Study Tips for College Freshmen: A Beginner’s Guide

September 26, 2019
Girl sitting on a dock reading a book

Establishing good study habits is essential for achieving success in college. Unfortunately, you’ll likely quickly realize your high school study routine won’t cut it for your college classes. The transition from high school to college can be difficult, especially academically. Class sizes are much larger and professors tend to be less personally involved than high school teachers. 

Additionally, tests are less frequent, cover more material and contribute more to your final grade in the course. You have to take responsibility for your own learning and develop healthy study habits early. Luckily, there are many effective strategies that will help you to succeed. Use EPOCH Clemson’s beginner’s guide to transition into your collegiate study routine. 

Create an Academic Calendar

As a college student, you have to balance academics, social events, extracurricular activities and maybe even a part-time job. Learning to manage your time can help you deal with the new freedoms (and challenges) of college life. At the start of each semester, add all exam dates and assignment deadlines from your syllabi to a calendar. Utilize your calendar daily and add other significant dates that will impact your study time.

Using your calendar and daily schedule, block out time each day to study, review class material or complete assignments. Distributed practice, studying for short periods of time over a few days or weeks, is a proven study strategy. Attempt to do something for each class every day. You’ll learn the material deeper and help fight procrastination.

Find the Best Study Environment

Everyone has a preferred study environment, it’s just about taking the time to find yours. Search around campus or locations nearby to find where you will be the least distracted and most productive. If you need silence while studying, the quiet floor of the library might work best for you. If you prefer a little noise, a local coffee shop could be your spot. 

Check out a few of these locations around Clemson to find what works best for you:

  • Cooper Library: a popular spot where you can reserve a study room or head to a lower floor for a lowered noise level.
  • Academic Success Center: study lounges with comfy chairs plus study alcoves for the easily distracted student.
  • Unplug Outside: The Amphitheater or Bowman Field are great places to enjoy a beautiful day while catching up on work.
  • Local Coffee Shop: venture off campus to All In or Spill the Beans for a change of scenery.

As an EPOCH resident, you have access to unique study space options. Our intimate, private study rooms are designed specifically for your personal academic success.

Take Good Notes 

Taking good notes is key for successful studying—after all, you need to have strong, clear material to review! The goal is to take great notes during class, but this is often easier said than done. Try bulleting key points of the lecture, avoiding too much extraneous information. Consider re-writing or typing your notes after class to find any gaps in material. Fill in with textbook information or meet with your professor to clear up any questions you have. Many students also record lectures on their smartphones or computers to help verify their notes after class.

Organize a Study Group 

Although you may prefer to study independently, studying with other students from your classes can be greatly beneficial. You can combine notes and then create study guides together. Your classmates can help you understand a topic that you struggle with or view a concept from a different perspective. Overall, a study group helps set a scheduled study time and holds you accountable for material covered during that time. 

Avoid Passive Study Techniques

Many students rely on passive review, or simply re-reading notes as a study strategy. While this might have worked in high school, the technique is mindless and unengaging. Instead, think of reading your notes as pre-studying. Then, choose a combination of active study techniques, such as:

  • Create and use flashcards
  • Create a concept map of the material
  • Develop symbols to represent concepts
  • Explain big ideas to a classmate
  • Work problems for technical courses

Take Care of Yourself

Physical and mental health is a key part of college life. Diet, sleep, and stress level can have a significant impact on your academic performance, according to scientific studies. Avoid cramming material or pulling an all-nighter before an exam. This will not only lead to less retention, but will add stress to test day. Take hard-earned breaks during long study sessions or even take whole days off from school work, if your schedule allows. Additionally, be sure to get enough sleep each night. 

Good Discipline Helps You Succeed as a Freshman

As you begin your college career, don’t forget why you’re here: academics should be your priority. Even if you excelled in high school, you’ll likely have to adjust your study habits during your freshman year. Use these tips as a starting point to learn what works best for you and what doesn’t. Happy studying, Tigers!