SMU’s top 10 study tips for new college students

As any experienced student can tell you, college academic life is much different from high school.

Study Time

Study TimeFirst-year students at SMU and universities across the country this fall face an important lesson: College academic life is much different from high school.

High school students typically study outside of class as little as two hours a week for frequent, small tests. In college, they need to study at least two to three hours outside of class for each hour in class, for just a few big tests each term.

And in high school, students can count on parents and teachers to remind them of their responsibilities. In college, they must set their own priorities.

To support students’ transition, SMU’s Altshuler Learning Enhancement Center offers free tutoring and workshops throughout the academic year, including on time management, learning styles and test preparation.

Patricia Feldman, the center’s associate director, and Debra Shapira, learning skills specialist, offer their top 10 study tips for new college students:

  1. Time management problems cause 90 percent of failures in college. A calendar, weekly schedule and daily to-do lists will help students anticipate the term’s tests and papers, as well as plan specific times for study, sleep, meals and fun each week.
  2. Attend every class, sit in front and take thorough notes, even if professors don’t take roll. Test questions come from lectures, not just reading assignments.
  3. Pay close attention to your syllabus and prepare for each class. Tests are fewer in college and cover much more material, so keep up with assignments to avoid having to read 10 chapters the night before a midterm. If possible, get one assignment ahead at the start to give yourself a cushion.
  4. In your toughest courses, plan to briefly review lecture notes and readings after each class, as well as weekly and monthly. Minutes a week of review can avoid hours of trying to relearn forgotten material right before a test.
  5. Visit your professors during their office hours and ask questions, even if you think you already know the answers. You will benefit from them knowing your name and face; they will perceive you as having an interest in their course.
  6. Choose several good study spots outside of your dorm room or bedroom, and spend most of your study time in these places. You’ll begin to associate these spots with work and productivity.
  7. Form small study groups with peers who are serious about their academic careers. Study groups can add new perspectives to your learning and help you more fully comprehend class materials.
  8. Use your fun and free time as a reward for hard work. The more studying you can accomplish during the day, the more time you have in the evening for relaxation.
  9. Remember why you are here and what your long-term goals are. College passes by quickly, and it pays to invest your time and energy into being a diligent student.  
  10. Every day, take time to reflect on the things that are going well in your life and all of the positive things you are doing to better yourself: intellectually, spiritually, physically and emotionally. Gratitude has lasting effects.

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