How to Study Smarter Not Harder

By Chyelle Dvorak

As a student, I know how it feels to want to improve my study habits and save time. Out of curiosity, I asked some anonymous students for their top homework tips. Here’s some study advice from students who understand the challenge.

Pick up the reins of your education

Remember your job is not just to do what your professors want. Learning is a lifelong endeavor, so take the reins of personal responsibility for your education. Studying is not all about the grade. God created you as an intelligent being, and there’s a purpose behind the things you are learning. Whatever you’re learning now will help you in the future, so make sure you have the right mindset while studying.

Take old-fashioned notes

While some students believe note-taking is not for them, many studies have shown that students who take notes retain information longer. Not only that, but the best way to take notes is on paper, not a laptop. Studies at Princeton and the University of California show the mix of physically writing on paper and cognitive function increases memory. According to Harvard, students who type notes work fast enough to pass information straight from the lecture to their computer without even using the time your memory needs to process–not to mention the endless distractions present on your laptop. Handwriting notes take time, but it will help you in the long run.

Cut down on busy-work

Don’t underestimate the power of prioritizing. Now, this doesn’t mean only focusing on the things you want to focus on. If you are struggling with a class, look for the key concepts and work to master those. Paying attention to the main points in class could help you save hours of busy-work later. Always study your exam mistakes. If your class is cumulative, these ideas will definitely come up again later. If you’re struggling with a concept, you can always ask questions in class, email your professor, ask a friend, or visit the study lab for help. When it’s permitted, use Google or YouTube when you need to. There is a wealth of information right at your fingertips.

Do things while they are fresh on your mind

It is much easier to do homework when it’s fresh on your mind. For most students, this isn’t rocket science. For the procrastinator, this is a challenge. Learning and productivity increases when students do things before they forget them. Once you’ve had a chance to forget about your upcoming work, it’s much less likely you’ll get it done. Here’s another tip: before you write a paper, read the instructions a couple of days before so you have time to think about a topic. Even if you don’t consciously think about it, your brain will be better prepared when you start writing.

Take care of yourself physically

It’s easy to only think about your mental health when focusing on study habits, but studying without physical exercise will only wear you down. It seems as though every college student is extremely stressed and sleep-deprived. Exercising regularly will help improve your thinking skills and give you more energy. Make sure you take care of the basics: get a lot of sleep, drink lots of water, and exercise often. Cutting back on sugar and eating fruits and vegetables also increases concentration.

Know what study space works for you

Everyone is different. Know whether you prefer having background noise, music, or complete silence. Think about the kind of atmosphere you feel comfortable in, but not so comfortable that you find yourself falling asleep. If you’re someone who enjoys a change, try varying your study spaces. Other people might enjoy having a set routine. In either case, find what works best for you.

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