Top 10 Study Skills for College Freshmen

A college freshman might be shocked by the contradiction that college life holds to be successful in college. No longer is there a teacher reminding you to turn in a project. Now teachers expect the student to be responsible or pay the consequence. While on one hand, there is more time off. Instead of an 8:00-3:00 day, now you might have only two classes on a Tuesday and Wednesday and then have the rest of the day off. At the same time, you may have five to six finals all in the same week.

So the question for college freshmen is: How do you balance all of the changes, adjustments, and studying? These are the top 10 study skills college freshmen need to know.

1. Reading comprehension.

Freshmen will be required to complete large amounts of reading and sometimes in several classes at the same time. One of the most difficult aspects of this is that it is easy to have the words go in one ear and out the other. Try to break the reading into several groups. Deal only with one group of pages at a time. Develop a good comprehension of those pages before moving onto the next group. This keeps the comprehension in workable amounts that the mind can focus on.

2. Note-taking.

Many professors post their notes online for students to download. If you have a laptop tablet, it is helpful to add personal notes right onto these downloadable notes. Many teachers add little tidbits that will show up on tests. This is to reward those that come to class and give a disadvantage to those that skip class. Develop a good note-taking strategy.

3. Read aloud.

It may seem to college freshmen that reading aloud is beneath them. The truth is that there are three components to comprehension: read it, say it and write it. Without any spoken version of the material, comprehension will lower. Don’t be embarrassed to read a chapter aloud, especially a difficult one. It forces the reader to pay attention to every word rather than letting the words slip through with no comprehension.

4. Outlining.

Outlining can help item No.1, reading comprehension. Create outlines of the chapters by using boldface print and bullets to break the topic down. This is a great step to do after reading a section aloud. Even if these outlines are never looked at again, the steps of read, say and write will help the information stay in mind.

5. Discipline.

It can be difficult to avoid activities with friends, favorite TV shows or talking on the phone, but these are just time-eating exercises. Although there needs to be time allocated for these relaxing enterprises, they should be reserved as rewards. Study first.

6. SQR.

Another strategy that can help college freshmen is SQR-Survey, Question, Review. Before actually digging in to read a chapter, scan the entire reading to have a sense of the main concepts. Then ask questions of those topics. Then review the chapter to discover the answers to those questions. This is a strategy that can help a freshman move faster through material, especially when feeling overwhelmed.

7. Rules of 5.

Remember that five is about the number of items that the mind can focus on. So keep the number 5 in mind when studying. Write five key terms on a sticky note or on a notecard. Use five bullets when outlining. Divide a chapter into five sections. Put five tabs in a section. Highlight five items per page. Write down five key points each day out of the professor’s lecture. Write five potential test questions over each lecture. If a student has the Rule of 5, some items may get missed, but many items will be covered and reviewed in this manner. Five is a number that the brain can wrap around, and as a result, the job seems more reasonable.

8. Word association.

Many exams have been passed by students using word associations. Word associations work well for memorizing lists and terms. Associate a common word with the term to help trigger answers. Anagrams work well for this. Associate an easier form of the word with the new term. Associate something actually in the classroom with the term. If there is a trigger in the room, often the student can think of the answer.

9. Watch the stress level.

Don’t underestimate the benefits of sleep. Many students do not do well on exams because they cram the night before. Sometimes in the dorm setting, it can be a prestige thing to brag about having “pulled an all-nighter.” Being well rested is more valuable than staying up all night to study. As well, don’t commit to more than can be handled. Being young, it is easy to overdo it.

10. Avoid procrastination.

This is the number-one reason for stress and failure at studying. It is easy to think that you can study the following night or the morning before the test. Unfortunately, something always comes up. The fire alarm is pulled in the dorm, the neighboring room is playing music too loud or maybe an unexpected bout with a stomach bug. Planning ahead leads to success. Waiting until the last minute puts success in the hands of fate.

With these study skills, academics should be an easier adjustment for college freshmen. Try to follow these skills for a low-stress and successful school year.


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