Tips for Academic College Success

If you go to college, you’ll discover you spend less time in class and more time studying outside of class. College classes require new study habits and different time management tools because you’ll have a lot more free time. 

You’ll find less busywork than in high school, and a lot more self-directed learning outside of class. In some classes, your grade could be based on a midterm and a final, and it’s hard to know how you’re doing along the way. The change can be a big adjustment, but it will be much easier if you can focus on the habits below.

Follow these tips to set yourself up for academic success and get support if you need it.

Go to Class

It can be tempting to skip classes, especially large ones where the instructor may not keep tabs on attendance. But attending class is usually the best way to learn the material that you’ll need for tests or assignments. Plus, by going to class, you’ll have the opportunity to ask questions, hear other students’ questions, and even approach your professor after class to get to know them or schedule an appointment during their office hours.

Learn more about fostering healthy relationships with professors

Take Good Notes

Your college courses will be more complex and in-depth than high school classes. If you don’t already have strong note-taking skills, it’s important that you develop them so you can refer back to your notes when preparing assignments or studying for tests. College professors often lecture and test on information that isn’t in the textbook.

Don’t know how to take good notes? The tutoring center can help. Many colleges offer academic resources and workshops to help students with exactly these kinds of skills. There’s no one best way to take notes (it’s really based on how you learn), but a few popular methods are Cornell Notes and mapping or outlining. Your tutoring center (or its online resources) may teach specific note-taking methods. 

Learn how to reduce stress by prioritizing and getting organized

Schedule Study Time

Juggling courses, social activities, and other obligations can be challenging. It’s best to schedule your study time and set specific goals for each session. You’ll also want to make sure you are in a quiet place without distractions, so you may need to go to the library instead of studying in your dorm room.

Block out enough time in your schedule to complete necessary reading and assignments each week. The general guideline is two to three hours of study time for every hour in class. Some classes may require more or less at different times, but staying up on your reading or other work such as lab reports keeps you from getting behind.

Bonus: You can create or join an informal study group to prepare for exams together and meet new people. This can be more fun than studying on your own!

Learn more about managing your time in college

Avoid Cramming

It’s easy to procrastinate studying for a test that’s two weeks away, but starting early reduces last-minute cramming. While you may have been able to get away with cramming for a high school exam, college exams usually cover larger amounts of material, and it can be difficult to do well without planning and preparation. 

Avoid staying up all night to cram. Getting a good night’s sleep can help concentration, organization, memory, and alertness—all things that can help you do well on your exam.

Use Academic Resources

If you’re having trouble with a class, reach out for support from the course teaching assistant (TA), the professor, or a tutoring program as soon as possible. Your professors and TAs hold office hours every week just for this purpose. You can also reach out when you’re not having trouble but would still like to discuss a concept from the class. TAs and professors like meeting with students to help them master course material or understand course concepts in greater depth. 

If you have a disability that requires extra time on a test, you likely need to contact your disabilities office or the professor in advance of that test about your accommodations. Each college handles testing accommodations a little differently, and it’s important to find out in advance what you’ll need to do and the correct person or office to contact before tests.

Learn more about how to get and manage accommodations

Seeking support early can reduce stress, help you stay on top of your assignments, and increase your chances of doing well in your classes.

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