When I began college, I was accustomed to the much less rigorous academic environment of my high school, and I struggled to do well my first few semesters.
By the end of freshman year, I had resigned myself to being a B-student, thinking that I didn’t have the “talent” to be a top performer.
Luckily, a friend intervened during my sophomore year. He pointed out that when it comes to academic success, focused work is often more important than natural talent. I was inspired to try a more deliberate, planned approach, and in the end, I earned a near-perfect GPA that semester.
Based on my experience, and the research that corroborates it, I can attest that strong study skills and consistent study habits are two of the biggest components of general academic success. These skills and habits can help you stay competitive with people who may seem “smarter” than you.
Here are the top five essential study skills that we recommend at Signet to help our students succeed:
What are the 5 Study Skills, Resources, and Tips?
1. Plan your work
Great planning affects every level of the academic process, from mapping out a semester to breaking down a problem set. Top students plan as soon as they receive their syllabi or assignments, determining what resources they need and when they’ll do their work. This doesn’t mean that they do everything immediately, but that they cultivate and maintain an awareness of exactly what they need to do to excel.
Implement four easy planning processes to stay on top of your coursework:
- Semester planning
- Monthly planning
- Weekly planning
- Per-assignment planning
Your semester planning begins at the start of each semester, when you reference your syllabi to plan for your primary assignments and exams. You won’t have all the details you need up front, but by proactively blocking out class, study, and exam time, you’ll get a general sense of what the semester will look like.
Monthly and weekly planning occur just as you’d expect: at the beginning of each month and week. As you progress through your classes, you’ll know which areas require more study, and you can modify your study blocks accordingly.
If you receive a new assignment that wasn’t already on your syllabus, immediately add it to your calendar with accompanying study blocks. Per-assignment planning minimizes your monthly and weekly planning time.
2. Set routines
Successful students set very clear study routines. A student who devotes two hours to reading and reviewing for his or her history class every Friday afternoon can rest assured that he or she will never fall behind in history. Additionally, a routine can help with in-the-moment planning. If an opportunity arises that would conflict with your study routine, you’ll know right away that you need to either decline or take a moment to review your calendar and shift your schedule around to accommodate.
Similarly, a student who plans a schedule at the beginning of the semester using their syllabi will never be surprised about when exams and papers are due.
3. Build systems
Top performers create systems to deal with different types of assignments and contingencies. One efficient and effective paper writer I know developed a comprehensive system for every paper, no matter the subject:
He was able to rely on this system to knock almost every paper out of the park.
Great students also take advantage of resources designed to help them keep their assignments, tasks, and lives in order. If you work best with a pen and paper, invest in a student planner. If digital resources are your go-to, consider using a virtual calendar and task list. Some tasking software even allows you to build templates for your various systems, allowing you to quickly and easily apply a series of tasks to an upcoming project.
4. Collaborate with others
Few people can go it alone, and successful students understand the value of collaboration. Collaboration doesn’t mean cheating, but rather bouncing ideas off of one another to get different perspectives on a problem. Strong students might review problem sets or homework with friends before an assignment is due, while others might meet with their instructor to review paper outlines before beginning to write.
5. Do it right the first time
Whether taking notes, planning, executing, or calculating, great students know the value of doing something correctly the first time. They take notes carefully so they don’t have to re-read their textbooks, they compute carefully so they don’t have to redo problems, and they plan carefully so they don’t experience a backlog in work as important deadlines approach.
Bonus Resources and Tips
Here you’ll find even more study skills, resources, and tips:
- Reference these Top 10 Lists for quick tips on time management, note taking, reading, and test preparation.
- These Classic Study Tips are full of excellent guidance. Look specifically at the memorization tips.
- Neurodiverse students in particular will benefit from these Study Hacks which include advice on keeping a schedule and staying focused.
We strongly encourage you, as we encourage all our students at Signet, to incorporate our study skills, resources, and tips into your own routine. We are confident it will make a huge difference in your academic performance!