As Christmas vacation sadly comes to an end and some of you are preparing to go back to school or college/university, I am contemplating doing some more studying. Some of you may say that I’m crazy for wanting to go back to school after having just graduated about 6 months ago but I think if I’m still curious about things then it should be looked into. On one side there is the satisfaction of learning new concepts but then there also comes the stress of studying and back to worrying about grades. Some of you could possibly be stressing on how to bring your grades back up right now. Everyone goes through it at some point as the stress from finals gets to you and you got into that “don’t care” stage of studying. I’ve had my fair share of those moments even though they were completely unnecessary and I still did well on finals. I was that person who freaks out before a final saying “I don’t know anything!! I’m going to fail!!” and then I come out with a B+. Annoying? Yes, but wouldn’t you like to know how those people do it? As I think about pursuing this path I figured I should dust off my studying skills and get back into the swing of things so here are some of my tips and tricks. 🙂
1) Keep a diary/planner
Throughout my Masters I kept a daily planner to keep track of any assignments due and to plan out what I wanted to study that day. It’s great to plan out a study schedule as well coming up to finals. I like to study my subjects in reverse order of when the finals are. I would study for my last final first about 2 weeks before the final and then work my way to my first final so that I won’t have to do heavy studying in the middle of finals when my brain is so tired. It can be as little as covering two topics a week. That way the days before your last final you can do light reading to refresh your brain of what you read before.
You can use it however you like. You can simply write down everything when it’s due and what you want to accomplish that day ooorrr what I’ve recently started doing is to put some sticky notes in it to elaborate on some things.
Since there isn’t a whole lot of space adding sticky notes is a great way to add space as well as colour to keep it interesting. Planning ahead and having a routine helps you stay ahead of everything and this way you can have time for things that pop up like parties or any other outings you feel like having.
2) The Library is Your Friend
In the last year of my Masters I was in the library every weekend. That doesn’t necessarily mean that it was all I did that weekend but it meant that when I did want to go out to spend time with family or go to Canada for the weekend I didn’t feel guilty. I would get to the library just before lunch time, put down my stuff in my favourite spot close to an outlet and then go get my food. I would also sometimes buy lunch on my way in to save time. This took care of the hunger distraction that tends to hit when you get into a study groove. I would then spend basically the rest of the day in there going over any work from classes that week and try to read up on the next topic and catch up on my tv shows. I didn’t need the entire day to do this but being in a study conducive environment helps with studying. I made friends with others who were in there on weekends as well and would chat with them when I felt like all the reading was driving me crazy. I admit there were a couple times I caught myself watching Netlix more than studying but I didn’t feel so guilty since I had spent the previous week doing work. Basically just give yourself the chance to get work done. I found studying in my dorm room hopeless and would bargain with myself saying at least I tried, but did I really give myself the chance to get any work done? Probably not.
3) Do Any and All Practice Questions!
There aren’t that many questions that professors use on tests and exams. Some of them are recycled and reworked with different numbers or names. The concepts are all the same. Most text books also have the answers in them or an answer manual online that you can use to help yourself. A great way to gain some Professor Points is to take them to your Professor for them to look over. It’s great to get the right final answer but some professors like to give marks for working. This shows them that you’re actually trying and could be the difference between an A- and an A. Once you’ve done enough of these questions there is very little that can come on an exam that will surprise you.
4) Start from Early
As a best friend of procrastination I know all too well what it’s like to be up at midnight trying to finish a project that’s due at 9 in the morning. It’s not a great feeling. Starting your projects with a couple weeks to spare allows your creative juices to flow and help you figure out problems. Have you ever gotten that feeling a couple days after you submitted something where you just figured out a problem or forgot to include an important point? Starting early avoids that. I’m not saying to finish it 3 weeks in advance. That also has its downfalls. You may say you’ve finished and then you learn something in class that is supposed to be included which also sucks. Have a general idea of what you want to do and write it down. Work out what is expected of you and then you have to chance to ask your professor if you’re on the right track (more Professor Points). Then on the night before you can spend your night on Netflix instead of stressing yourself about if you’re doing it right. You get to also avoid that fight with the printer in the morning.
5) Speak up in Class
There’s no worse feeling than leaving a class not understanding anything that went on. There’s no shame in asking questions or asking the professor to go over a certain part that you didn’t understand. You’re spending a whole lot of money to learn something so make sure you get your money’s worth!! If you feel bad about asking during a lecture or a smaller class then ask your professor after class. This is a great way for them to also explain a concept in a different way if the first time was just confusing and once again, earns you some Professor Points. Most classes if they’re smaller offer participation marks so this is a great way to earn some easy ones. Even if you’re wrong, some if not most professors will give you the marks just for trying and trust me, those participation marks can make a big difference. Being wrong can also force the professor to explain a topic again in a different way.
Make a friend in your classes who can help explain things to you and who you can bounce ideas off of while you figure things out. I know some people prefer to study alone so a study buddy is not ideal for everyone but everyone can use someone to talk to about different class topics. You can teach them what you understand which also helps you to understand it better and they can teach you things that you’re having difficulty grasping.
“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough” – Albert Einstein
Another tip is to keep healthy which is sort of a given. Stay active and make time to work out. Some dorms have a gym open 24/7 so you can go at 1 in the morning if you feel like unwinding by yourself after a major study session. Having a distraction is great to allow your brain to work through things you’ve just been working on subconsciously. Sometimes even going once a week is enough to keep yourself sane from all the stress. For me I did pilates in my room, away from anyone watching me. You can do some Blogilates with Cassey or just some stuff you found on pinterest. It’s inexpensive and all you need is a mat which costs less than $25.
Here’s to hoping that you guys have a successful semester and enjoy your time there!