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New Year, New Skills

How to make 2020 your best academic year ever.

January marks the beginning of a new year…and the beginning of a new semester. If you’ve been thinking about revamping your study habits, now is a great time! You can start fresh with these tips, contributed by our all-star Applerouth Tutor Managers. 

Get Your Zzzs!

Technically speaking, this isn’t a study skill; however, proper rest is foundational for brainwork! According to experts at Johns Hopkins, teens need between 9 and 9.5 hours of sleep every night for optimal rest. You can maximize your rest potential by turning off electronics before bedtime and incorporating short naps into your day (but not at school!).

Make Time for Studying – and Don’t Multitask!

Studying is a huge part of academic success, so you’ve actually got to schedule time for it, even if you don’t have to turn in a study guide or homework. John Cadenhead, Applerouth’s Senior Director of Tutor Services, blocks out time on his online calendar to work on any project he needs to get done; he also cleans off his desk before starting and – most importantly – turns off computer notifications and puts his phone in another room.

Effective studying requires uninterrupted attention. While ambient noise can help your brain focus more intently (see more below), watching Netflix or texting your friends while you’re supposed to be reading has the opposite effect. Studies show that students who try to multitask while studying don’t learn as deeply as students who focus solely on the material. What’s more, it takes longer for our brains to process information when we’re distracted, which means that students who multitask have to study more to learn the same amount of material.

Location, Location, Location

Traditional wisdom holds that the best studying takes place in a quiet room full of books and statues of philosophers. However, the silent approach might not work for all students. A 2012 study found that moderate levels of ambient noise can actually encourage creativity among some students. You can create that background noise by studying at your local library or coffeeshop, where the ambient noise level will be just about perfect. If you’re at home, though, you can create your own ambient noise background with playlists or apps (Applerouth Tutor Manager Jenna Berk recommends Coffitivity).

Another tip? Be flexible! You can spend a lot of time creating the “perfect” study setting, only to find yourself frustrated two weeks into the semester. That’s not surprising. Research shows that alternating study locations can help jumpstart your brain if you find yourself in a studying funk. So if the kitchen table isn’t working anymore, give that local library a try. 

Create Your Own Study Guide

If your teacher gives you a study guide for your textbook, that’s a great tool for studying. You know exactly what you’re supposed to be getting out of a chapter, and you have something tangible to complete during your study time. If you don’t have a study guide for a given chapter, make your own! You can use the author notes at the beginning of a textbook chapter and any questions at the end of it to identify key concepts before you start reading. 

Creating a study guide can also motivate you to stay focused during an unstructured study session. If you’re a goal-oriented person, you can reward yourself with candy or social media time after you finish a section of your study guide.

Make Your Studying Fun

Some of us love digging into historical facts, dates, and people, but for others, there’s nothing less appealing than a Who’s Who of the 1700s. Applerouth Tutor Manager Kali Cawthon-Freels aced her high school and college history courses by making her flashcards a bit more interactive. She says, “Instead of doing traditional flash cards, I’d make a matching game. I’d have a table full of note cards and split them into two groups. One side was the date or term, the other side was the event or definition. I’d then shuffle them up and match.” 

Flashcards aren’t the only way to liven up your studying, and there’s no reason why you can’t have some fun with learning, the way you did in elementary school. Incorporating drawing, singing – does anyone remember the “50 States” song? – and narrative can help you commit facts and concepts to memory. Check out this list from Bustle for more creative studying techniques.

These tips are a good starting point for the best semester ever, so pack up your backpack and get ready for Spring 2020!

Applerouth is a trusted test prep and tutoring resource. We combine the science of learning with a thoughtful, student-focused approach to help our clients succeed. Call or email us today at 866-789-PREP (7737) or