Studying sticks with you. It finds its way into your life when you're out of school in expected and unexpected ways.
"Learning is a skill which involves all our senses," says John Thieman, career development specialist at Stratford University. "As the years go by, we find that certain techniques and learning styles better enable us to learn and recall what we want to retain. The most effective is that which works best for us."
That might be easier said than done. Who's to know what works best for them? Some people can read a book once and recite lines from memory. Others can't go four pages without having to flip through the book, trying figure out who a character is.
"Making traditional note cards isn't always the best study tool for some learners — oral quizzing might work better, or mind mapping concepts on a dry erase board," says Jack Trammell, Director of Disability Support Services at Randolph-Macon College. "But in many cases, students keep on making note cards for years and years never once challenging the notion that it might not be the most effective strategy for them. This is not to say that making note cards isn't an effective strategy—it is, but for specific types of learning and for specific types of learners."
There's not a cookie cutter formula that will turn you into a studying all-star. You have to take the time to figure out what works best for you. Studying is a skill. And like any other skill, it takes years of practice to perfect. But if it's not your strong suit and you need a hand now, there are a lot of ways you can help yourself become more studious.
"Once you know your learning style, find ways to adapt your studying to that learning style," says Kerry Purcell, consultant for Focus On Results. "For example, if you are an auditory learner and have a big reading assignment to do, read it out loud. You will be hearing yourself read and will better understand what the lesson is about. If you learn best through hands-on or physical methods, try turning what you are learning about into an experiment or play that you can act out. If you are a visual learner, take concepts you are studying and find pictures or diagrams to help explain them."
But everything changes when a student begins college. It is a whole new learning atmosphere. The classes are bigger, the tests are fewer but the stakes are higher. There's a lot more to distract them and they need to make a conscious effort to keep studying.
"Time management problems cause 90 percent of failures in college," says Patricia Feldman, associate director of the Altshuler Learning Enhancement Center at Southern Methodist University. "A calendar, weekly schedule and daily to-do lists will help you anticipate the semester's tests and papers."
She also believes it's easy to get bogged down by work that wasn't prepared for.
"Pay close attention to your syllabus and prepare for each class," says Feldman. "Tests are fewer in college and cover much more material, so keep up with assignments to avoid having to read 10 chapters the night before a midterm."
And studying doesn't have to start outside of the classroom. Just taking hearty notes can help tremendously when test time rolls around.
"Watch your professor's body language and listen to his or her voice to determine the most important information and put stars next to it," says Cynthia Crimmins, director of the Learning Resource Center at York College.
Henry Ford once said, "If you think you can, you can. If you think you can't, you can't. Either way, you are right."
If you don't think you're good at studying, you won't be. You need to take the time to figure out what works best for you. It doesn't matter that your best friend studies one way and you don't. It's all about what fits best with you. You'll be helping yourself in the long run.