Tips for College Students: How to Take the Most Out of a Class

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Everyone has heard the phrase, “work smarter, not harder.” That phrase is the key to surviving college classes. You don’t need to stay up until 4AM every night (or later) studying for the hardest class. The key to getting the most out of a class is in smart, simple choices that make learning easier.

Choose your seat wisely. If you are easily distracted or know a certain class will be really tough for you, avoid sitting in the back of the classroom no matter how tempted you are. Sit in the front or as close to it as you possibly can. Sitting in the front ensures you are closer to the instructor and many distractions that grab other students won’t be a problem for you.

Take smart notes. That means, don’t copy what your instructor says word for word. Acknowledge the most important words, such as names, dates and vocabulary words that are included in your text. If you don’t write fast, you can take a highlighter and highlight most of what is said because most of the time what your instructor says is taken directly from your text. Also, abbreviate when possible, and avoid spelling out full words if you can help it. These short hand notes will help you keep up with the lecture allowing your full attention to focus on what is going on in front of you. Don’t forget to take neat notes as well. Notes that look like a three-year old wrote them won’t help you a few days later when you look back over them. Chances are, you won’t be able to make out too much of what you wrote, so you’ll be confused later on.

Record lectures if possible. Some instructors don’t allow this, so always ask before you attempt to record a lecture. You can buy a cheap voice recorder from Wal-Mart; you’ll have more than made up your money if you use it enough. Recording lectures allows you to come back to them later so you can listen to it again. This comes in handy especially if you’re more of an auditory learner. It will also help you take notes, especially if you’re not a fast writer. Another plus to this is, you can go back and revisit parts of the lecture over and over again that you did not quite get. This will allow you to ask better questions if you have any about a certain point mentioned in class.

Invest in highlighters and use them! You can purchase a pack of these for under $2 in most areas. They also come in many colors but I recommend using plain old yellow to highlight. Yellow is easiest to see and is very eye grabbing. Don’t highlight whole pieces of text in your book either. Highlight only what is important. Note things your instructor points out in class because those are most likely going to be on exams or quizzes later. If an instructor takes the time to mention them, then it must be important. Remember that. Highlighters will also come in handy when it’s getting close to exam time and your instructor tells you what to study for. You can highlight the first word in a string of text and that will tell you to revisit that piece of text later.

Use your whole notebook page to take notes. Don’t limit note taking to the middle of the page. Your notes are yours and will not be seen by anyone, nor will they need to be turned into your instructor. You can use the margins of your pages to add little footnotes that couldn’t be fit into your regular notes. The top of the page can be used to make notes of important dates such as tests and homework due dates. That way, whenever you go back to look over your notes, you’ll be able to see the notes at the top of the page and remember when things are due.

Keep notes in easy to access places. Store them in a binder of a folder so you can grab them easily if you need to run to class. This also helps protect them from the weather, and any spills that may happen. If you ruin your notes, you’ll have nothing to study with and chances are, you won’t make it much further in that class.

And remember, don’t forget to study. Taking notes alone won’t help you pass!