Study 101: Smart not hard

| Contributing Writer

It’s 9 a.m. and you’re walking to your first class in the brisk fall breeze, clutching your cup of caffeine, which, as you’ve likely learned in the first two weeks of classes, is an inevitable part of the transition to college. Either you’re in that stage of the learning curve or, perhaps, you’ve actually managed to crack the code to a perfectly balanced schedule that allows you to, say, wake up before sunrise, maybe get in an early morning workout and also grab a hearty breakfast before you start your first class. Regardless of where you are in your transition to college, you’re probably stressing about the first round of exams just as much as the next person you meet. “Study, do your homework, review your notes, go to office hours/help sessions” seems to be the general mantra when it comes to feeling prepared for exams. But this might be too overwhelming to do for every subject you’re studying every day of the week. So, how do you really study efficiently and create a balanced schedule so that you don’t burn out?

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Set clear time limits. Don’t plan to spend an “indefinite” amount of time on any one piece of homework.
Skim through the textbook readings, get a feel for what you think is important and revisit those parts later.
With essays, plan out a general framework of ideas and then just ‘free write’ (write without stopping) so that you get most of your ideas out there. You can later edit for style and proofread.
For all nonmandatory science problem sets, the goal is not to solve every problem but rather to be comfortable with the thinking process. You can choose just a few problems, but solve them thoroughly!
Try to go to TA office hours and help sessions if you can fit them in your schedule. Often, the comprehensive review in these sessions helps the concepts really stick and provide you with some nifty problem-solving skills.
Regardless of whether you’re a night person or a morning person, find the time of day that works best for you—and try to finish the most “stressful” chunk of homework or studying during that time.

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Honestly, brain food should probably get its own article, given the amazingly vast wealth of information and research on different foods.
But the general rule is to hit all the food groups to keep your brain happy and prevent those late-night cravings that can distract you from studying efficiently.
Healthy fats such as omega-3 fats (found in walnuts, salmon, tuna, etc.) help boost your memory—so reach out for those foods.
Snacking isn’t bad as long as it’s not a lot of simple sugars taken in all at the same time. A handful of nuts or a small cup of fruit and yogurt can give you the essential vitamins and protein to keep you fueled at all times so that you don’t feel a crash in energy.

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Oxygen is abundant and yet you don’t use it to its full potential!
The problem: You’re tired all the time and look to caffeine to solve your problem—but too much caffeine can throw your blood sugar levels spinning and cause jittery responses.
The solution: EXERCISE! No, it doesn’t have to be a 5K every day. You don’t have to bench press heavy weights, either. Just a brisk 20-minute walk increases oxygen levels, which improves your blood circulation and helps you think better.
Another key thing to remember is to move every hour, even if it means walking a few steps to get a glass of water or a piece of fruit. This will ensure that your blood flow is equalized, and you’re not sedentary. Plus, stretching those muscles every hour or so can prevent your metabolism from slowing down in the long run.

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Want to improve your productivity, mood and focus? DRINK WATER!
No, seriously. Coffee seems like the easy way out, but it is very dehydrating, which affects your concentration and ability to think well.
Drinking at least eight glasses of water a day helps your cells receive nutrients and oxygen, which in turn helps your brain utilize the energy from your food more efficiently, and this means QUALITY STUDYING!
Swap out your coffee for a cup of cold water (add some lemon or orange wedges if you’re not a fan of plain water) and sip on it as you’re studying to feel refreshed and energized.