A college education of any sort requires immense reading, writing, and studying. A moment of freedom or leisure will be quickly followed by a bombardment of papers and exams. A college workload can be overwhelming. The best way to remedy the anxiety and stress caused by your classes is finding a proper way to retain information.
Here are 7 tips to help you retain information:
1. Don’t wait until the last minute
This is the first rule of studying. Very few people possess the ability to remember everything they read. So if you are part of the majority, waiting until the last minute to cram all the information in your brain won’t be beneficial.
Plan out your study sessions in advance. Cover different topics every day. This will help you relax and focus on minute details, rather than skipping the little things to focus on the big ones. If you study separate sections leading up to the exam, the pressure will be alleviated. You will be able to take breaks, stop studying for the day, and enter the exam with more confidence and knowledge.
2. Study actively
Make sure you are making mental notes of important information when you read. There is not enough time to read every word that is assigned to you in college. So separate the necessary reading from the fluff and take time to engage and actively read the noteworthy text. This means that you should read aloud, look up words, take time to jot down important points, annotate your text, and ask questions.
Active studying can only be performed if you allot yourself enough time to do so. This means studying days before the exam, so you can write down questions and pose them to your professor during class time. Professors also offer office hours so you can efficiently engage and further your understanding of the information.
3. Don’t get stuck on the first point
While reading a book, watching a film, or listening to a lecture, we tend to get caught on the first point. I bet you can recall listening to someone speak and hearing a sentence or two that really appealed to you. After taking a moment to zone out and internalize the information, you check back into the speech and realize you’ve missed some crucial points.
The same thing happens when you read. The brain gets distracted from a single point, but you continue to gaze mindlessly over a few paragraphs. It is easy to re-read pages in a book, or rewind in a movie, but our time is valuable. Stop the film, or refrain from reading, until you’ve taken time to dissect the information. In a speech, take notes. This will allow you to go back later and revisit the points that intrigued you while still grasping additional information.
4. Choose a major that interests you
Your major should be chosen out of interest rather than financial concerns. If you think you want to be a doctor but hated biology in high school, chances are, you will be miserable in college. Think about it. You are devoting your education, and most likely your career, to a certain field. If you are truly interested in your major, a college workload in that field will be much easier. It’s hard to devote hours of studying to a subject that bores you. When you love what you study, work will be quicker and simpler.
5. Use your best sense
Most people learn best through one of the three sensory receivers: auditory, visual, or kinesthetic. Oftentimes, students already know their most effective sensory receiver by the time they get to college, but if not, give each a trial run.
Visual learners retain information best through mapping, modeling, and symbolizing. They remember most effectively when they see the big picture and mentally and physically diagram the information. Use powerpoints, graphs, and flashcards to take mental pictures.
Auditory learners remember best when they hear information. The best study habits for such learners include studying in groups and attending professors’ office hours. Auditory learners learn from discussion and lecture, so it is imperative for them to attend class.
The last type of learner is kinesthetic. These students learn and retain information most efficiently through physical activity and engagement. Such learners should attend classes with labs where students can get out of their seats and work with their hands. Kinesthetic learners often will write out ideas, notes, and concepts. The physical act of writing will help these learners digest complex information.
6. Study at your best hours
Early morning and late night studying is a common tool used by procrastinators, but we all know that sleep deprivation doesn’t enhance our memory. Study in the afternoon, or when you are most awake. This will allow you to relax and casually internalize information. When you are rushed and sleep-deprived, everything feels like a chore. Studying doesn’t have to feel that way.
7. Teach the information
When you believe you know all of the information on an exam or quiz, try teaching it. Explain it to your roommate, parent, sibling, or even to yourself in the mirror. This is a great way to grasp just how well you know what you will be tested on. If you can’t explain the information, go back and revisit the parts you missed.
Being overloaded with new material is very overwhelming, yet increasingly common in college. Staying organized and developing study techniques to help you retain information is key to fostering a successful college career.