Study Skills to Help Students Have a Successful Academic Year
The ability to study well is probably the most important skill a student can have. Whether they are preparing for the SAT, studying for a Physics test, or reviewing U.S. History notes, students need to have a solid set of study strategies at hand if they want to be successful.
As we get ready to dive into the 2019-2020 school year, here are a few key study skills that can help your student make this year their best academic year ever.
Get (and Stay) Organized
We have the best of intentions when we start a new school year, both as parents and as students. We carefully label our tab dividers, designate pockets for pens, pencils, and erasers in our pencil pouches, and pack it all up in a brand-new backpack. Everything is shiny and clean and optimistic in the first week of school. Even the school-mandated planners are fresh and new, full of possibility.
And then within a few weeks, syllabi and permission slips and study guides are crumpled up in the bottom of said brand-new backpack and the planner finds itself buried under a mountain of textbooks in a student locker. It’s difficult to maintain the tidy order of the first week of school as stress builds and deadlines crop up, but it’s more important than ever to stay organized. Every week, students should go through their planners, marking deadlines and making sure they’re on track with their homework. They should also go through their binders, taking out loose papers and filing them appropriately, and clean their backpacks. Not only will this habit keep them from losing important papers, it’s also good for their health! Dr. Bradley Weinberger, a pediatrician at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, told Healthline that a too-heavy backpack can cause significant neck and back pain and even increase the risk of falls. Your student might need help figuring out what is important and what can go in the circular file, and that’s another important skill to help them build.
Plan, Plan, Plan!
Speaking of that planner, students should make sure they are always keeping their deadlines in mind. Instead of simply listing assignments and tests, students should mark deadlines, study sessions, and homework in their agenda on the appropriate dates. Using a calendar is more effective than a simple to-do list, says educational consultant Gary G. Abud, Jr., because it helps students to accomplish their tasks and work on time management: “[b]y putting your to-do list on your calendar, you plan when you will do what.” If families have shared electronic calendars, they should consider listing major student deadlines on those calendars as well – just so everyone is on the same page.
Make Studying a Regular Habit
In one key way, the brain is like a muscle: it needs regular, repeated practice to master skills. The more students make time for studying, the easier it gets. Studying should become a habit, like going for a jog or checking the weather in the morning. A 2009 study by University of London psychologists showed that it takes, on average, 66 days for a habit to become ingrained in our psyches.
Students often put studying on the back burner, something to fit in between lacrosse practice and club meetings, but it’s important that they set aside dedicated study time on a regular basis, whether that means everyday or every other day. It’s better to study a little bit every evening than to pull an all-nighter before a physics test. Your student will learn more and be less stressed out, which is a victory on all sides.
Take Good Notes
Some students resist taking notes in class. After all, we’re in the age of the internet! Teachers share their Powerpoints and resources with their students through classroom portals and the information is readily available at all times. However, taking notes is about more than recording what the teacher is presenting verbatim. Students have to identify and summarize the key information, particularly if they are going to be tested on the material. A 2018 study by Stanford and UCLA found that students who take notes by hand are forced to process the information as they write, which cements their understanding.
Students all learn at their own pace and in their own way: it’s important that they develop a note-taking style that helps them. Some students prefer outlining, while others gravitate towards concept mapping or Cornell notes. If your student struggles with taking notes in class, encourage them to try a different style.
Developing good study skills will take your student beyond this academic year. These are skills that will help students as they finish high school and head to college – and beyond!