5 Study Tips You Wish You Had in College

College. These four years will be the only time in your life that it will be acceptable – even possible – to crank out two weeks of work in 48 consecutive non-sleeping hours, plan your whole schedule based on day-time television, and subsist on a diet of ramen noodles, Mountain Dew and Cheese Nips. But regardless of pimple-inducing eating habits and the sleep schedule of a sloth, college is about education. And, depending on which university you attend, that education can be quite rigorous.

Most high schools and home schools do little to prepare fresh-faced 18-year-olds for a full workload at the collegiate level. And freshmen scramble to figure out how to attend class, study, and actually pass (if not ace) their courses, all while balancing some of the “funner” parts of college. Most figure it out and by senior year they have their study habits down.

But wouldn’t it be nice to have pinned down the right studying routine a little earlier?

5 Studying Hints I Wish I’d Known Before Freshman Year:

1. Study groups don’t always do that much studying.

Misery loves company, and I don’t know any student who is up to his and/or her ears in memorizing dates who isn’t miserable. The idea behind a study group is to bounce ideas off one another, glean off the smart kids anything you’re missing, and fill in the blanks on the subjects where you’re the weakest.

In reality it’s a time to eat chips, complain about the weather/your lack of preparedness/the professor/how late it’s getting. Study groups are social groups, especially when there are more than three of you. Try one out, and if you realize you haven’t learned a thing after two hours, don’t go back next time there’s a test.

2. Likewise, the library is a hub of social activity.

Depending on the size of your university, there may be multiple libraries to choose from. But, especially around mid-terms and finals, the library is a veritable hive of your friends and student colleagues. When you go there, expect to see people you know. Expect to see people who want to talk to you. Expect to spend the first 25 minutes to an hour mingling before you actually settle down to hit the books.

3. It isn’t embarrassing to ask your professor or TA for help.

Being completely overwhelmed by the amount of information and ideas presented to you as a freshman is normal, and it will continue for the duration of your college career. Take advantage of your professors’ office hours and any meetings your TAs offer. It’s okay to be completely clueless and to admit it to your professors. Ask them for guidance and ideas, for extra reading that will help you understand. Run paper topics by them. Most teachers are teaching because they enjoy helping young people learn – asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness or stupidity.

4. Your study habits are your own.

Every student has his and her own studying techniques. Flash cards, day-of cramming, group settings, solo-reading, listening to music, total silence: what works for one person doesn’t work for everyone.

As a college newcomer, it’s easy to be persuaded to study the “right” way, be it by your roommate, a professor, upperclassman, or your parents. While it’s good to try out a survey of different studying methods, you will learn quickly what works for you and what doesn’t.

Once you figure that out, you don’t need to sway from it.

5. Procrastination is a way of life

Procrastination is unavoidable in the university setting. Even if you don’t make a habit of it, there is no way you are going to be able to avoid putting off a project in favor of your friends, flipping through Facebook instead of finding primary sources, and taking a nap instead of reading.

Don’t worry. It’s okay.

Some students can procrastinate through all four years of college life and make it out with flying colors; for others, it will be their academic demise. If procrastination is a problem for you and your studying, you’ll need to conquer it. Some ideas:

  • Change the due date of all your assignments two or three days before they are actually due
  • Set goals and rewards for yourself: no texting until you’re finished reading, dinner with your friends only after you finish four pages
  • Avoid distractions. Once you have your information, go to a part of campus or town with no WiFi. Study in an unpopular building as opposed to the bustling library or common rooms.
  • Keep your room tidy and the fridge stocked: it’s easy to put off your work when you feel like there are things you need to do, like cleaning your room or grocery shopping.

Remember that college is about lots of things outside of education: discovering new interests, finding out new things about yourself, making friends, traveling, experimenting. So have fun – and study hard!

Emma T. writes for the organizational gurus at Orange Circle Studio, who make wall calendars and planners for every type of student. She made it through college without ever turning in an assignment late.