In my last week’s article, we learned a little about how to study in college and how to read and learn from a textbook. Though it seems pretty straight forward, it’s a skill most high school students have not acquired by the time they head off for college. If you’re looking for something more along those lines, you can check out the articles here:

There are plenty of tips and tricks that can help you along and keep your textbook reading time effective.

The same thing goes for listening and learning during a lecture. In college, there is a ton of textbook reading and plenty of lecture time as well. Learning how to grasp information from a lecture is essential, and it’s not always obvious. Knowing some college tips about how to gather information from a lecture will help you know how to study for a test. 

In high school, you’ll find that many of your teachers have small, less weighty assessments along the way to help them understand how to better help their small group of students grasp the information. In college, much more of this continuous assessment is going to be placed on yourself in comparison to your teacher guiding you along. A lot of professors are academics who went on to become professors because it was a solid job. It’s really important to understand that some of these people make far better academics than they do actual teachers. You’re going to have to take responsibility for your own learning more so than you ever have before.

Study Tips for College Students

So without further ado, here are some study tips for college students.

Study Hacks Number One: Determine the Type of Professor

To a lesser degree in high school, you have to figure out how your teachers lecture. The big kicker comes in how your teachers are evaluated in comparison to professors. Oftentimes, your high school teachers are held somewhat accountable for helping you pass. In some places around the country, even their pay is affected by how many of their students are able to succeed. College is another story altogether. Professors are expected to make the class difficult enough that not all students are passing. (I’m not sure which of those methods are more effective: holding teachers accountable for student success or making sure standards are high enough for people to fail). Either way, this is the reality and the faster you’re able to embrace that, the better.

What this essentially means is that professors aren’t going to baby you. Because high school teachers are expected to help you pass, they are going to do everything they can to help you along the way. Most of the time, this means they write down exactly the information you’re going to need for the test. Some of the other times, it translates to them writing the notes for you. Professors don’t often do that. I had one professor my entire college career who wrote down exactly what you need for the test and took his questions directly off of what he wrote (I took multiple classes from him because it was far more simple).

There are a couple of different teaching styles that you can watch out for that will help you be prepared to take notes. Some of these are subject-specific, but they’re important to know regardless because you’re going to have to take a variety of classes due to generals. Even if you’re an English major, it’ll help to know how to take notes for a math class, especially because math probably won’t be your forte.

Professor Type 1

One of the first professor types will simply write tons of examples and expect you to pull the principles from the examples by yourself. They can be terribly unorganized, and that can be really frustrating. I referenced this type in my previous article about reading the textbook ( Essentially, my organic chemistry professor was the mad scientist type and not much of the professor type. He often just worked out chemistry problems on the board with minimal explanation. There were times where he didn’t even explain what he was doing. He would just start solving problems. And we would all write them down hoping to draw some kind of information out of them.

I know this sounds like a nightmare, but there are ways to make it work. The biggest tip I can give you for this type of professor is to read the textbook before class. Look at the types of problems (or whatever subject equivalent) that will be covered in the lecture so that you’re more able to recognize them while the professor is working through them. If you’re just not following fast enough, record the problems anyway and then take them back to the textbook and identify them with the information you find there. 

If your professor is terribly unorganized in a class other than math, it still helps to read the textbook. Read the assignments, take note of the headers and then as your professor jumps from one subject to the other, categorize the information under the headings you previously recorded. This takes a lot more work, but when you have a professor like this one, sometimes it’s your only option. If it makes you feel any better, I got really good at organic chemistry by the end of the year because of how much effort I had to put in.

Professor Type 2

A second type of professor you may come across will give you the headings and subheadings, but not a ton of information in between. In this case, it’s going to be helpful to try and write down the headings because that will give you a guide as to the most important concepts, but make sure to take the notes in between that they simply talk about. They won’t write everything down for you. Make sure to write it yourself. Sometimes, this can make it really difficult to know which information to study and the amount of information that has been given can be overwhelming. In that case, pay better attention to your assignments (consider taking notes from your assignments, or simply keep them to look back at later). Assignments will help you to know what your professors find crucial.

Professor Type 2

A third type of professor will be your best friend. These professors are more on top of it. They’re organized, write down the information you’ll need for the test, or at least they’ll give you the direction you’ll go. For example, they’ll tell you to reference certain concepts and know how to use them. In that case, it’s pretty simple what to do. Listen, write, and do.

Professor Type 4

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Sometimes you’ll get a professor who is horrible at writing tests. This is probably one of the most frustrating types of professors. Even if they’re fun to listen to or engaging, they can’t write a good test question to save their lives. A lot of these professors tend to curve their tests when everyone fails. Sometimes, they won’t. 

I’ve noticed a pattern with professors who don’t curve their tests even when everyone is failing. These are the kinds of professors that are trying to maintain a semblance of control. They can be adjunct professors, new professors, or PhD students who are intimidated by teaching. The only tip I have in those situations is to take advantage of their office hours. Go meet with them. Ask questions about what they expect from students, how they write their tests, or what skills (not just information) you can acquire from their class. You may not always get helpful information, but you’ll find yourself with an ally. Professors are often able to change grades whenever they want at the end of the semester. It never hurts to buddy up.

Study Hacks Number Two: Go to TA Stuff

From here on out, my tips will be less about determining specifics and more about general tips that are going to help in just about every class you come across.

So TA stuff. TA stands for teaching assistant. You’re not going to find a better tutor than the teaching assistants. Most of them hold study sessions that are open for everyone. If you’re struggling in a class, PLEASE GO TO THESE. Teachers assistants are often hired by the professors themselves, and they are often chosen out of students who have already taken the class. In fact, I’ve never heard of a case where they weren’t chosen from the classes. These students succeeded tremendously, and they’ve basically graduated to a paid teacher’s pet (just not the annoying kind). They already know what is going to be on your test. They’ve taken the tests themselves (aced them too), and they’ve graded plenty of them as well. Go to their sessions. Listen to them. 

I didn’t always attend TA sessions; I only went when I didn’t know how to study for a class myself. And I don’t think I ever left a TA session feeling like it was a waste of time. Utilize them! I can’t emphasize that enough.

Study Hacks Number Three: Record the Professor

Recording lectures will help you in a myriad of ways. For one, you can go back and listen to them so easily if you’re finding yourself with limited amounts of time to study. You can listen to them while accomplishing other things. Recording lectures means you can go back and pick up details you might have missed, or you can pause or fast forward through things when you’re trying to find organization in a lecture. Listening to the lecture even one more time means that you can grasp far more information and solidify the information you already internalized. Recording lectures means you’re not going to miss things when you get distracted. Getting distracted happens to everyone, so find ways to work around it.

This tip kind of relates back to determining what kind of professor you have. It’s not always easy to tell right off the bat what your professor will expect of you in terms of your own learning. Having the lectures recorded means that you can go back after you’ve determined what kind of professor you have and better glean the information they want you to have.

You don’t always have to use your recordings, but it’s SO easy to simply pull out your phone and hit the record button. Your professors will love you for it if they know that’s why your phone is out.

Study Hacks Number Three: Rate My Professor

This one is fairly simple. There is a website known as “Rate My Professor.” These ratings come from students who have taken classes all over the country. You find your college, look up the class you have to take, and then you can find the best professors for that specific class. It’s insanely useful at the beginning of the semester. I’ve found it to be very accurate, and it helps to avoid a lot of unnecessary pitfalls with hard professors.


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