In College Success Guaranteed: 5 Rules to Make It Happen, Hyde School president Malcolm Gauld gives new college students his best bits of advice to ensure a healthy, happy first year. But for those still in high school, they might need to put President Malcolm’s sage wisdom on hold. High school brings its own set of challenges, but equipped with the right advice, students can be just as successful in high school if they commit to these study habits.
No matter what your plans may be after graduation, honing your study habits is a task that will prove to be continually fruitful. For instance, learning how to keep yourself organized could help you plan an itinerary when you travel abroad; learning how to read efficiently can help you be efficient in a new job; and, of course, learning how to study productively will ease the transition into higher education.
Here are some simple yet profoundly effective strategies to making the most of your study time:
1. Use your style of learning to your advantage
The theory of multiple intelligences, developed by Howard Gardner (Ph.D. and Professor of Education at Harvard University), states that there are nine different ways in which an individual may express intelligence and competence. The intelligences include:
It is important for all students to be aware of the intelligence(s) they are strongest in. Not only will having knowledge of your strengths and weaknesses help you develop studying techniques that will work best for you, but it will enrich your life as you continue your journey of understanding yourself and how you fit into the world. If you do not know which of the nine intelligences are your strongest, you can access an online assessment here.
Now that you are more familiar with how you learn, you can study accordingly. The following recommendations should be helpful, but remember that only you will be able to tell best what’s working for you. Studying doesn’t have to be what people usually think of – a textbook and a pen and paper – so feel free to explore beyond that.
Some examples of tailoring your study style to your dominant intelligence include:
- Verbal-linguistic intelligence: write your notes repeatedly, eliminating memorized/learned information with each rewrite to focus on difficult terms
- Logical-mathematical intelligence: utilize classification systems, puzzles, charts, and games to commit information to memory
Spatial-visual intelligence: create visuals to connect to information (i.e., drawing a historical figure) to make recollections and connections easier
- Bodily-Kinesthetic intelligence: write notes by hand (as opposed to typing) because the information is more connected to bodily movement and therefore will be easier to remember (or you can use more out-of-the-box strategies as seen Akeelah and the Bee)
- Musical intelligence: apply information to rhythms, rhyme schemes, and musicality
- Interpersonal intelligence: study in groups and incorporate a social element to their learning (i.e. using flash cards with a friend)
- Interpersonal intelligence: connect information to a personal narrative, which will make the information more tangible and applicable
- Naturalistic intelligence: study in an environment that stimulates you, like a garden or conservatory, to enhance enjoyment
- Existential intelligence: connect the information to “the big picture” in order to situate the content in a meaningful framework that will awaken increased interest in the topic
2. Take notes and take them well
It’s easy to get distracted during class or while reading out of a textbook, but practicing year-round efficiency is a skill that aids learning and will decrease the time you’ll have to spend studying. If you actively take notes and engage with content, you will be better able to remember it months later.
Furthermore, practicing tidiness and organization all throughout the year will make study-time infinitely less stressful. Being able to leaf back in your notes in find what you’re looking for saves time and energy. Always put the date on your work, utilize headings, and highlight or underline important terms. You may even want to create a continual list of definitions, dates, or terminologies on a separate page for a quick reference guide. It’s continual work, but your end-of-semester self will thank you profusely.
3. Practice effective reading strategies
Your textbook is your friend. All along the way, it has indicators to illustrate which points are the most important. When you go to review for a class, familiarize yourself with the index and the table of contents. If you need to brush up on one area in particular, let the headings guide you. Check the index to see all of the pages that Historical Person X appears on and refer to those pages to quickly absorb information from many places about that person.
Again, your organized note-taking will aid you in this. Just like in your textbook, carefully organized notes will help direct your attention to what is important. Highlighted terms will grab your eye and draw you to what is most important. For additional effective reading strategies, refer to tools and guides like this one.
4. Break up your studying
Part of a good work ethic is knowing when to take a break. Our brains and bodies can only handle so much. Instead of having study marathons, be sure to schedule bursts of productivity. Instead of studying for eight hours and only working with a quarter of your total attention and brainpower past the third hour, try instead to go in regular intervals. Studying in half-hour or hour-long intervals and then rewarding yourself for hard work will make studying seem less time-consuming but will also balance work and pleasure. Just create boundaries that will ensure you spend more time studying than you do taking breaks, like creating schedules or setting timers.
An excellent way to keep yourself fresh is to use one of your breaks to change location. Move from your kitchen table to a coffee shop. Not only are you getting a change of scenery, but you also get the break of travelling from Point A to Point B, but your environment will stimulate your senses in a way that makes the experience seem new.
Not only will breaks make studying more productive, but they will make the times you aren’t studying feel more enjoyable. Instead of having one eye on the tv while studying, which isn’t conducive to effective studying and inhibits the joy you might get from watching, separate the two.
5. Eliminate distractions
It’s easy to get distracted, especially when you’re looking for reasons to avoid homework or studying. The biggest distractions are, more likely than not, your phone and your laptop. Help take away the temptation for distraction by turning off notifications on both. Your laptop is likely a vital studying tool, so be sure even visual notifications are switched off while you’re using it to work.
Don’t use your phone while you study. It’s a difficult rule to set, but it will drastically increase productivity. Set a timer on your phone to indicate study breaks and do not touch your phone until the timer goes off. When it does, feel free to use your phone as a reward during your study break.
If you can commit to these five study habits, we can guarantee that you will have a more successful year, and be well on your way to being prepared for the work ahead in college!