The Ultimate Guide to Studying in College

By Julia Califano · August 15, 2023 · 7 minute read

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The Ultimate Guide to Studying in College

College is a place for learning new things, preparing for a career, expanding one’s point of view, making new friends, and, of course, having fun. But putting more emphasis on a good time than on academics can lead to bad grades and worse.

One way to help ensure you thrive in school is a no-brainer: to study. You may find, however, that your high school study habits aren’t highly effective in college, where the work load tends to be higher, teachers are less personally involved, classes are larger, and exams are tougher. On top of that, college life is full of distractions.

That doesn’t mean you won’t succeed in your college classes. You may, however, need to kick it up a notch. What follows are some of the best study strategies for college classes.

Get Enough Sleep

Sleep is critical to a well-functioning brain and body. If you get enough sleep, you will generally find it easier to focus and feel healthier overall. Young people ages 18 to 25 need seven to nine hours of sleep a night, according to the National Sleep Foundation.

If you’re having trouble sleeping, try to go to bed and wake up around the same time every day, make sure your bed is comfortable, and a void drinking caffeine or alcohol, especially in the evening. Also helpful: Doing some yoga or meditating before bed, using ear plugs if your dorm is noisy, and using room-darkening shades on your windows.

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Feed Your Brain

Some foods, like candy and greasy dining hall pizza and french fries can make you feel good in the moment but may cause you to crash later or give you a stomachache. Instead, you’ll want to aim to eat nutritious foods that will power your brain.

Some of the best brain foods include: fatty fish that contain omega 3s , dark chocolate, blueberries, pumpkin seeds, nuts, eggs, oranges, and green tea.

Drinking water and tea instead of soda and sugary fruit juices is also a good idea.

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Get a Study Partner

A good study partner can hold you accountable as well as keep you focused.

If you have a tough time sitting down and focusing on your studies on your own, you may find that learning with a study partner will force you to stick to a study schedule and may also help ensure that the information actually sticks.

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Find a Quiet Space

Many people are unable to concentrate when they’re in a noisy environment. Unfortunately, a college dorm room can be loud because it’s where social gatherings often take place. Plus, there are so many students crammed into one area, nobody has any personal space. That’s why it can be a good idea to hunt for a quiet study space.

Quiet spaces on campus could include a library, where students might be able to reserve a private room; a secluded place outside; the campus cafe when it’s not busy; or an empty classroom.

If you have a car, you can drive off campus to a park, uncrowded eatery, or public library.

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Put on Some Focus Music

Listening to music can be one of the best study tips for some college students. As long as the music isn’t distracting, you might find it helpful to pop in your earbuds when you study. Generally, the best types of music for focusing on work include nature sounds, songs without lyrics, songs played at medium volume, and songs with a specific tempo.

You might also like listening to your favorite upbeat bands that make you excited, as it may help you study and get your work done faster.

Don’t Wait Until the Last Minute

Practitioners of the fine art of procrastination often pay a price.

Procrastination can lead to bad grades, higher levels of stress, and negative feelings. Procrastinators are likely to not have a great study session because they are rushed.

To stop postponing the inevitable, you might want to put reminders on your phone that tell you when to study and when your assignments are due. A study partner can also help put feet to the fire.

If you procrastinate over and over again, perhaps it’s a sign that you are not interested in your studies and may want to pursue a different major.

Get Organized

If your papers are scattered everywhere, you won’t know where your important books or files are, or you may forget when your tests are scheduled.

If you could benefit from better organization, you might want to set up a Google Calendar and put every test, class, and appointment in there. You can also set reminders that will show up on your computer or phone when you need to study.

You could also clean your room at least once a week, filing papers in folders, putting books in a neat pile, and storing backpacks, clothes, and other items in closets. You might also want to purchase storage systems from places like IKEA and the Container Store so you have a place for everything.

In addition, it can help to create ongoing to-do lists and check off each task as you complete it. The night before you go to class or have to take a test, you can organize your backpack and put everything you need into it instead of rushing the morning of the test.

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Shut Out Distractions

The noise in a dorm room or on a college campus can be distracting. Social media, text messages, and emails also take focus away from studying.

To buckle down, you may want to log out of social media and email and put your phone on do not disturb, only allowing emergency contacts to reach you.

If you are addicted to your phone or social media, you might want to install an app that turns off distractions and tracks how much time you’re spending on their phone.

Put Together a Study Schedule

Studying isn’t just going to happen. That’s why one of the most important study tips is to put together a study schedule that is realistic.

For instance, if you like to go to bed at 2 a.m., you can’t plan to study at 6 a.m. the day you have a test because you’ll be exhausted. Instead, you can plan to study the evening before the test.

You may also want to schedule a time when you can find a quiet place to study or when your dorm room is going to be less noisy. You will likely not be able to concentrate on a Friday or Saturday night in your dorm because of surrounding shenanigans. You could block out time on a calendar when the dorm is quieter and make sure you stick to it.

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Take Breaks

Studying for hours without a break could lead to burnout. Instead, pause to walk around, get some fresh air, or grab a glass of water or a healthy snack.

Some research suggests that the most productive people focus on intense work for 52 minutes and then take a 17-minute break.

You don’t have to follow the rule of 52 and 17 to a T; instead, you might get up every 20 minutes or so, or at least once an hour, whenever you start to feel you’re losing focus or your body is cramping.

If you are studying by looking at a computer screen, you can shut off the screen and phone and look at something else during that break. Looking at a screen for too long can hurt your eyes and have a negative effect on focus.

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Here’s to Hitting the Books

You might have to try different techniques, and most of them will require practice, but once you hit a groove, you should be well on your way to getting good grades — a stepping stone to a fulfilling career.

You may also find it easier to focus on your studies if you’re not worried about paying all of the costs associated with college. There are a variety of ways to cover your college tuition and expenses, including financial aid, federal student loans, and private student loans.

If you’ve exhausted all federal student aid options, no-fee private student loans from SoFi can help you pay for school. The online application process is easy, and you can see rates and terms in just minutes. Repayment plans are flexible, so you can find an option that works for your financial plan and budget.

Cover up to 100% of school-certified costs including tuition, books, supplies, room and board, and transportation with a private student loan from SoFi.

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Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.


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