It can be discouraging when you feel like you are not doing well in your classes–the exams come back and they are not what you were expecting–to the point where you may even begin to resent them. New students in their first semester of college tend to have a lower GPA than in their second semester (it is rare for students to earn a 4.0 in college), and it’s not surprising. In addition to trying to master course content, you’re also trying to navigate a new environment, make new friends, and manage your time. Know that it is okay to not do super well on your first couple exams; you are so much more than whatever your grades might try to tell you that you are. What is important is that you start to plan how you can improve your study habits so that for the next exam, you feel ready and confident. Then, when you get that exam back, you are content with your grade knowing that you studied as effectively as possible.
So, here are a few tips to improve the way you study, especially if you are anything like freshman Austin and are thinking,
Wow, I have no idea how I could have studied more. I spent so much time preparing. I guess I am just not smart enough.
Thankfully, I eventually learned that it is not about how much time you spend studying but how effectively you use that time.
Focus, Rest, Repeat
Spending hours upon hours trying to comprehend the large quantities of information–while unintentionally getting side-tracked by scrolling through the latest Twitter drama–is probably not the best way to go about studying. I find it helpful to have distraction-free, focused time on one subject for an hour, then take a 5 to 15 minute break, letting your mind chill on it for a few. Maybe take that break time to go on a walk, answer a few texts, meditate, listen to music, or my personal favorite, consume healthy snacks. I find it helpful to change up the subjects, every hour or so that I don’t get bored with the same material.
Spend time with your professors
You have heard it before: “Go to Office Hours!” That’s true…but it is not as easy as they make it sound, right? It can be intimidating going to see your professor, especially if it is a large class. They are not as scary as they seem; they genuinely care about you as a person and as a student, and they want you to succeed in their class. It can be helpful to have questions prepared before you go, especially if you are worried about making conversation with them. At Ohio State, we have many professors with expertise in a wide variety of academia. Don’t be afraid to seek them out even just to learn more about their journey or what they are passionate about in life. Your professors can be your mentors, even if they do not work in your major’s department.
Study with friends!
It can be helpful to study with other people for classes that require memorization strategies. If you can explain things to others, it helps solidify the information in your brain as opposed to reviewing the same notes over and over again on your own. You can test and help each other understand material that clicks for you but not for someone else (or vise versa).
Catch many Z’s
As hard as it may seem, prioritize sleep! Getting rest helps our brains store the information we are trying to learn through out each day. Shoot for 7-9 hours of sleep each night, and avoid all-nighters as an effective way of studying for an upcoming exam…because they are not effective. Staying active can also help keep the stress levels down, even throughout the time when exams are looming. Physical activity doesn’t have to happen in the gym; it can be going for a walk or run, playing a sport like ultimate Frisbee or basketball, or doing pull ups on your lofted bed (be careful).
Try a few of these tips, and hopefully you will feel more confident heading into your exam, more confident heading out, and make the most of your experience at Ohio State. For more tips for success, check out the Dennis Learning Center for techniques on note taking, battling procrastination, and test taking.