Study sessions are an integral part of the college experience. So much so, that they’ve even been stereotyped plenty of times in television shows and movies. While all-nighters and hours-long sessions might look good on TV (especially when there’s pizza and ramen noodles involved), those things aren’t always as practical or effective in the real world.
Your goal should be for every study session to have substance and structure, so you can get the most out of it. No one wants to pull an all-nighter and feel completely exhausted when it’s time to take a test the next day. Multiple studies have shown that college students are already struggling and under a lot of stress. The last thing you need is to add to your stress with ineffective studying habits.
So, how can you make your study sessions more effective? What can you do to make the most of your study time, and what are the benefits of doing so?
Find the Motivation to Get Started
Sometimes, the hardest part of a study session is getting started. Not only do you have to self-motivate, but you have to know the most effective way to retain information without getting overwhelmed.
That’s not always easy when you’ve got a major test coming up.
Thankfully, you can make things easier on yourself by creating a mind map to organize your thoughts in a meaningful way. A mind map will break down your study session into smaller “pieces,” so you can work through each section without having to worry about what’s next. If you’ve never tried a mind map, use the following steps to create one that fits your study needs:
- Start with the main concept
- And branches to the main concept
- Explore different topics (and add more branches)
- Add images and colors
The more organized you are throughout your study session, the easier it will be to keep each subject clear and connected without feeling overwhelmed or confused. Not only can a mindmap give you a strategy to tackle each session, but it could help you uncover new pieces of information within your studies that you might have skimmed over or skipped otherwise.
Collaborate With Others
Everyone has different learning styles, and you might not always benefit from sitting in your dorm room or a quiet library for hours, studying by yourself.
To switch things up, consider forming a study group, or utilizing shared campus spaces for a change of scenery. Even if you think you’re more of a “lone wolf” when it comes to studying, there are many benefits to collaborative efforts, including:
- You can gain new/better insight into the subject
- You’ll combat procrastination
- You might see things from a different perspective
- You’ll learn new study skills and problem-solving skills
If you don’t want to be in a group in-person, consider logging on to a group chat or message board with your friends or other people in your class to compare notes, offer pieces of information, and give support. However, if you get online in a public space like the campus library, be cautious of using computers on a shared network. Systems with poor security and outdated software may be at risk for cybercrimes like botnet attacks. While it’ll end up doing more damage to the school’s network than you, personally, your information could still be compromised as a result.
So, whether you want to collaborate with others in-person or online, make sure to keep yourself safe, always work with people you trust, and never hand out information that could end up causing you harm.
The idea of taking more frequent breaks during your study sessions might seem counterproductive, but it can actually boost your productivity and make for a more enjoyable experience overall.
It’s important to strike a healthy study-life balance throughout your collegiate career. You can do that by setting a schedule, leaning on your support system, and starting on assignments early. However, sometimes, those long study sessions will be unavoidable despite your best efforts. You can still strike a balance within those long hours by allowing yourself several breaks – and making the most of them.
Research has shown that taking purposeful breaks during study sessions can boost your energy, increase productivity, and improve your ability to focus. By stepping away for 5-15 minutes, you can come back feeling refreshed, and you’re less likely to get burnt out by the information in front of you.
Of course, not all break time activities are equal. Scrolling through your Instagram feed isn’t going to be the best use of your time. Try taking a walk, spending some time outside, or even doing some light stretching or meditation. These activities can help to give you even more energy and make it easy to stay focused when you’re ready to hit the books again.
Studying will always be a part of your college experience until the moment you take your last final. Thankfully, you can make each session more effective and productive by putting these strategies into practice. Doing so will make it easier to avoid those all-nighters, but if you still want to enjoy a late-night slice of pizza from time to time, we’re not here to judge.
Frankie Wallace is a freelance writer from the Pacific Northwest. She enjoys writing about education, personal development, and technology. Frankie spends her free time cultivating her zero waste garden or off hiking in the mountains of the PNW with her loved ones.