Study Skills for a Successful Semester

By Cusimano, Judy T. | Diversity Employers, October 1999 | Go to article overview

Study Skills for a Successful Semester


Cusimano, Judy T., Diversity Employers


A successful semester begins with the utilization of strong study skills. Some basic and easy techniques can foster the academic achievement students seek as a new school year arrives. The same skills needed for school success are necessary in many areas of your life. Not just one skill will produce better grades, but rather the combination of a number of techniques practiced often.

The first skill necessary for a productive semester lies in organization, both physical and mental. Good organization of your physical surroundings helps to keep you mentally organized as well.

The study center at your home should include a desk or table and comfortable chair. This area should be free of clutter and provide good lighting to keep you alert. Never lie down to study or read. This tends to relax the body and the mind and can lead to untimely sleep. Your study space should be equipped with extra supplies such as pens, pencils, calculators, folders, paper and any other items you anticipate needing for the semester.

When preparing for classes in the library, try to locate a spot as free of distractions as possible to help you focus on the task at hand. Sometimes just sitting near a door or busy hallway can tug away at your concentration.

As a new semester begins, purchase some inexpensive organizational supplies such as: pocket folders (one per class), index cards and file box, an assignment book or daily planner, and a monthly calendar. Place any handouts distributed in class in the designated folder. This practice helps you to avoid misplacing important course materials. The daily planner should be with you at all times as you move from class to class. With all of the academic and social activities taking place on campus, it is easy to forget upcoming assignments that are not written in your planner. Check your planner nightly to get an overview of the next day's activities.

Another important skill necessary for a successful semester is good time management. Although you spend less time in the college classroom than you did in high school, the hours spent outside of class can make or break your college career. Students can rapidly fall behind in course requirements without the ability to manage their time. Cutting classes can become a serious problem and even lead to failure in a course. As soon as the semester begins, set up a daily, weekly, and monthly schedule for yourself and stick to it throughout the semester. Scheduling your time does not take a lot of effort and will help to take the pressure off of you during those hectic times.

To prepare a daily schedule, write the days of the week across the top of your page. Down the left side, write the hours of the day, beginning with the time you usually awaken until the hour you usually go to sleep. Separate into columns and rows and fill in all of the activities you are engaged in at that hour. It is surprising to see how many slots of time you actually have available to work on assignments.

Weekly and monthly schedules help you to plan long-range activities. Purchase a calendar with blocks large enough to write in upcoming assignments, work hours, social events, etc. Calendars enable you to balance your work and leisure time. For example, if there are mid-term exams, meetings, and important social happenings occurring within the same week, you would need to set up a study schedule earlier than usual to avoid being pressed for time. Successful people plan ahead!

Setting priorities for yourself will help to make the semester run more smoothly. Make a "To Do" list at the beginning of each week and write, in order of importance, those activities that need to be completed. Check off the task as you complete each one. It can be very gratifying to look back at your list and see how much you have accomplished over the past week. Set goals for yourself for one week at a time. They should be realistic and attainable. …

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