You may have heard the old rule of thumb for every hour you spend in a college class, spend at least two hours studying. Though there are many things that have changed in the modern classroom, this is one that hasn’t: Success in college depends upon the time you put into it.
As a counselor at Colorado Mountain College, I advise students on what classes they should take each semester. My job, however, doesn’t end when they enroll; I help them in every way possible to develop the skills they need to succeed.
Time itself is a critical factor for us all as we try to accomplish the tasks of daily life. Some of the students I advise are juggling work and family responsibilities as well as school. Others are simply new to the demands of college and haven’t had the experience of prioritizing and organizing their time. One question I ask is, “Where is your time spent?” I ask that they tally how many hours a week they spend in various activities — texting and talking on the phone, playing video games, watching movies, etc. This inventory is often very insightful and encourages them to curb the time spent on certain activities and prioritize time slots for studying.
Another important factor in college success is knowing what type of learner you are and knowing how to best capitalize on that. I help students make that determination and give them ways to adapt. For example, when visual learners listen to a mostly auditory presentation, I suggest they draw diagrams or pictures as they take notes so that they can stay more connected to the material. Sometimes they’re familiar only with notes taken in an outline, or linear, format. Seeing samples of other ways to take notes is often helpful.
Repetition is yet another critical component of successful students’ study habits. New concepts require repetition. I explain to students that they are laying down a neural pathway in their brains when they are introduced to a new concept. If they interact with that information in multiple ways — through reading, writing, watching a video — they are, in a sense, travelling down that path numerous times and committing it to their memory. If they only walk down the path once (reading a text, for example), the less likely that information will be accessible in the brain.
The study tools that are available today are endless. Students can set up an online calendar to organize their schedule and get reminders of upcoming deadlines. Now they can even take notes with an audio-recording pen that plays back pieces of a lecture when they tap the pen on the associated note that goes with it.
Today’s distractions are likewise endless, so it’s now more important than ever that students organize and prioritize their time, as well as make efficient use of that time with study skills and tools that are best suited for their individualized ways of learning.
Debbie Arnold is a college counselor at Colorado Mountain College in Glenwood Springs. She is one of the presenters in the College Success Center’s regular workshops designed to build study skills.