Taking college-level courses is no easy feat. In between writing essays and board posts, completing reading assignments, and looking over the week’s lecture, you have to squeeze in time for studying, too. And if you’re like thousands of other online students, this means that you have to do all of this while also juggling other time-consuming responsibilities, like working at a full-time job and finding time to pick the kids up from school. All in all, your time is precious, so don’t waste any of it with these bad study habits.
- Highlighting everything in your notes or textbooks. Highlighters can be incredibly useful tools to help you emphasize important points in your readings. However, highlighting loses effectiveness if you end up coloring in an entire page. At that point, it’s likely that the few things you didn’t highlight will stand out more than what you did. Instead, restrict yourself to only highlighting one or two sentences per paragraph in your textbooks, or four or five sentences per page of handwritten notes. This will force you to truly concentrate on only the most important bits of information, so that when you go back and look at what you highlighted, you’ll have a better idea of what’s worth studying.
- Rewriting your notes completely. While taking good notes is important, it is also important to manage your time well. Make sure your notes are legible, taking time after each study session to ensure that they make sense to you. If you have a hard time writing legibly and have access to a laptop, try bringing it to class or keep it alongside your textbook to type your notes. This also makes it easier to reorganize or elaborate on notes in a time-efficient manner. In addition, rewriting your notes word-for-word doesn’t actually increase memory retention of the material. Instead, if you’re going to rewrite your notes, reorganize and reword the information as well so that it’s actually useful for you later on.
- Studying when you’re sleepy or hungry. Trying to study while you are sleepy or hungry often leaves you distracted and anxious. Your body and, most importantly, your brain need fuel to function properly. In fact, a study by the journal Psychosomatic Medicine found that intellectual work, such as studying, actually causes fluctuations in blood sugar and insulin levels, making you more hungry. So, it especially important to make sure you are fueling your body and not sitting down to study without eating a proper meal. Equally important is making sure you get enough sleep. While it may seem like there are not enough hours left before your exam to allow for sleep, it is important not to deprive yourself. In fact, a study by Harvard Medical School found that sleep is crucial to the memory process. In other words, even though you might feel like you should be spending the wee hours of the morning poring over your notes a few more times, you may be more likely to remember it for the test better if you just get a little shut-eye instead.
- Refusing to take breaks during a study session. While being focused is a great attribute, cutting yourself a break every once and a while can be beneficial. Information is often easier to digest in smaller chunks, so coming up for air shouldn’t be seen as a weakness. If you find yourself resisting breaking out of your study groove, try establishing set points in your reading to get up and take a walk, get something to drink, stretch, or even meditate. Logically, this might be at the end of each chapter or a set of lecture notes. This is a good time to take a deep breath, recharge, process the information you’ve read, and prevent yourself from burning out.
- Trying to write down every word of a lecture. This is a more common problem for campus-based students, but online students should take heed too. Notes are not meant to be a transcript; rather, they should be a guide to the most relevant information from a lesson. By spending too much time trying to copy the lecturer’s exact words, you will certainly end up missing important content. Likewise, for online students, don’t try to write down too much information from lecture readings or videos. Instead, make an effort to be concise in your notes, and even work on developing your own shorthand techniques. In addition, don’t be afraid to ask for copies of presentation slides if a professor doesn’t already provide these to the class. Instructors are typically very accommodating to students who request this information. Having these slides handy can make taking notes a more efficient process, which allows you to supplement the existing information.
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