10 Effective Studying Tips When Preparing for College

October 5, 2022
By AdmissionSight
Three students walking towards a college building.

10 Effective Studying Tips When Preparing for College

Your journey to college starts when you’re choosing schools to attend. Admission is one thing, but learning how to prepare is different. Of course, your four years of high school education have played a significant role in your ability to apply to – and get into – some of the most prestigious and competitive schools in the United States.

If you are applying to Ivy League schools or other top 10 schools in the country, chances are good that you ended up near – or at – the very top of your high school graduating class regarding academic success. After all, your high school academic performance will always be the primary deciding factor regarding what undergraduate programs are realistic options for you when it comes time to apply.

Still, just because you excelled in the classroom up to this point does not mean you should rest on the studying and preparation habits you have employed during your four years of high school education.

In the years leading up to high school, a big part of a teacher’s responsibility is encouraging and sometimes forcing students to get involved. Teachers during grade school are expected to help students succeed and graduate. They are expected to look out for you and do everything they can to encourage their students to remain on task and responsible.

However, that responsibility flies out the window once a student graduates college. The expectation in college is no longer that a professor will hold their students’ hands throughout the entire semester on the way to midterms or final exams. The student is the one who must take on that responsibility and effectively learn the material.

At AdmissionSight, we tend to focus on the part of a student’s college journey, including identifying the schools you want to apply to and helping you get into those schools. Our years of experience have allowed our admissions consultants to craft compelling and proven strategies to help students overcome even the most competitive acceptance rates.

Seventy-five percent of the students we have worked with in the past have gone on to get into an Ivy League program such as Harvard, Columbia, or Yale or a top 10 school elsewhere in the country like Stanford, UChicago, or MIT.

Because many of these top schools now boast acceptance rates well under 5.0 percent, it should offer insight into our techniques’ effectiveness. But that is not the only aspect of our work process with students.

Indeed, we have worked with some of our students before they even begin their first years of high school, and we also work to make sure that our students are prepared for what is to come once they start college.

That is why we wanted to break down how to prepare for college by going over the most proven and effective ways to study when in college. Of course, not all of these tips have to be for every student, but if you can find a few new pointers on preparing for your classes, whether you are interested in going into business, STEM, liberal arts and sciences, or something else entirely.

Is Studying Harder in College?

The question, “Is studying harder in college?” is something we get somewhat regularly from the high school students we work with. That is especially true because many of the students we consult with are trying to get into schools known for having incredibly competitive and rigorous academic environments.

Even some of the most accomplished and impressive students that we work with worry that they will not have what it takes to succeed once they start enrolling in classes at the college level.

Students studying in a table on how to prepare for college.

So, is studying harder in college? Undoubtedly, the course material will be more advanced and move at a higher pace than most high school students are accustomed to. After all, most high school students only really get access to AP or IB courses in high school as the most advanced they can take.

While these classes are modeled more closely after undergraduate courses regarding subject matter and pace, they are still primarily modeled after introductory courses. While you are sure to take some intro courses in college, you will quickly start moving past that stage of your education and get into the more advanced stuff.

With all that in mind, that does not necessarily mean that studying itself is more complicated. Instead, it becomes more critical for students to commit to learning. They must find and adopt techniques that will allow them to consume, review, and ingest the material they will be expected to master to score top grades on midterms, final exams, and other vital projects.

Ultimately, it takes more personal responsibility than it did in high school. Depending on what school you decide to attend and how popular your major or concentration is,  you may take courses in lecture halls with 500 to 1,000 seats! You’ll only get to know your professors from those classes if you make an active choice (via office hours), and you’ll have to rely on notes to review and make sense of the lessons you learn.

However, just because college is more complex than high school does not mean that you do not have everything it takes to be incredibly successful. Knowing how to study can be a significant deciding factor regarding how undergraduate students perform.

So, to help make that transition from high school to college much more accessible, we’re breaking down those top 10 studying techniques. Please keep reading to discover what they are!

10 Effective Tips On How To Prepare For College

Remember, not all of these studying tips may be helpful to you, or you may already have an applicable and similar technique that you have already enjoyed success with. Instead of seeing this as a to-do list, consider the options available, what you may want to try to improve your chances of success, and how to prepare for college.

Let’s get started!

Remember to stay organized.

We’ve probably all known a student who always seemed to be living out of their backpack in high school, with loose leaves of paper flying everywhere and running late to class, still scoring incredible grades in all their categories. For some students, chaos seems to be a part of their success during high school, but that is typically not the case once students get to college.

Female student typing in a table for early application.

