How to study

I’ve always been one to love school and love learning. Growing up, I was the kid who always wanted to have the best grades and who all the other kids would call “the overachiever,” and even when they called me that, I wasn’t offended, rather I was proud, and I would usually respond with a sassy, “maybe you’re just underachieving.” That usually quieted them.

Taking notes was enjoyable, answering questions was thrilling, and most of all receiving a good grade was the best feeling of all. I’ve always had this mindset and over the years I’ve learned several tips and tricks to help me stay positive and to always do my best. Here are some of my top picks:


Take notes in class as if you’re going to teach the material

This may be one the most important tips to being a good student. The notes you take in class, when you’re actively learning the material, are the foundation of the studying you do outside of class and they will determine how well you will remember and retain what you learnt.

Several of my teachers have advised me to “take notes as if I was going to teach the material to someone else.” This strategy adds a certain amount of pressure to when you’re taking notes in class. You suddenly go from, “oh, I don’t need to write that down,” to “wait, can you repeat that one more time and a lot slower?”

The idea that you’ll have to relay this information to someone else will force you to concentrate and attempt to understand on a deeper level. Not only that, but you’ll want to write down as much as you can and as clearly as you can. (*bonus tip: writing your notes clearly is really important! I like to use the “cornell note style” so that I can write everything my teacher says in the main section of the paper and then add the main ideas and my own comments/ side-notes in the side column to help me remember and understand even better.)

Whether or not you actually teach the material is not important, what’s important is that you focus when you’re learning the information as if you were going to, and then if you ever need to, the material is right at your fingertips.


If you’re going to procrastinate, do it right

Let’s face it, we all procrastinate. I do it, you do it, and even the overachiever does it. The thing that’s different for those who are still good students, is that they do it the right way. So, what is the right way? My mom always says, “it’s not procrastinating if I’m just planning to do it later.” That is the key – if you’re going to procrastinate, schedule it out.

For example, I know that I have a test on Thursday, but realistically I probably won’t end up studying for it until the day before. Instead of just waiting for that time to come and being in a stressful panic, I plan everything else I have to/want to do before that day comes. If that includes going shopping, eating food, doing other work, or even just lounging around doing nothing, that’s fine; because at least I know that come Wednesday, none of that is allowed. That is the day I have to study. That is the day that I have already scheduled and planned that I will dedicate time to preparing for my test. It doesn’t matter if it’s the day before, because I’m still going to get a decent amount of focused time spent on studying. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that this is the best way to study, but rather the best way to procrastinate.

Don’t beat yourself up over a bad grade

Bad grades suck, they really do, but just like procrastination, they are inevitable. Some days you just won’t understand and you’ll get a bad grade, but that’s okay. Bad grades do not define you. One of my biggest pet peeves is when someone (myself included) becomes overly emotional about a poor grade on a test. Yes, it’s okay to be upset, but that time should only last a short while. It should not consume you and make you so discouraged that you feel like quitting or that you talk negatively about yourself.

Bad grades will happen, and the best way to recover from them is to learn from your mistakes and to take steps to ensuring you understand the material for next time. Here are some steps that I like to follow:

  1. Give yourself an hour only to be upset and mopey
  2. Do something you enjoy, so that you can remind yourself that life is not all about grades.
  3. Determine what it was that you didn’t understand and ask detailed questions about that material.
  4. (*bonus step) Read motivational note from yourself (this is something you should keep on hand to remind yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing and that it’s okay to mess up sometimes).

The goal is to take away the negativity you’re feeling and to go easy on yourself. We’re all human, and we all make mistakes. But that doesn’t mean we are failures. Take a breath, remember your goals, and get to work; that’s the key to being an overachiever.

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