A college freshman is stuck when it comes to studying effectively.

Luckily, our elder has a wealth of top tips.

Dear EWC

Hey, I’m an 18-year old college freshman student and I’m trying to wonder how to study as effectively, non-stressfully and passionately as possible. Usually, when I study my lecture notes, I get the gist of it until the next day, which I would tend to forget most of what I studied the day before, but somehow everyone else would get it and they don’t have to think too hard. I need to cultivate a lot of thinking to understand certain methods or ideas, especially during lectures when everyone else can get it in seconds. When I study my notes, I try to understand it and would re-read it three or four times to make sure, but that’s just a time-consuming way of making sure I know what I’m doing but everyone else can take five to fifteen minutes for something that takes me 30 minutes or even an hour. I’m looking to you elders because I know you guys used to be in my place some many years ago and would be obliged to share your experience or some advice dating back to those ”heydays”. Also not only study more efficiently but also in a less tiring sense because I often get as tired for long periods of time. I’m open to all relevant advice!

Ms.JuliaJ replies

Congratulations on your freshman year of college! You are wise to ask about how to study more effectively. Everyone learns at a different pace so don’t compare yourself to others, just focus upon yourself and what you need to do to learn the information.

Research shows that when we learn, the surface of the brain actually changes. The analogy is like a car doing down a dirt road. The first pass will show hardly any tire tracks. But with each next pass, the tracks will become deeper until there are ruts from the tires. When we learn, tracks actually form in the brain and the brain physically changes. To get this to happen, the learning has to be deep learning and not just surface learning. You have to take the time to understand the material, not just memorize it. This takes time. It will take more time for some and less time for others, you need to allow the time that you need and not rush.

One way to learn information more deeply is to relate it to something you already know. Linking new information to old information, helps the new information stick. Try to figure out how the new information is like something you already know.

Another way is to change the information in some way. Taking notes is excellent because you are changing the information from just hearing, to now being visual. Take it a step further and put the information into a rap or song that you make up. Your brain has to work harder when you change the information and you will remember it much better. Mnemonics work like this. For example, to remember the Great Lakes in the United States, we use the mnemonic HOMES (Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, Superior).

When I took US Geography in college, I had to memorize all of the main waterways and write them on a blank map of the United States for a test. I made a lot of blank maps and wrote in the rivers, practicing one section of the map at a time until I could complete the whole map from memory. It took a lot of time but it worked and I got an A on the test. I still remember the rivers 30 years later.

When you study, rewrite all of your notes again, make outlines of them so they are organized and logical. This will help get them into your memory. Just reading them over and over is not making your brain work. Writing them again, makes your brain work harder and you have to pay attention to what you are doing. Use a highlighter to highlight important words.
Make up your own tests from your notes. List questions from your notes on a separate sheet of paper and see how many you can answer. Star the ones you miss and go back to study those points more.

Form pictures in your mind about your notes. When you think of the picture, it will prompt your brain to pull out the information you learned. For example, with the HOMES Great Lakes example, I would picture a big Excavator or hoe, with the letters in the shovel, dumping the letters out one at a time into a river. You can form silly pictures. Picture a Toucan saying the concept you are learning.

Review your notes every night. Every class, every night. Read them out loud so you can hear yourself. Sing them out loud, dance to the words you are saying or singing, read them in a funny voice, anything to get your attention so that you are not just going through the motions of rote reading.

Get involved in a study group. Studying with others is extremely helpful. Each of you can take a section of the lecture and explain it. Explaining something to someone else makes you learn it even better.

Some courses provide a study session review before a test. Make sure you go if this is offered as it will give you a chance to ask questions about something you don’t understand.
Have a positive attitude toward learning. Even the most boring subject can be more interesting if you just decide it will be. Having a negative attitude shuts down your brain and keeps you from remembering.

Block out distracting noise with low music in the background or a white noise machine or fan. Put your phone on mute so you won’t get notifications. Research shows that we are not able to multitask; our brains cannot give two different things full attention. Studying is a job and requires your full attention.

Study when you are not tired. Don’t leave it for the last thing you do before bed.

Study in blocks of time. Study for an hour, then take a 15 or 20-minute break. Go outside, take a quick shower, play a game, just do something totally different during that time.

Do the most difficult studying first. Statistics took a lot of my energy, so I made sure I studied that subject first.

Get enough rest and stay hydrated. Your brain needs rest and water to function.

I hope these ideas are helpful. Your college most likely has a student services center to help with study skills. If you do not know where it is, one of your professors can help you.

Good luck, and have a great school year!

Letter #: 411453
Category: School

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