How can I improve my college study skills?

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Answered by: James, An Expert in the Improve Study Skills Category
To develop college study skills that will help you achieve better grades both on your class assignments and on your examinations, it's important that you create a routine built around good habits. While every student has to balance schoolwork with a social life and even a part-time job, you should always be mindful of the fact that your education comes first. How well you perform in school has a direct and very strong influence on your job prospects after you graduate and the opportunities you'll have to continue your education at the graduate or professional school level. Remember: better grades lead to better opportunities, so while you may not see the point in spending an hour answering lab questions for an elective class that's not even part of your major, the truth is that every assignment counts. The first step is to get yourself in the mindset of trying your best on each and every assignment you're given.

Regularly attending your classes is a very important building block as you work towards improved college study skills. By attending class and keeping accurate notes on what the professor discussed, you'll be able to save yourself a great deal of time down the road when it comes time to write your term paper or take your final examination. Through your lectures, your professors highlight the materials and concepts they consider to be the most important. Recurrent concepts, ideas and themes expressed in lectures can then guide your studying. Instead of taking your best guess at what type of material will be appearing on your final examination, you’ll have a much clearer idea because you already know what the professor wants his or her students to take away from the course.

You should prepare for each new semester by mentally dividing it into its beginning, middle and end. At the beginning of the semester, it’s common for students not to have too many assignments to work on, and this can be a very dangerous trap to fall into--too many students get caught up in a lax, casual lifestyle and aren’t able to pull themselves out of it when it comes time to get cracking on work. During the beginning phase of the semester, establish a routine in which you carve out blocks of time to complete readings and any assignments you’re given. This will help you form good work habits which you can draw on when things pick up.

As the semester gets busier during its middle and end phases, begin each week by outlining your schedule--not just your class schedule, but also your work schedule (if you have a job) and your social schedule (if you have events planned). Then, make a mental or written list of all the readings and assignments you’ll have to do each week, and schedule them in your free blocks of time. Stick to this study schedule as though it was as rigid as, say, a work schedule. You wouldn’t fail to show up for a shift at work and expect to keep your job, so don’t fail to do your schoolwork at its assigned time and expect to succeed in the classroom. Being a student is your job, and taking it seriously through proper planning and time management will ensure you can do well in class without having to sacrifice any of your outside interests.

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