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Sunday, February 18, 2007

Establish Study Habits

Myth #5

"I'll study when I get the assignment."
"I'll look like a real nerd if I start studying before we even get assignments."
"Lighten up. This is a long run."
"Chill out. I'll go out and unwind."
"Get serious, I have no idea what the Professor is going to cover."
"Why waste time second guessing?"
"This is the perfect time to get to know everyone-before the workload picks up."
"College isn't just about studying; the social part may be more important."

Reality #5

Establish regular study habits from the start.

The first semester at any university is one of the most exciting and potentially one of the most dangerous times in your academic career, for several reasons.

You're away from home, in many cases, for the first time. Free at last to make your own decisions. That's both the good and bad news. Good news: You can do anything you want, whenever you want. Bad news: You can do anything you want, whenever you want. Granted, there are no nagging parental questions: "Did you get your homework done?" or even worse, "Let me see it." But while the nagging's gone, so is the pressure and help of oversight.

There's a ton of pressure to get to know everyone, right away. Many roommates, suitemates, and classmates succumb to this pressure. Eventually, most recognize that this will not work unless they have nothing else to do.

You may not have anything specific that's due right away. You don't have a paper or research due for a month or two. So, it's tempting to sit back and enjoy the extended summer.

Fall is about the nicest season of the year. Cool evenings and warm days-perfect for picnics, football, or just about anything you can think of. Studying does not rank up there with the coolest things to do on a beautiful autumn day.

In fact, you'd be hard pressed to find a single thing about the early part of your first semester freshman year that makes studying attractive. But the Reality is that not starting early may mean failing later. Stuff just has a way of piling up on you. Here's a typical scenario: You let a few reading assignments slide and then you put a short paper or two on hold. Multiply the procrastination by five or six other "minor" assignments you also let slide and you're talking some serious pileup problems. And it all sneaks up on you very innocently.

Survival Tips:

Find the time of day you learn best-AM or PM. Most people are either morning or night people. Determine which one you are and use that time to do the most important job you have while in school…surviving. To test whether you're a day or night person, ask yourself these questions: "Do I like waking up early and getting a start on the day?" If you answer this "yes," you're likely a morning person. So, set an hour or two every day to hit the books in the AM. Schedule it ahead of time. Pay the study master first. If you answer "yes" to the question "Do I get going later in the afternoon or evening?" then you're most likely a night person; so set aside time in the evening to study. This gives information the best shot at sticking to your brain.

Let your friends know that your study time is sacred. While you may get some grief early on from people, as soon as they know you're serious, you'll get few, if any, invasions of your study time. People will actually respect that you say what you mean and mean what you say.

Find a place to study. Dormitories, especially freshman dorms, are notoriously bad places to study. Understand that and deal with it. Places like unused classrooms, library carousels, coffee shops, the back of an auditorium, a car-anywhere away from friends will do. They may hassle you to see a movie, party, or just hang out. You can do that later. Hit the books first.

Give yourself a break. Just as scheduling regular study time contributes to success, so does taking a 5-10 minute break every hour. Rest your eyes, wash your face…turn off the brain for a few minutes. Then get back to it. If you find yourself dozing off, stop where you are. Allow yourself to doze off-sitting up, not lying down. You'll find this "sitting doze" a form of meditation that increases alertness and concentration.

Just do it. The Nike commercial says: "Just Do It." I say we should adapt that to academic studies: "Just study it." Establishing the habit right away is key. The first day you have classes, find a place to study, and keep going there at your best study time, even when you think you're wasting your time. The routine of having a regular time and place to review your notes and read the required material will be more beneficial than you can imagine.
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