The Ultimate Guide to College Study Survival

Take a deep breath: your college dream is a reality! That’s huge and you deserve to celebrate. But before you allow ‘senioritis’ to officially kick in, check out Study Mode’s tips for avoiding 3 common college stumbling blocks.

Congratulations! You’ve been accepted to college. You’re about to experience some wonderful life changes: freedom, new friends with new ideas, academic focus, did we mention freedom?

But there’s one more change you should prepare for and it’s not so pretty: college-level studying.

Right now you’re thinking: “You’re crazy. I’ve been studying my whole life! How do you think I got into college?!” Guess what, we all said the same thing when we were in your position.

Here are StudyMode’s top three college studying stumbling blocks and our tips for surmounting them.


Stumbling Block 1: Compressed Class Time

In high school, it’s not uncommon to have a particular class every day of the week. In college, it’s not uncommon to have a class once a week. These seminars can pose some serious challenges.

First, they tend to run about three hours long. That means you need to stay focused on one subject, and one professor, in one room for a very long period of time. Second, they only meet about a dozen times over the course of the semester.

How do you survive? You have two missions: make an impression on your professor, and ensure you internalize the material.

With only 12 class sessions to make an impression you can’t be shy. Raise your hand, offer opinions and ask questions. Also, consider visiting your professor during office hours.

Your second mission can be tougher. You need to filter through the incredible amount of information that will be thrown at you in three hours and take away the key points. Here’s a good strategy: take copious notes. Then go through your notes and underline or highlight words, phrases or themes that appear multiple times. There’s a good chance these will appear on your exam.


Stumbling Block 2: More Distractions

Sure you had distractions in high school: Twitter, Xbox, your phone. Once you move to college you still have all of those distractions. Plus you’ve got the guys down the hall having a party that sounds way more fun than your organic chemistry text book. And here’s what you don’t have – your mom making sure your work gets done. That’s right, you’re on your own. Just you vs. an endless flood of distractions.

What’s a student to do? Plan your study hours around potential distractions. If you know you want to go out on Friday night, don’t leave your assignments until the end of the week. Schedule study hours and stick to your schedule – even better if you can get your friends to join you in a study group. You’ll get the benefits of peer-to-peer learning and you’ll know you’re not missing out on anything fun! If you still find yourself distracted, choose a better environment, like the library.


Stumbling Block 3: A New Playing Field

Tell me if this scenario sounds familiar: you’re at the top of your class. Your hard work, exemplary grades and awesome SAT scores paid off and you’ve scored a spot in a top tier college. That’s great! Good for you! But here’s the rub – everyone at your new college has that same story to tell.

How do you survive? You realize that you’re playing in a different ball game now and you start slow. First semester freshman year has many challenges – especially if you’re going away from home for the first time. Don’t add to the difficulty by taking on an overly ambitious course load. Look at student-produced course guides and make sure you are signing up for courses that seem reasonably challenging but not “impossible.”

We hope these tips help you make a smooth transition to college.

Good luck, have fun and let us know how it goes!

          – The StudyMode team
StudyMode provides a network of practical online learning tools and apps to help students succeed. The flagship site,, is a repository of research documents, book notes and AP notes. Other sites in the network include, where students can create, study and share flashcards. StudyMode’s international network features more than 15 properties and reaches 90 million visitors per month.


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