Your alarm buzzes, jarring you from much-needed sleep. You hit the snooze button and roll back over. Then suddenly you realize your mom's not around to shake you awake and force you out the door. For the first time in your life, you're on your own. You've got to get yourself moving for that early 8:00 class. As you stumble toward the bathroom for your morning wakeup shower, questions dart through your mind:
Will I be able to handle my class load this semester?
Will I be able to keep up with the required reading?
Will I understand anything the prof says?
Welcome to the world of college studies! No doubt about it, you'll definitely find college academics different from high school. How different? For one thing, you'll learn at a faster pace, trying to grasp more information in a shorter amount of time. Subjects are covered in more depth, so you'll need to understand concepts, not just facts and figures. You'll do a lot more reading than you've done in high school. And with more material to cover, you just can't cram it all in the night before an exam. You'll need to pace yourself and commit to doing the work even when you don't want to.
Sound overwhelming? It doesn't have to be. Sure, college studies will be different from high school. And for many, it will be more difficult. But you can do a lot to assure success by following these six important guidelines:
1) Realize your schedule will be drastically different. As a high school student, you're probably busy most of the day, from about 7:00 in the morning till at least 3:00 in the afternoon. If you're involved in after-school activities, or if you've got a part-time job, your typical high school day probably lasts much later than 3 p.m. You might not even get home till 9 p.m. or later on many nights. And that's when you typically start studying—at night. You put in a couple hours a night, and next thing you know, it's bedtime.
That won't be the case in college. You'll probably have a lot more free time during the day. In high school, you might spend 30 hours or more per week in classes; in college, you'll spend about half that.
2) Take advantage of daytime free time. You'll have to get out of the mindset that studying is something that's only done at night. If you look for every opportunity to study during the day, you won't have to study so much in the evening. And as a result, your weekends will end up relatively free.
So when will you study? Well, between classes is as good a time as any. Don't think you need a big 3- or 4-hour gap to study. An hour here and 30 minutes there will help a lot.
And use your Friday afternoons well. Once the week's last class is over, it's tempting to slow down and welcome the weekend. But if your last Friday class ends at 1 or 2 p.m., take advantage of the rest of the afternoon. Study for a few hours and you might not have to hit the books again all weekend. If you've got a Monday quiz, you can study hard for it on Friday afternoon and just review the material on Sunday night.
Also, use all your afternoons. Next to Fridays, late afternoons are usually the most wasted time for college students. What you do from 3 to 6 p.m. determines whether you'll be studying late that night or not. The more you do during the day, the more free time you'll have at night. At the same time, don't think you have to study every afternoon. If a friend suggests a bike ride or a tennis match on a gorgeous sunny day, go for it. Just don't do it every day.
3) Find a place to study. No, the dining room table won't be available anymore. As for studying in your dorm room, that may not always be a great idea. Dorms can be busy, noisy places. If you can concentrate under these circumstances, great. If not, you'll want to look for a quiet place—and the library is a good place to start.
4) Know your workload and keep up with assignments. Avoid last-minute cramming for tests and exams. Don't put off term papers till the last couple of days. The things you got away with in high school aren't going to work in college. You can't fall behind and expect to catch up. So keep up all along.