‘Tis the season for cold weather, stocking stuffers, Christmas wish lists…and finals. For most college kids, the most important part of the academic calendar is quickly approaching as final exams are just around the corner. For most, these grades will determine their GPA’s fates as the semester ends and Christmas break begins. Here are a few ways that college kids can improve their inefficient study habits that will help as the final stretch of the semester begins.
- Stop listening to music while you study!
If you wander into a college library, odds are just about every student in there is intently focused on their notepad and textbook with headphones on or earbuds in. While certain individuals may prefer this method of studying, research has proven this to be detrimental to one’s ability to retain information. In a 2010 study conducted by Dr. Nick Perham, he found that “listening to liked or disliked music was exactly the same, and both were worse than the quiet control condition, both impaired performance on serial-recall tasks.” So, as much as you want to listen to Adele’s new album, you should probably wait until you put down your physics textbook for the night.
- Study by yourself.
In most cases, you and a group of friends will plan study dates to cram and stay up all night (see later point). At these little sessions a good portion of your time will be spent cutting up about your days, talking about the crazy finish to the game last night, and snapchatting all your open notebooks so everyone can see how much work you have to do. These distractions are unnecessary and easily avoidable. Find a quiet room to sit, relax, and get your work done. Two separate studies conducted by NYU and University of Virginia found that studying on your own is better for your grade point average, as it improves your ability to retain information and reproduce it in test situations.
- Go to bed and stop staying up all night.
As a college student, we have all done it. Sat at our desks with a ridiculous amount of Red Bull and crammed from sundown to sunset. Even if you can make it through the night, sleep deprivation has been proven to take its toll on happiness levels and overall studying effectiveness. The best way to avoid this is to avoid procrastination (again, see later point). Easing the workload a few days in advance will go a long way for the happiness of you and your GPA. UCLA recently did research on this subject, and senior author Andrew Fuligni said “No one is suggesting that students shouldn’t study, but an adequate amount of sleep is also critical for academic success. These results are consistent with emerging research suggesting that sleep deprivation impedes learning.”
The arch nemesis of every college student. Procrastination is something we’ve all done. You wait until the last second to do something and end up hating yourself because you know you’ve had 2 weeks to get it done. That being said, procrastination is usually avoidable. Setting a schedule and sticking to it goes a long way in avoiding turning in work done with half effort or skimming through chapters and not retaining any information. In an article written by the Association for Psychological Science it explains that procrastination has been around for a long time and frequent procrastinators do whatever they need to convince themselves that what they are doing is ok. Do not fall into this category, log off Twitter and get to work!
- Reward yourself for studying!
This is a stressful time for all students who are spending days and weeks preparing for various finals in multiple classes. It is allowed for you to take a break and reward yourself! There are multiple things you can do. On a smaller scale, if you’ve been diligently studying for an hour or two, take a break and grab something to eat. Maybe grab your favorite candy bar or drink. On a bigger scale, if you’ve been working hard for a week or more, designate a night to go see a movie with some friends or perhaps go bowling. Find a fun activity that will get your mind off things and surround yourself with friends. In New York Time’s Best Selling author Gretchen Rubin’s book Better Than Before, she explains that “when we give ourselves treats, we feel energized, cared for, and contented, which boosts our self-command — and self-command helps us maintain our healthy habits.” So go ahead and put down the pencil and calculator for a minute and relax – you’ve earned it.
- Don’t highlight in your textbook!
While many do this as a common tool to make the more important information stand out on a page, this technique has proven to be one of the least effective ways to study. When doing this, you are essentially blocking out whatever else is on the page, important or not. You have given yourself tunnel vision and when rereading that page, you will only look at what you highlighted. In an article written by Study Right’s Skylar Anderson, a seminar Director for the company, he pointed out that a highlighter should be used on notes that you have already taken and can help to connect key points of certain subjects. I’m not saying that highlighters are useless, but be smart with them!
As finals approach here at UC, I suggest taking advantages of all the campus has to offer. Location such as the library, Grill, and Mid BCC are all great study spots where you can get away from the dorm and be by yourself to study. The school also offers various snacks and late night treats on finals week to give you a break and help refuel you for the night/following day.