10 Effective Studying Tips When Preparing for College

October 5, 2022
By AdmissionSight

10 Effective Studying Tips When Preparing for College

Whether you are just getting started on identifying colleges and universities that you are interested in applying to, or if you have already been accepted to your dream school and are simply waiting for the fall semester to get started, there is no question that your journey has just begun! Getting into college is one thing, learning how to prepare for college is something else entirely!

Of course, your four years of high school education have played a major 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, then chances are good that you ended up near – or at – the very top of your high school graduating class when it comes to academic success. After all, your academic performance in high school is always going to be the primary deciding factor when it comes to what undergraduate programs are realistic option for you when it comes time to apply.

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

The truth is that in the years leading up to high school, and in high school as well, a big part of a teacher’s responsibility has to do with 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 make sure that they are doing everything that they can to encourage their students to remain on task and responsible.

Once a student gets to college, however, that responsibility flies out the window. 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 learn the material in an effective way.

At AdmissionSight, we tend to focus on the part of a student’s college journey that includes identifying the schools that you want to apply to and helping you get into those schools. Our years of experience have helped our admissions consultants craft effective and proven strategies that help students overcome even the most competitive acceptance rates. And when we say proven, we mean proven! In fact, 75 percent of the students that we have worked with in the past have gone on to get into either an Ivy League program such as Harvard, Columbia, or Yale or a top 10 school elsewhere in the country like Stanford, UChicago, or MIT.

Considering the fact that many of these top schools now boast acceptance rates well under 5.0 percent should offer some insight into just how effective our techniques have proven to be. But that is not the only aspect of the process that we work with students. Indeed, we have worked with some of our students before they even begin their freshman years of high school, and we also work to make sure that our students are prepared for what is to come once they actually begin college.

That is why we wanted to spend some time breaking 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 how to prepare 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 one that we get somewhat regularly from the high school students that we work with. That is especially true because so many of the students that we do end up consulting with are trying to get into schools that are 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 actually enrolling in classes at the college level.

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

So, is studying harder in college? There is no doubt that the course material is going to be more advanced and move at a higher pace than most high school students are accustomed to. After all, the majority of high school students only really get access to AP or IB courses in high school as the most advanced that they can take.

While these classes are modeled more closely after undergraduate courses in terms of 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 difficult. Instead, it just becomes more important for students to really commit to the studying process. They must find and adopt techniques that will allow them to consume, review and really ingest the material that they will be expected to master to score top grades on midterms, final exams, and other important 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 end up taking courses in lecture halls that have 500 to 1,000 seats! You’ll only really 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 in class.

However, just because college is harder than high school does not mean that you do not have everything it takes to be incredibly successful. The truth is, knowing how to study can be a major deciding factor when it comes to how undergraduate students perform from the jump.

So, to help that transition from high school to college that much easier for you, we’re breaking down those top 10 studying techniques. Keep reading to discover what they are!

10 Effective Studying Tips When Preparing 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, instead, consider the options available to you and 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 seemed to always be living out of their backpack in high school, with loose leaves of paper flying everywhere, and always running late to class, who still managed to score incredible grades in all of their classes. For some students, chaos seems to be a part of their success during their high school years, 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 a crucial aspect of 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 your due dates in mind, make sure that you jot down important club or community activities, and make sure that you are blocking off enough time to hit the books and study.

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 important 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 biggest 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 succeed as much as possible. That doesn’t only mean your teachers won’t be doing that, but it is also really important to remember that you will (under the vast majority of circumstances) no longer be living under your parent’s roof. For the first time in your life, you’ll be fully responsible for your day-to-day schedule.

Female student writing while looking at his laptop.

One of the most important parts of planning ahead is keeping a schedule in terms of what you’ll study based on your courses and how much attention they’ll require day to day. The goal should be to give yourself time to study 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. There is no doubt that taking real notes, and truly paying attention in class is going to help you prepare for midterms and exams. Sure, a lot of professors these days teach using power points, and many of those professors end up putting those PowerPoint online. Still, simply depending on that as a studying resource could leave you with holes in important aspects of the subject matter.

If you want to go a step further, we have known students who end up getting permission from their professors to record audio recordings of lectures on their phones or computer. This will give you an audio aid when you are reviewing your notes to make sure that you fully understand the material that is being taught to you in class.

Beyond having the notes, making sure that you are taking effective notes will also help ensure that you are fully paying attention in class and really wrestling with the subject matter in real-time.

Form an effective study group

Another great way to make sure that you are staying on top of all your coursework is to form study groups with people in the class. An added plus here is that this can be a really great way to make friends! Of course, the most important aspect of this, however, is that you can hold one another accountable and help each other better understand the material at hand by going over large topics, more specific material, and more.

Of course, it is important that you make sure to include the right students in any study group. After all, having kids who won’t contribute to the group in a productive way is not going to 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 will be able to form a personal relationship with your professor, which will be even more important 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 really crucial aspect of succeeding in college, you do not necessarily have to always study in the same place. In fact, studying In the same exact place every day can end up leading to you being a bit bored and a bit less engaged with the material you are learning. Try to switch it up by going to different libraries, cafes, and study areas around campus. This is also a great way to get to know your school and area better.

No distractions

When you are really trying to hit the books hard and study, it is important that you minimize distractions as much as you possibly can. Of course, some things may be out of your control, but you should always be looking for a quieter area with not a ton of movement.

Female student studying in a table in a library.

Listening to music is of course something that a lot of students do, but we would advise that you stick to instrumental music (classical, jazz, etc.) as opposed to 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 prior to your midterms or final exams. Cramming has been scientifically proven to be a much less effective manner of studying compared to ingesting important information over a longer period of time.

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. Furthermore, when you spread out your studying like that, you can spend the final days leading up to an exam reviewing the most important – or most difficult – information that you’ll be expected to know.

Don’t memorize, understand

There are some students out there who think that simply memorizing material is going to be the ticket to getting an A grade on an important exam. While memorizing certain bits of information can be helpful, it is far more important to make sure that you are truly understanding the material and know how to apply it in real-time.

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

This may be the final tip that we’ll go over in this breakdown on how to prepare for college, but that in no way makes it the least important. While you are studying, especially if you are taking part in a longer study session, do not forget to take breaks, stretch your legs, and give your body and mind the nourishment (food and water) it needs to perform at their very best.

Male student sleeping near a pile of books.

On top of that, it’s important to know when to call it a day and head home. After all, relaxation and sleep are a crucial part of your brain being able to truly understand and retain all the great information you fed during your study session.

Prepare for college with AdmissionSight

Though admissions consultants typically do most of their work in the days, weeks, and months leading up to the application process itself, there is much more that our consultant’s ad AdmissionSight can help with, including preparing students for college (and even preparing them for high school).

If you’re interested in learning about our tools, strategies, and how we help students achieve their admissions goals, contact us today to schedule a free consultation.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Sign up now to receive insights on
how to navigate the college admissions process.