As the second summer session reaches the first round of midterms and students start thinking about the upcoming fall semester, it’s as good a time as any to get organized! With many classes shifting to online formats, it can be especially challenging to stay motivated and on top of your schoolwork. There are many different ways to study, but here is my personal study routine! Hopefully, this will give you some ideas on how to plan for your classes and remain organized throughout the semester and into the upcoming school year.
Number One: Be Organized
Maintaining organization is a big deal in college, especially when you’re balancing multiple things on top of schoolwork. My favorite way to stay organized is with a physical planner because I prefer writing everything down and seeing it in front of me. Custom planners are great because you can design a unique layout that matches your aesthetic, and you’ll be more motivated to open it up and use it. However, there are plenty of pre-made planners as well, and “bullet journaling” can be fun if you have the time for it.
Another option is Google Calendar, which truly changed my life in college. It’s an online hourly calendar where you can add all of your classes/events/work schedules, and you can even make collaborative calendars with groups or organizations. Google Calendar also has an attached task list for things that don’t fit in a specific time block. You can color code and add guests/invitations to connect all areas in your life you may need to keep up with.
A final option that is relatively low maintenance is utilizing whatever online portal your school uses for classes. UT uses Canvas, which has a to-do list function on the dashboard and a calendar tab to show due dates and assignments for each class, as long as your professor has the page updated! Whichever format you choose to use, it’s important to stay organized so you don’t get behind, which can lead to unnecessary stress.
Number Two: Be Prepared
It’s always good to start a class with all of the necessary materials so you can stay on top of your work from the start. Having textbooks, access to supplemental reading materials or homework websites, and some way of taking notes helps with this. It’s also good to have a general idea of the class timeline, including major tests, essays, and projects. There are many ways to take notes for classes depending on what you prefer and what you have access to. Taking notes on a laptop is convenient because you can pull up lecture materials in a different window and have both in front of you. For online classes, this may look like a lecture video or Zoom call on one half, and OneNote or Google Docs open on the other half.
An in-person class is similar; you can pull up power points or other materials if you miss something or get behind. This also gives you the ability to search your notes if you need to look back on something specific. However, sometimes taking notes on paper is preferred for subjects such as math, science or economics, because equations, graphs, and diagrams are much easier to draw by hand than with a mouse or trackpad. iPads are another option, which pretty much combines handwritten notes with going paperless. Find what’s most feasible for you and stick with what you like!
Number Three: Make a Plan
This part looks different for everyone, but I like to make a list of all of my assignments for the week and put them in order of prioritization. Due date is usually the most critical factor, but if multiple things are due around the same time, I’ll base it on how long they’ll take and how complicated the assignment is. I choose to knock out simple assignments first; that way, I can focus on the more challenging assignments without stressing about the things I haven’t done yet, assuming this all fits in with my timeline. This step helps me make sure everything is completed on time and avoid stressful cramming.
Number Four: Studying
There are many ways to study, so trying out different strategies to find out what works for you is the best place to start.
When writing essays, reading through the prompt a few times before starting, as well as throughout the writing process, is beneficial in case any elements of the assignment are skimmed over or forgotten. After understanding what you’re writing about, outline your thoughts and double-check to make sure it includes all of the paper requirements and answers the prompt. Starting early is essential for this because you’re able to write in chunks and come back later if you get stuck. Breaking up your writing is much easier than trying to finish it all in one sitting. Finally, use the resources at your university. Many professors and TAs will look over your essays if you ask them early enough, and if not, there are writing centers that can give you constructive feedback as well.
When studying for tests, I usually make a study sheet with all of the key points, formulas, names, dates, and shortcuts that I need to learn for the test. I color code these to match the color I use for the class to increase my ability to memorize, and I make them cute, so I’ll want to study them. Quizlet is another useful resource if used correctly - reading the cards three times through right before the test will not cut it for most college courses (speaking from experience!). When studying for a math test, the easiest way to learn is by doing practice problems. However, these can be time-consuming, so sometimes the night before a math test, I’ll teach myself the rules of specific problems that apply to questions of that style. Lastly, if a professor provides you with a review session or study guide, use it! Reviews are free test material and usually are similar to what you’ll see on the actual test.
Study breaks! Either make a schedule for taking breaks (ex: study 1 hour, 30 min break) or take a break at stopping points (ex: after writing 1 page of your essay, finishing x amount of problems, etc.), so your brain doesn’t get overworked.
Snacks and drinks! Don’t avoid eating while doing classwork, it’s not worth it, and you won’t have energy. Get healthy snacks if you have a lot to do. Also, coffee; I don't use this for caffeine, but I feel like it sets the mood when I’m studying, and I feel more productive. But more so than anything, drink plenty of water!
Change up your environment! Although many places are closed or have adjusted hours because of the current situation, you can switch between study spots like a close friend's home (assuming you won’t be too distracted by them), a coffee shop (if it’s open and safe to do so), or outside. Switching it up helps you stay motivated, and you might find places where you feel more productive than others.
Good luck to everyone this upcoming semester!