How to improve study skills at college

A quick playbook for smarter learning and better grades at college and beyond.

Clock 3 min read Calendar Published: 1 Jun 2023
Author Alice Wilson
How to improve study skills at college

College is an exciting time filled with new experiences and challenges. However, one challenge that many students grapple with is learning how to study effectively. Surprisingly, this vital skill isn't always taught, and many of us resort to ineffective methods like rote memorization, cramming, or aimlessly highlighting textbook passages. In this blog, we'll explore practical strategies to enhance your study skills, reduce academic stress, and transform your university learning experience.


Active vs. passive studying

Passive studying, like re-reading or highlighting text, often feels comfortable, but it's rarely effective. Shift to active studying strategies, such as summarizing information in your own words, teaching the material to someone else, or creating concept maps. This interaction with the material helps consolidate your understanding and retention. This step can be as simple as covering up your notes and explaining what you have learned out loud to no one. 


Use spaced repetition

Cramming might help you scrape through an exam, but it’s stressful and it's not conducive to long-term learning. Instead, try spaced repetition. Review your material periodically over time,  for instance, you could review your notes a few hours after class, then again after a couple of days, and once more the following week. This technique leverages your brain's natural memory processes and dramatically improves recall. Review your notes using some of the active learning strategies that we covered above, and you will supercharge your learning and retention. 


Follow a process

Having a structured learning process can streamline your studying. At Glean, we advocate for a simple, effective method called CORA: Capture, Organize, Refine, and Apply.

First, capture key information during lectures or study sessions. Next, organize this information in a way that makes sense to you - images, voice notes, color-coded notes, detective style clippings on the wall with topics linked by red string! If it works, do it. Regularly refine your notes to reinforce your memory, and finally, apply what you've learned to problems or real-life scenarios. This process scaffolds your learning, making it more manageable and effective. You can learn more about how it all works here

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Practice effective note taking

Note taking is more than just jotting down what the professor says. It's about understanding and distilling the information. You might like to use techniques like the Cornell method or mind mapping to structure your notes, making them easier to review later.

The point is that making an effort to really understand why and how to take notes in class allows you to make better use of an activity we often do out of habit, and ineffectively. Learn more about how to take good notes in college in this post.


Take care of your wellbeing

Yes, this is a study tip - remember, your brain is part of your body. Regular exercise, a healthy diet, adequate sleep, time spent in nature, connecting with friends, doing something for fun and not for productivity reasons - all of these can significantly improve your cognitive function and ability to concentrate, as well as improving your overall quality of life. 


Seek help when needed

Universities offer numerous resources, from tutoring centers to study groups. If you're struggling, don't hesitate to ask for help. Sometimes, a different perspective can make all the difference.

A study by the Harvard Graduate School of Education found that academic stress was a significant factor in students who did not complete their degrees, but there is so much you can do to give yourself the best possible chance at success, and seeking help is one of them. 

Another research paper from the University of Houston highlighted that academic stress is often a result of underdeveloped study skills, but, the great news is that the researchers found that students with effective learning strategies and skills, such as note -taking and time management, experience less academic stress and are more likely to successfully complete their degrees.

The transition from high school to college can be daunting, especially during the vulnerable first year. However, it's essential to remember that effective studying is a skill that can be developed. It's not about how much time you spend studying, but rather how you use that time. With active studying techniques, a structured learning process like CORA, and the willingness to ask for help, you can not only survive but thrive in your university learning journey. Happy studying!


Try Glean for free

Glean is specially built to help you learn more effectively, easily.

The CORA four-stage process has helped thousands of learners like you reduce their stress, improve their confidence and lift their grades.

In fact;

  • 88% of learners find studying less stressful with Glean
  • 85% say it’s helped them become a more confident learner, and
  • 90% say Glean has helped them achieve higher grades after just one semester.

Learn more about using Glean for better learning and access your free 30 day trial below!

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