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Essential Learning Strategies in College

written by: Katherine Barrington•edited by: Amy Carson•updated: 6/11/2011

College is a busy and demanding period in a student's life — a time during which they must learn to balance higher academic demands with extra curricular desires. Read more to learn what strategies you need to succeed in college and how to cultivate them.

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    Many new college students are surprised to find that college is not all that different from high school. Students are still expected to complete homework assignments, to take tests, and to participate in extra curricular activities. In college, however, there are more demands on a student's time and they must learn to juggle the workload of multiple classes with whatever activities in which they chooses to participate. Master these essential learning strategies to make the most of your time in college.

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    Taking Notes

    Notebook Taking good notes is essential for retaining information. Avoid simply transcribing a professor's lecture word for word because, in doing so, you will become more focused on taking notes than on taking in the material. Good note-taking involves jotting down key points and, in your own words, summarizing the supporting material. Write down keywords, definitions of terms, and important names, dates, and events from the lecture. Under these key points feel free to write down other relevant information but focus on wording things so that you will be able to understand your notes later. If you are a visual learner, you might try underlining or circling key points and definitions - you may even use a highlighter to make important information stand out. Over time, you will develop your own method of note-taking that suits your individual style of learning.

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    Studying and Test Preparation Methods

    Study Materials All students have a different style of learning - some learn best by applying the material they have learned in class while others soak up information during lectures and presentations. To ensure the proper retention of knowledge in preparing for a test, employ studying techniques that cater to yourlearning style. For example, if you learn best by doing, study for a math exam by working through a practice test or by creating your own math problems to work out. If you benefit most from a lecture-style setting, study by reviewing your notes and expound upon each point in your head to solidify your understanding.

    Flash cards work well for tests that include definitions, names, and dates. To utilize flash cards effectively, go through the entire stack then shuffle them so you do not become dependent on seeing the cards in a certain order. If you learn best by reading, re-read textbook material and handouts when preparing for a test. Some students learn well by teaching others or by talking about the material in a group setting. To facilitate an effective group study session, work from a handout or an outline and have each member of the group ask questions about the material, giving the group a chance to answer and ask further questions.

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    Time Management

    Wristwatch Learn to prioritize demands for your time. These demands may range from homework and test preparation to social events, extra curricular and athletic activities. It is easy to become overwhelmed by the many opportunities you have and it is very tempting to overload your schedule. The keys to time management are prioritizing and practicality. If you have a big project due on Monday morning, it would not be practical to spend the entire weekend partying with friends. Prioritize obligations (assignments) and put them before other opportunities (temptations).

    To facilitate successful time management, you must cultivate a sort of timeline on which to plot the various obligations and opportunities in your life. Many students use planners to track due dates and the exams dates so they can plan their extracurricular activities around them. The rule of thumb to follow is to complete all academic obligations before engaging in extracurricular opportunities.

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    Every student learns differently and, to make the most of these college learning strategies, you must discover your learning style and adapt these methods to suit yourself. By utilizing these strategies, you can better retain information from your lectures and use your notes to prepare for exams. Good note-taking, proper study skills, and adequate time management are imperative to success in college. Without these skills, you will not be able to make the most of your education while also taking the time to enjoy the experiences available to you in college.

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    Image Credits

    Notebook photo by Flickr user Levinardo

    Study Materials photo by Flickr user Maia Hopes

    Wristwatch photo by Flickr user Hirotomo

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    "College Study Tips: Study Skills,"

    Bob Kizlik, "How to Study and Make the Most of Your Time," Adprima

    "Time Management," Study Guides and Strategies