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Becoming a Master Student

20 Tips for Studying

  1. Unleash your inner sticky-note fanatic. Sticky notes are fascinating in that they help you to organize your thoughts on a space that is larger than the margin in your textbook. It helps you to annotate the text you are studying by providing space to respond and interact with the text as well as write questions and important facts. Not to mention, sticky notes can be placed anywhere in/on the text and helps you to better recall information on the page.

  2. Color it up a little bit. Use a variety of highlighters to accentuate important dates, details, names, unfamiliar terms, personal connections, and Ah-Ha! Moments. In doing so, you will unlock the text and become more apt to participate in class discussions. Doing so will optimize your ability to think critically. You may also want to use colored pens to take effective, organized notes. The mental work you use to create a color system in notetaking assists in retaining information. 

  3. Chew gum or get you a study fragrance. Heighten your awareness and your degree of alertness by chewing gum while you study. You may also use certain fragrances such as mint, lavender, and lemon while you study. These scents have calming effects but also heighten the senses so that you may better relax and focus on the task at hand.

  4. Thrive in routine. Place, time, fragrance, ritual. Make it a habit. Having consistency prepares your body mentally, emotionally, and physically for the arduous and seemingly endless task of studying. Also, the more you study, the better you become at it and the stronger your stamina becomes. This become especially important as you move into your upper-level courses.

  5. Talk it over with a professor—even if you are certain that you have grasped a concept. Go byyour professor’s office and talk it over with him or her. Let them know what you know about the topic. In doing so, you reinforce your learning, gain clarity on content that still appears fuzzy to you, and nine times out of ten professors dive much deeper into the content in their office and that is where the real class begins.

  6. Talk it over with friends. Creating or joining a study group of friends who share the same major as you will help to reinforce what you already know and provides lifelines for you if ever you need addition help or reminders. However, there is also an advantage in sharing your learning with those who do not have the same major you do. Talking it over with friends who are non-majors require you to simplify the content effectively because non-majors are not privy to the jargon and major specific vocabulary you use. In having to simplify the content, you grasp the concepts of the class better and retention is increased.

  7. Don’t be afraid to “old-school” it: see it, say it, write it, learn it. Three things are certain: Reading aloud or purchasing audiobooks to help guide your reading improves retention; Using notecards to take notes and dictionaries to find the meaning of unfamiliar vocabulary still work wonders; writing meaningful comments in the margin helps you to engage the text and to understand it better.

  8. Watch YouTube Videos or videos related to the topic. YouTube is not only good for music videos and viral sensations. YouTube has countless documentaries, commentaries, book trailers, lectures, crash courses, and self-help videos that will help to enhance your understanding of the topic you are trying to grasp. This shouldn’t be used as a replacement of studying your notes or attending class, but should be used as an enhancement to your studies. In doing so, the content of the class is delivered in a different way, a way that you may better understand. Another plus side is that while waiting at the doctor’s office, in between classes, or waiting for your advisor, pulling out your phone and watching a short 5 minute video about the topic you covered in your philosophy or math class would be ideal.

  9. Record lectures and make a crash-course of them. Simply put, record your class lectures and listen to them at twice or three times the speed. Listening to lectures at a faster speed will force you to listen critically, in turn increasing your focus and helping you to retain more. Also, listening to a past lecture may help you to recall something you may have forgotten that will prove to be vital for an upcoming discussion or exam.

  10. Practice the art of the oral summary. As you read, stop periodically to summarize aloud what you have just read. Your summary should include the title of the chapter, three or four major discoveries or things you find important, and a piece of chocolate to reward yourself for your active engagement.

  11. Take meaningful notes. Don’t try to write every single thing your professor says. Come to the lecture having done the readings so that you may know what is important to know. Write down main points and what you may not have grasped from your personal reading and annotations. Also write what the professor repeats, what the professor is fired up about, and pay close attention to the inflection in his or her voice. The use of these social cues can sometimes give away what the professor deems as important and these things will eventually end up on your exam.

  12. Break it up, bit by bit. Have breaks when you study. You want to give yourself a study break as you transition from one subject to the next. Take about 15 minutes to check your social media accounts, grab a snack, watch a short video, or do something that makes you happy. In giving yourself breaks, you build stamina and motivation to complete the long, arduous task of studying.

  13. Limit distractions. Turn your phone off or put it on silent and place it in the corner. You’re your room a quiet space. Download apps such as Productivity Owl or Flipd to help keep you on task and in the appropriate browser so that you may get your work done. Shutting yourself in one of the private rooms on the second floor of the Kimbel Library is also a great option for those seeking a quiet, productive space to study.

  14. Prepare for lectures and debrief after class. Just before class, while you are waiting for your professor to arrive, review your annotated textbook and look over the questions you plan to ask to mentally prep you for the day’s class. Then, right after class is through, find about five minutes of alone time to review your notes and read them aloud. Also take this time to replay images from class over in your head to solidify your learning and lay the groundwork for the real studying you will do later.

  15. Take good care of you. You must eat well, sleep well, have fun, and live a little. Be sure that you learn early on how to balance both academics and fun. Get your proper amount of rest, eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, exercise, converse with friends, go to the beach. Remember what happened to Jack? All work and no play…

  16. Use tutoring services on campus. Coastal Carolina does a great job of providing services in writing, math, and foreign language for students who need additional help. Utilize your campus’ Writing and Math Centers and the Foreign Language Lab. Tutors are waiting to help you become a better student in the areas where you struggle.

  17. Set boundaries and push yourself. Learn to say no. Know when you really need to study instead of going out with friends. Missing your 8 a.m. theory class may not be a great thing to do, especially if this is the class that has been kicking your behind this semester. Going to the movies the night before your big math test may cause you to receive a lower grade than expected had you postponed the trip to the movies and studied for the test.

  18. Any place but the bed. Your bed should only be for sleeping. There is no mystery why we become sleepy when we read or study in our beds. The mind is used to the bed being a place of sleep. You need to find a place where you can be equally comfortable but alert at the same time. A desk, the library, the kitchen table are all alternatives that won’t cause you to fall asleep just ten minutes in.

  19. Make plenty of time. Make sure that you are giving your classes enough study time. For every hour spent in the class, you should spend two to three hours studying outside of class. Therefore, if your class is worth three credit hours, you should spend six to nine hours studying outside of class. Giving yourself plenty of time to study before the test allows you to visit your professors, talk over your coursework with your friends, seek a tutor, and all other aids used in the studying process. Waiting until last minute does not allow the time you need to cover all of your bases and you to be fully prepared for class or life after.

  20. Monitor and adjust. The more difficult the class, the more time and effort you want to exert in studying for it. Some classes may only require the six hour minimum, while others may require an extensive amount of time. As you visit your professors and receive grades from your classes, gauge your understanding of the content. Decide whether you should spend more time studying for that particular class. If you need more time to study for the class, adjust your schedule according and implement more of the strategies above.