Lynn Scully, LLC

Study Skills for College Success

copyright © 2003-2010 by Lynn Scully, LLC.

Study Skills for College Success

College is expensive.  Rest assured, that money is well spent.  But it is up to you, the student, to ensure that you are getting the best value for your college tuition dollars.  Study skills and time management are essential to college success.

Think differently about school.  You pay to be there and take classes.  You are the consumer.  You are paying for an education, not merely a degree.  Learning is not something you pay tuition for and then you own it; you must learn in order to get an education.  Evaluate, with an eye towards value, your college decisions.  Be sure you are getting the value you expect by making the most of your college experience from day one.  Success takes planning and fortitude.

If possible, get a list of the text books and suggested reading for a class before the semester begins.  You are paying for the course, the faculty should make every effort to have this information available, upon request.  Read the text, or as much as possible, before you step into the classroom.  Once classes start, your time will be limited.

Study Skills Important to Acquire

Read Each Chapter Before Assigned

How to read effectively.

  • Set a time limit:  For example, between 15-30 minutes per section of a chapter (time to spend will depend on the subject and the length of the section).
  • Read the section and immediately do the example exercises that are explained in the section.  Write notes on the answering process.  If your study environment allows, summarize and postulate aloud to hear your logic.  Keep focused.
  • Do the exercises that follow the worked out examples.  Immediately check the answers at the back of the book.
  • If you incorrectly answered any questions, check the section for information to help you answer correctly.
  • Place Post-It™ notes on any pages that have important tables or charts so you can reference the charts quickly in the future.  Be sure to write on the note what information is on the marked page.  Put the page numbers of reference material in your notes.
  • Clearly identify what you still do not understand.  When a professor presents material in class, you will be familiar enough to understand his lecture and ask relevant questions that will increase your understanding.

For History Classes
Make a long time line (tape sheets together, if necessary) and fill it in as you read.  This time line will help you to make sense of what you are reading, to better understand why events happened, and to see what actions precipitated or resulted from key events.  The time line will serve as an easily recalled visual aid at test time.  Don't worry if the time line gets messy; it's bound to have if the time line is done correctly.

For Literature and Reading Classes
Review the study questions before you read a section.  As you notice key points, stop and relate them to the study question.  If no study questions are provided, briefly summarize each section or chapter before moving onto the next.  Use Post-It™ notes to mark the passages you found especially helpful, confusing, or difficult to interpret.  Include notes in class discussion.

For Language Classes
Find someone who speaks the language and make it a point to speak to them regularly.  This can be a friend, fellow student, business owner in town, or someone you speak to over the phone.  If possible, rent movies in the language.  Although you may not understand all that is said, hearing the language will accustom your ear to the different sounds and intonations.  Your studying will be more effective and your accent will benefit.

Make and Keep Weekly Appointments with your Professor

Most professors keep regular office hours or are available upon request.  Make the meetings effective by taking along your notes from your text reading.  Having clearly written questions along with your work will make your meetings fruitful; your instructors will appreciate that you value their time by approaching them with clear objectives and they will see that you have put in serious study time before seeking help.

Find a Study Partner

A study partner need not be as proficient in a class as you wish to be.  A study partner is someone with whom to discuss the material.  A study partner is someone who will ask you questions so that you can gauge your own comprehension.  A study partner allows verbal discussion, thus increasing understanding and retention.

Plan Breaks

Knowing you will have at least some time to enjoy is crucial to staying focused when you are working.  Plan recreational activities, or time for them, when you plan your study schedule.  Self denial usually backfires into self pity, inability to focus, or quitting.

Evaluate Your Progress in Each Class

Are your grades suffering in one particular class?  Are you falling behind on the recommended reading?  Are you learning?  You take classes to learn. 

Consider dropping a class if you are ...

  • not learning.
  • too busy in other courses to complete assignments.
  • going into a test without having read the books or chapters assigned.

If you can make this decision early, you may get a refund, but most likely you will have to forfeit the tuition.  Either way, a little less money is usually a better choice than a lower grade point average, especially if a course you are in danger of failing is a core curriculum class.  Core curriculum classes must be repeated; the damage to your average could be difficult to correct.

Gauge your work load and plan accordingly.  Too many heavy duty classes in one quarter will impede effective learning in all of them.  An overzealous workload could lead you to feel inadequate in your major, thus leading to an unwarranted change of major.  Taking fewer courses may initially lead you to feel that your money is being wasted, but the value per dollar is actually less if you are taking more classes and not learning.
If you plan on continuing your education to the Masters level or higher, you must succeed at the prerequisites, or you will eventually have to repeat classes to learn missed information.

Decide Whether to Work During College?

Ideally, choose not to.  If you can manage to work over the summer or breaks, that would be better.  A part time job can easily take up to 25% of the 80 awake hours available per week.  Is working worth it?  Is the money earned worth the compromised grade?

Consider Yvonne:  Yvonne was at a competitive college.  She knew she was academically suited for her biology major, but her grades said otherwise.  A review of her study habits revealed that she was doing everything correctly, but was not allowing enough study time.  Most information has a learning curve - time and repetition are necessary to fully absorb what is learned and then to apply it.

Solution:  Carving out time became a priority.  A close look at her schedule revealed that she was working 20 hours per week at slightly above minimum wage.  After accounting for time spent in class, traveling to and from class, eating, and hygiene, she was down to 13 hours per week for studying.  That is 7 hours less than she was dedicating to her part-time job.  She further realized that the money necessary to retake a course was more than she would make in a month on the job!  She decided that work and preparing for her future could not happen at the same time.

copyright © 2003-2010 by Lynn Scully, LLC.
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Lynn Scully has been tutoring and guiding high school students through their college admission process for the past 21 years.  She is the author and host of the get IT SAT Preparation Program.
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