Key In to Effective Study Habits

From grade school through high school, you may have had some grownup pushing you to do your homework. Now that you're in college, that grownup has morphed into . . . you! The keys to successful studying are focus and self-discipline — it's all up to you. If you procrastinate, you'll fall behind before you even know it.

Here are some ways to help you get and stay focused:

All about the right setting

  • Pick a place that feels comfortable for your study time.

  • If you decide that your dorm room or the kitchen table is the best place to study, make sure your friends and family know that your focus is on studying, not visiting.

  • Spread out with your computer, papers, pencils, pens, books, notepads, calculator, and other important stuff.

  • Turn off the TV. If you work better with the radio on, tune in to your favorite music station.

  • Consider buying earphones to avoid bothering or attracting the interest of other people during your study time.

  • Hang up a "Do Not Disturb" sign. If people interrupt for a chat anyway, say "I'm studying right now, but I'll catch you later." Be firm.

Timing is everything

  • Decide what time you're going to hit the books — every day. Stick to your study schedule.

  • If you need to talk to a classmate about an assignment, keep the conversation to the topic.

  • Take a break from bookwork after you finish your studies. Plan something fun as a reward for getting your assignments out of the way. Remember, though, to be considerate of people who are still in "study mode."

Organize your projects

  • Fill up a calendar with academic and extracurricular commitments you don't want to forget, such as exam dates or your fall wind ensemble performance. If you're on a sports team or have a job, write down game dates and work hours. Also include social events and holiday time off from school.

  • Make a list of goals you want to achieve in the next few months. Estimate how many hours you'll need to achieve those goals. For example, an A in English 201 is going to require good exam scores and correct, completed assignments. Figure out what it'll take to do your best in class and on homework. Block out the time you need on the calendar, working backwards from exam and homework due dates.

Get down to business

  • If you're studying for an exam, remember that there's more to preparation than cramming details the night before the exam.

  • Pace your studies over several days or weeks. Get plenty of sleep, eat breakfast, and take a deep breath before the exam.

  • When taking an exam, read the directions carefully before you begin. Skip questions that you're not sure of; allow time to go back to those.

  • If you're working on an assignment with a due date that seems far into the future, get started early to avoid last-minute scrambling. Organize your thoughts and do your research while the assignment's still fresh in your mind.

  • Practice taking good notes — and listening carefully — in class. Rewriting notes after class can serve as a great review of the material, especially if a lot of material was covered.

  • Join a study group for informal support from your fellow students. When setting up a study group, be sure to include students with various levels of understanding and knowledge, including someone who is doing well in class, to get the most out of your study time together. If no one understands the material, you won't be able to help each other.