When I was in college I made some very basic mistakes that made my life much harder: answering honestly when my girlfriend asked if a new dress made her look fat, co-signing on a lease with a guy who collected smurf dolls, and eating some left over meatloaf that smelled a little “off,” just to name a few.
More to the point, I also made some study mistakes that made my life tougher than it needed to be. Many of my friends made the same study mistakes. Make sure these study mistakes don’t cost you time and energy. First, I studied at the wrong times. I usually studied only once or twice a week for any given subject. I saved most of the heavy studying (read, “cramming”) for the week before the test. That was precisely the wrong way to do it.
Studying for fifteen minutes five times a week for that biology or history class is much more effective than studying for three hours once a week. The more you can make that material a part of your daily life, the more easily it will soak in to your brain. Learn more about exactly how to fix this study mistake here.
Second, I memorized and studied by repetition. I tried to learn things by reading and rereading my notes or texts. You might try to learn things by making flashcards or recordings that you review repeatedly. Either way, that’s the hard way.
The easy way to memorize that knowledge is by doing something with it. Teach it to someone else. Repackage it as an infographic or skit. Make a crazy story or mnemonic with it. Spray paint it on the wall of the police station.
These are all ways of learning that are much more effective than repetition. Although that last one might have other drawbacks, and could result in a lot of time alone in a jail cell with a guy named “Three-finger Sal.” See my ebook, Secrets Smart Students Know, or free video for more on avoiding this study mistake.
Third, I didn’t get help often enough. Note: this particular mistake seems mostly to afflict those of us with Y-chromosomes. I don’t know about you, but I hated asking for help in college. I hated it like Barbies hate firecrackers. Like nudists hate splinters. Like babies hate doctors in clown outfits. I wouldn’t go to the prof’s office hours. I wouldn’t go to tutoring. I wouldn’t even check the interwebs–the lovely, lovely, interwebs.
If I had trouble, I muscled through it. That’s what Ron Swanson would do. And sometimes that strategy pays off.
But often it just wastes time; time you could spend waxing your mustache, building suspension bridges, or eating fried pig. So go get help sooner rather than later.
Chances are there is a better explanation of that tough topic online or at your local tutoring service than the one your professor provided. And face it; you’ll never be as manly as Ron Swanson anyway. Or Ron Burgundy. Sigh.
Number Four. I didn’t read the text before the class. I went to class and suffered through my professors’ long-winded, ummm-filled, rabbit-trailed, half-mumbled diatribes. I only read the text much later, when I could avoid it no longer.
That was unfortunate, because the text was almost always better organized than the professor’s lecture. It was also free of “ummms,” “uhhhs,” and other verbal place-holders. And it never wasted my time with asides on the faculty club’s unsatisfactory rendition of braised beef tips. If I had read the text first and taken notes from that, I could have used the book as my guide to make sense of the prof’s ramblings.
Finally, I didn’t plan my semester. I was a free spirit. I took life as it came. Zippity-doo-dah. Planning—thought I—is for those who are slaves to schedules. Planning is for those who prefer safety over spontaneity. Planning is for accountants, pizza delivery personnel, and people who enjoy 3-D jigsaw puzzles.
I was a fool.
I suffered for my foolishness, usually around the end of the semester when I had two papers, a research project, and three finals all come due on the same day. I. suffered.
I could have avoided the pain with two simple tools. Two simple tools would have gotten me better grades, more free time, and the slumber of the blissfully unstressed.
The first tool is a calendar. The second? A daily to-do list. Find out more here.
So avoid the mistakes most college students make. Plan your semester and your week. Read and take notes on your main texts before class. Get help from buddies, tutors, the internet, and your prof. Learn by working with the information rather than reviewing it over and over. And study in shorter more frequent bursts.
If you avoid those common study mistakes, everything will go better. Bluebirds will sing as you walk by. Small woodland creatures will dress you each morning. Professors will bow to you in the hallowed halls of academia. And your grades will bring a tear of joy to your mother’s eye.
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