiasm right out of your student experience.

16. Avoid writer’s block by treating your writing assignments as if you’re just talking to another student about a subject. Think of an imaginary person in the room that you’re trying to impress. You can also research bits and pieces of something, starting with just a few sentences. After that, just build on what you have within the guidelines of the assignment. You’ll find that by doing this your writing gets a bit easier!

17. Backup your work on an external hard drive. Today’s digital world means you’re likely using a computer for a lot of your assignments. It’s your responsibility to make sure you save your work and that it gets submitted on-time. Every assignment should be backed up to another place. What if you lose that USB stick? Better have a second backup, especially for large assignments!

18. Get exercise. Put down that book for a while and go to the gym. Exercising will help your study habits and physical fitness status. Exercise is also good for the mind and to relieve stress.

19. Take pride in your work, the course, and it should show in your efforts. A good student puts forth significant effort. The more you put into the course, the more you get out of it!

20. Plan something fun as a reward for passing the course/semester. Consider a budget-friendly short trip or something fun to do at the end of the semester. It’s not just about Spring Break, make it every semester. Maybe plan on getting a group of students together for a taco dinner party for passing the course? Do something fun! You passed, you deserve a reward. Rewards also give you incentive to do more good things. Passing a class is good. Tacos are good. Everyone is a winner!

Those who are determined will work hard to meet and exceed their goals. Remember, things don’t happen overnight and failure might occur. Ideally, we as smart students want to do everything we can to avoid trouble and make things easier on ourselves. A meaningful major is much more than just a piece of paper, it’s time, effort, knowledge, skills, and whatever you put into it.

Good luck!

Author:Ben Alonzo is one of the world’s most unique science and tech experts. He founded ULTRA TechLife and is the CEO of the tech firm Storm Sector, LLC. Ben holds an MS in Information Technology, MS in Geoscience, MS in Health & Nutrition, and a BS in Geoscience. He is a highly rated professor that teaches a wide variety of college courses within earth and environmental sciences as well as within computer sciences and public health. His diverse background spans information technology, cybersecurity, healthcare, weather forecasting, consumer electronics, graphic design, web development, and business leadership. He holds numerous professional licenses and certifications, ranging from information technology to healthcare and emergency medical technician. Ben is a tech entrepreneur and is business partners with multiple restaurants. He is a fitness pro, health scientist, a licensed private pilot that loves flying, and enjoys independent filmmaking. He has written about science and tech for over 10 years. You can see some of his past articles on the Houston Chronicle, Heart, and other networks. In his free time, he likes scuba diving, storm chasing, traveling, making music, and drones.
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