About the author: Ellie Shalvarjian is a communications intern at Quizlet. She is currently a senior at the University of Oregon, where she studies advertising and public relations. Ellie has been using Quizlet to study for her classes since she was in 6th grade.
For most college students, it has been over a year and a half of remote learning. Staring at a screen for hours a day and learning topics without the fun of in-person social interaction can easily take a toll on even the most motivated students. An Ohio State University survey found that the number of students who reported experiencing burnout rose 31% from August 2020 to August 2021. Burnout is a very real problem for college students, and the uncertainty of the upcoming year does not help with this complex issue.
As colleges and universities open their doors to welcome college students back into the classroom, students face unusual challenges in returning to school. Dealing with health concerns, burnout, and lack of academic confidence can be challenging in itself. So, to help you start the school year strong, we've got five tips on ways to stay focused while studying.
Grab some company
In-person learning means you can safely meet new people, restart old study groups, and interact socially in general. If you're uncomfortable with in-person sessions, a virtual study group can still be a good way to keep yourself accountable. Either way, there are many benefits to studying in groups, including built-in accountability and better retention of material.
Study groups also give you a chance to re-energize and socialize with friends in a casual way. Going back to in-person school can be difficult, but these small interactions can help you readjust while also being productive!
Change where you study
You may have heard that going to the same place every day to study helps improve your ability to recall information and focus. However, this theory has been debunked for years: “For instance, many study skills courses insist that students find a specific place, a study room or a quiet corner of the library, to take their work. The research finds just the opposite.”
According to the study, moving around and studying in different places improves the quality and retention of studying while also increasing levels of motivation and inspiration in students. College campuses have thousands of nooks and crannies to study in, so try out that library you’ve never visited or hunker down in the student memorial union to switch it up. You may even find your new favorite study spot!
Time your study breaks
Although it's sometimes tempting to go on a study bender for hours straight, one study found that studying in short segments of 45 minutes or so is more productive than marathon study sessions. The research also found that students tend to be more productive at the start and the end of their study sessions. By keeping your study sessions short with small breaks in between, you can maximize the amount of information you retain and waste less time.
This study method works best when you can spread out your sessions, so you'll have to give yourself more time to study than just the night before. Try to time out your breaks so you can take a quick walk or get a coffee in between study sessions. Even better, fit your 45 minutes of studying between classes so you can study on campus with friends!
Bribe yourself with snacks
A good day starts with a good breakfast, and a good study session starts with snacks. While it may sound insignificant in the scheme of things, keeping yourself full and hydrated during a study session can significantly improve your ability to understand and retain information. As a bonus, it can also help regulate your mood.
Pro tip: Choose foods that are especially good for studying. If you’re studying for a longer period of time, build in a snack break.
Be kind to yourself
So, you’ve spent all day studying with friends in different locations while having some fun along the way, but it's now the night before the test and you’re exhausted. While it sounds counterintuitive, sometimes the best thing to do is relax and unwind instead of spending more time studying. Studies have shown that sleeping or resting after studying actually enhances memory, and it improves your ability to study effectively later. Getting enough sleep is already so important for your physical and mental health, so make sure you get enough sleep and relaxation after studying. Next time you have a study session, try and time your work so you can have a midday nap or get your eight hours of sleep right after.
Other than sleeping, self-care in general is important to creating a healthy school-life balance and maintaining a positive outlook on life. Self-care means a lot more than just doing a face mask or taking a long shower—even though those are great self-care activities. Here are some more ideas for taking care of yourself. For example, going on a run, meditating, journaling, and learning to say “no.” No matter what, remember to prioritize your own needs and keep a good balance between school and your personal life.
Or, find your own rhythm
At the end of the day, studying is all about what works for you. If you are an avid solo studier or need to stay in the same place every time, that is okay! If you’re stuck, try one of these ideas—otherwise, continue doing whatever works best and focus on what energizes you.
Looking for other study tips? Check out 4 tips for forming good study habits, How to make studying fun for every class you're taking, and 7 tips and tricks for studying on Quizlet. Also, make sure to check out our YouTube for other helpful tips.