The truth is that organization and knowing how to organize your days and weeks is crucial to succeeding at the college level. Even if you never did so in high school, you should try to keep a college planner from Day 1 of your courses. Keep track of due dates and club or community activities, and schedule enough time for studying.

Some of the most popular ways to keep a planner include keeping a calendar notebook, using a dry-erase board on your wall, or simply committing to using your calendar effectively on your computer or smartphone, which is essential to how to prepare for college. Whatever you feel most comfortable with is the best way for you!

Plan further ahead than tomorrow.

As we’ve already mentioned, one of the most significant differences between succeeding in high school and college is that there is going to be no one holding your hand and guiding you through the process to ensure that you follow as much as possible. That doesn’t only mean your teachers won’t be doing that.

Still, it is also essential to remember that you will (under the vast majority of circumstances) no longer be living under your parent’s roof. You’ll be fully responsible for your day-to-day schedule for the first time.

Female student writing while looking at his laptop.

One of the most important parts of planning ahead is keeping a schedule for what you’ll study based on your courses and how much attention they’ll require daily. The goal should be to give yourself time to learn every day (even if it’s just for 30 minutes or so on some days) so that you do not have to cram once your big exams start coming around the corner.

Become a master note-taker.

One of the most effective ways to study in college begins in the classroom in almost every class. Taking notes and paying attention in class will help you prepare for midterms and exams. Sure, many professors teach using PowerPoint, and many end up putting those PowerPoints online. Still, simply depending on that as a studying resource could leave you with holes in essential aspects of the subject matter.

If you want to go a step further, we have known students who get permission from their professors to record audio recordings of lectures on their phones or computers. This will give you an audio aid when you review your notes to ensure you fully understand the material taught in class.

Beyond having the notes, ensuring that you take practical notes will also help ensure you fully pay attention in class and wrestle with the subject matter in real time.

Form an influential study group.

Another great way to ensure you stay on top of your coursework is to form study groups with people in the class. An added plus is that this can be a great way to make friends.

Of course, the most critical aspect is that you can hold one another accountable and help each other better understand the material by going over significant topics, more specific material, and more.

Of course, you must include the right students in any study group. After all, having kids who won’t productively contribute to the group will not be the best use of your time.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

If you are having trouble fully understanding a concept, you should never be afraid to ask for help. The best way to do this in college is to make an appointment with your professor during their office hours.

You will be able to meet with them one-on-one for a little bit and go over the issues that you are facing. The added benefit of this is that you can form a personal relationship with your professor, which will be even more critical if their field is the one in which you plan to major.

Switch up your study spots.

While sticking to a study schedule and sticking to it is a crucial aspect of succeeding in college, you do not necessarily have to study in the same place constantly. Studying in the exact location daily can lead to boredom and decreased engagement with learning material. Try to switch it up by visiting different libraries, cafes, and study areas around campus. This is also a great way to know your school and place better.

No distractions

When trying to hit the books hard and study, you must minimize distractions as much as possible. Of course, some things may be out of your control, but you should always look for a quieter area with little movement.

Female student studying in a table in a library.

Listening to music is something that many students do, but we would advise that you stick to instrumental music (classical, jazz, etc.) instead of music with lyrics. Finally, you may want to consider putting your phone on silent when you are studying. We all know how distracting those things can be!

Avoid cramming

It never pays to procrastinate, and in college, the urge to put things off will inevitably lead to you cramming before your midterms or final exams. Cramming has been scientifically proven to be a much less effective manner of studying than ingesting important information over a more extended period.

Rather than studying for 10 hours straight in the 48 hours leading up to an exam, it is far more effective to spend one hour a day studying over the two weeks leading up to an exam. Moreover, when you organize your study materials this way, you can spend the last few days before an exam reviewing the most crucial or complex information you’ll be required to know.

Don’t memorize, understand

Some students think memorizing material will be the ticket to getting an A on an important exam. While remembering certain bits of information can be helpful, ensuring that you truly understand the material and know how to apply it in real-time is far more essential.

Don’t forget to take breaks and know when to call it a day.

This may be the final tip we’ll review in this breakdown on preparing for college, but that does not make it the least important. While studying, especially if you are taking part in a more extended study session, do not forget to take breaks, stretch your legs, and give your body and mind the nourishment (food and water) they need to perform at their best.

Male student sleeping near a pile of books.

On top of that, it’s essential to know when to call it a day and head home. After all, relaxation and sleep are crucial parts of your brain, truly understanding and retaining all the great information you are fed during your study session.

Prepare for college with AdmissionSight.

Admissions consultants work primarily before the application process but can do more. In AdmissionSight, we help in preparing students for college admissions.

If you want to learn about our tools, strategies, and how we help students achieve their admissions goals, contact us today to schedule a free consultation.

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