Student’s Guide to Improving Study Skills How to Assess and Advance Your Study Habits Before College

Meet the Experts

Rita Schiano Read bio
Dr. Marquita S. Blades Read bio

Written by…

Shannon Lee Read bio

For most individuals, college will provide the biggest challenge of their academic career. And even though it usually takes two or four years to a college degree, it only takes one semester to sink a GPA or substantially delay graduation. Therefore, it’s important to brush up on study habits – or even learn new ones – before college begins. After all, students can expect to spend anywhere from 10 to 24 hours per week studying in college, and it’s important to make every one of those hours count. This guide is here to help students determine their current study effectiveness and equip them with the study skills they need to succeed.

“One of the biggest mistakes high school students make entering college is underestimating the amount of studying they will have to do. Students may believe that because they like the subject or excelled in it in high school, that it will come easy in college.”

Dr. Marquita S. Blades

QUIZ: How Effective are Your Study Skills?

Each student is very different, so finding the most effective way to study is very personal. Given that, let’s take some time to identify the individual traits that will help a student figure out how to study.

“Your attitude is key in dealing with the stress and anxiety of college. Approach your studies with a positive attitude.”

Rita Schiano

4 Crucial Study Skills to Master Before College

The following is a list of study skills you’ll want to make sure you have before your first day of class.

  • Note Taking

    Note taking is a staple study skill, even in this age of apps, smartphones and tablets. Whether it’s dictating into a device, typing on a laptop or writing with pen and paper, students will have to be able to take information they see or hear and place it in written form. As information comes so quickly, students should learn how to glean key information and ignore less important points or those they can access at a later time.

  • Time Management

    Making efficient use of time will be one of the most important skills a college student can have. There is a way to fit it classes, studying and a social life, though sacrifices might need to be made. Even when a student cuts back on social activities to focus on school, careful management of that free time is critical. Students will need to organize their studying to fit into the time and resources available, such as that 10-minute window between classes.

  • Organization

    Organization is essential to keep track of the obligations, assignments and responsibilities in college. Even the best time managements skills will be useless if students can’t keep track of what they have due and when. Remember, organization is very personalized. Whether it’s a paper agenda, digital calendar or small notebook, students must find a way to stay organized that works for them.

  • Memorization

    The ability to memorize large amounts of information will be useful to create a strong foundation for learning more substantive concepts. Whether memorizing foreign vocabulary words or scientific formulas, students must find ways to repeat large amounts of information. To aid in memorization, students must figure out what strategies work best for them, such as creating mnemonics, flashcards, outlines or taking special notes.

“One of the biggest mistakes I see with my students is time management with procrastination being the biggest culprit. For some people, doing assignments very close to the due date works for them because the adrenaline helps with focus. But for many, that is not the case and stress and anxiety set in.”

Rita Schiano

Common Study Pitfalls & How to Avoid Them

If you can’t reach your academic potential, there’s a good chance you’re victim to at least one or more of the following college study pitfalls.

“Studying with friends can be a mistake. Students don’t always know their learning styles so studying with people who learn differently can actually be a waste of time, not to mention, a general distraction.”

Dr. Marquita S. Blades

Study Methods for College-Bound Students

There are almost as many methods to study as there are classes to study for. Below are some of the fundamental study methods most college students will need to learn to reach their college potential.

“Students should also be willing to try several study techniques in order to find what will work and have patience with themselves as they navigate this transition!”

Dr. Marquita S. Blades

“Create a dedicated study space, whether in the dorm, library, or campus study rooms. Make a schedule and devote blocks of time for studying. During that time, it is critical to put away the cellphone and disengage auto-notifications from social media sites.”

Rita Schiano

8 Apps to Improve Study Skills

If you’re heading to college, you’ll probably have a smartphone, tablet or laptop and can take advantage of one or more of the following apps to help you study.

“With today’s generation being much more digital than ever, I recommend that students find an online resource with videos that they can watch to support their study efforts.”

Dr. Marquita S. Blades
Exam Countdown Lite Free, with premium versions costing extra

For those who procrastinate or easily forget deadlines, this app lets students know when tests or exams are scheduled with a handy countdown daily timer.

iStudiez Pro $2.99

iStudiez PRO helps college students stay organized with their assignments and grades.

AudioNote LITE Free

AudioNote LITE is an app that synchronizes and indexes conventional notes with audio recordings. This allows users to find a specific piece of information in a voice recording without having to listen to the entire recording.

Evernote Basic Free, with premium versions costing extra

Evernote is one of the most popular note taking apps for mobile devices. Besides taking handwritten or typed notes, users can record voice notes, scan anything and use a variety of sharing options.

Cold Turkey Free, with premium versions costing extra

Cold Turkey is the ultimate tool for blocking distractions. It can prevent you from using your computer or mobile device to access the internet or specific websites for a set period of time.

Memrise Free, with premium versions costing extra

Memrise helps with learning foreign languages through a variety of tools, including videos, games and pronunciation guides.

SimpleMind $7.99 – $46.49, depending on operating system

SimpleMind is an expensive piece of software, but it’s one of the best for creating mind maps to organize complex relationships and ideas, expressing them in tangible form.

Quizlet Free, with premium versions costing extra

Quizlet allows the creation of flashcards. Students can also use flashcards made by other Quizlet users to help with studying that involves memorization.

“Set study goals. Before you begin studying, summarize a few objectives, gather what you will need, and determine a general strategy of accomplishment. Lastly, reward yourself upon completion.”

Rita Schiano

Additional Resources for Students to Improve Study Habits

Looking for more help on how to study for college? Check out the following resources.