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7 Tried-and-True Study Tips

Studying is hard, especially when you’re just getting used to college classes or transitioning from introductory courses to higher-level studies. But it doesn’t have to be so hard that you feel like you’re not getting anywhere! Read on to learn tried and true techniques for mastering your classes while still having time to enjoy your life at Grinnell.

1. Ask for Help
One of the best ways to get ahead in your education is to take advantage of your professors’ office hours. Zach Liebman ’16 says, “Not only will going to office hours help you better understand the material and expectations of the class, but it also gives you an opportunity to build a relationship with your professor.”  
You can also take advantage of the many helpful resources that the Academic Advising Office has to offer, including tutoring, appointments at the Writing or Reading Lab, and tons of great worksheets and tips.
2. Test Yourself
When it comes to studying for a test or brushing up on an area you’ve struggled with, Evelyn Weidman ’17 suggests inventing your own problems for practice. “By making your own problems and examples, you do a whole other level of thinking than if you just review the examples from class and homework that you already have,” says Weidman. This process can help you to identify areas that you need to work on and will help eliminate the fear of “trick questions” many experience on test day.
3. Visualize Success
To deal with math problems that seem complicated, Karin Yndestad ’17 recommends using visual learning techniques. “Whenever possible, draw a picture. Visualizing the problem that you are working on often gives you unexpected insight on how best to solve it,” Yndestad says. She also suggests students write out and prove theorems from scratch without using notes, rather than just repeating from memory. “This forces you to really understand the methods behind the proof, and it also helps you commit important ideas to memory.”
4. Procrastination = Motivation?
Having trouble staying motivated when all you want to do is relax?  Try setting up a reward system to turn activities that you normally use to procrastinate into prizes for a job well done. After completing a reading or homework assignment, Carlina Arango ’16 rewards herself with a TV show on Netflix or a massage in the Wellness Lounge. “It helps you stay focused, and time goes by faster if you learn how to balance studying with a bit of relaxing in between,” says Arango.
5. Talk the Talk
Vocabulary flash cards not doing the trick? For increasing fluency in a language, Philipp Gemmel ’17 advocates practicing paraphrasing. “When learning a language, it is completely fine to not know something, but knowing how to say something you don’t know by describing it with something you do know helps a lot,” Gemmel says. Too shy to practice with other people? Try talking to yourself! Gemmel says this is a good way to build confidence through “perfectly pressure-free practice.”
6. Begin at the End
For students wracking their brains on how to begin a paper, Katy Tucker ’16 has a trick. “Try writing the first draft of your paper backwards. This strategy can help identify your strongest thesis and has the added benefit of motivating you to keep writing,” Tucker says. “I think it’s less overwhelming to feel as though you’re continually adding on evidence to your argument rather than constructing a perfectly organized paper from scratch.”
7. Sleep

It might surprise you that the study tip Grinnellians raved about isn’t even about studying.

“Sleep. Sleep. Sleep. Sleep. Sleep,” says Liebman.

“Sleep is more important than studying,” Isaac Mielke ’18 says.

“Get sleep. Really,” says Amanda Hinchman-Dominguez ’17.

It may seem like a good idea to take advantage of all Grinnell life has to offer by following the “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” philosophy, but if you’re tired your brain isn’t working at full capacity. Trying to function on only a few hours of sleep means it takes you longer to understand what you’re studying, finish a problem set, or write a paper. Sleep equals more efficient studying, which equals more time to enjoy life!

Zach Liebman ’16 is an economics major from Evanston, Ill. Evelyn Weidman ’17 is from Flossmoor, Ill. and is an economics major. Karin Yndestad ’17 is a mathematics major from Eagan, Minn. Carlina Arango ’16, a Spanish and anthropology double major, is from Chicago, Ill. Philipp Gemmel ’17 is a political science and biology double major from Gusenburg, Germany. Katy Tucker ’16, from Wellesley, Mass., is a psychology major. Isaac Mielke ’18 is an economics major from Falcon Heights, Minn. Amanda Hinchman-Dominguez ’17 is from Titusville, Fla. and is a computer science major.

Asking for Help

Joyce Stern ’91“One of the most important things for Grinnell students is to get past the idea that adults are completely independent,” says Joyce Stern ’91, dean for student success and academic advising. “Adults are constantly consulting each other when they run into a challenge.”

While this advice might seem counterintuitive, it might be the first step in making more out of your time in college. When you arrive at Grinnell, a whole new world of independence is opened up to you. Suddenly, you have almost complete freedom in your social life, extracurriculars, and even your academics. You get to choose what clubs to join, which classes to take, when to study, and who you want to go to dinner with each night.

For many students, seeking help during high school means you’re doing badly or falling behind. But at Grinnell, using all the resources at your fingertips is part of what it takes to succeed! By choosing to come to Grinnell, you choose to ramp up your game. You could go someplace easy. You could shoot for the easy A, but instead you choose to challenge yourself. You’re smart, hard-working, motivated, and you’re very successful.

As a smart, successful student, you’re looking to make the most out of your investments. That includes making use of all the resources designed to support you when you take risks, save you time and energy, or get you back on track quickly when, inevitably, real life comes up and kicks you in the pants, which you know it will do at some point in your college years!

“We expect that all Grinnell students can handle this place,” Stern says. “You’re admitted with great credentials, but there are still things that get in students’ way.” Things such as difficulty adapting to professors’ standards, social anxiety, the death of a loved one, or struggles with time management can all have a big effect on your college experience.

The Academic Advising office can connect you with resources all around campus, from tutoring and counseling services to project planning worksheets and appointments at the Reading, Writing, or Math Labs. The staff at Academic Advising is there for you, to make sure that you get whatever you need to advance in your academics and build the life you want for yourself.

So when should you seek support? According Stern, there’s no such thing as “too early,” and there’s also no “too late.”

“We love to work with students who are simply trying to find a better approach to their studies. Students can and should approach us before the first sign of difficulty,” says Stern.

But even if you wait until you’re already having trouble, Academic Advising can still help.

“We know that people are only able to use good information when they are ready to do so, and even if we can’t help a student salvage a class or the semester, our work together could make the next semester go much better,” Stern says.

Seeking help isn’t a sign that you’re “not making it,” it’s a sign that you’re willing to challenge yourself and give yourself the best possible chance to succeed. So if you’re curious about finding new ways to study, if you’re struggling with a class, or if you’re simply curious about what’s available to you, Academic Advising is here for you!

For more information or to schedule an appointment, check out the Academic Advising website.

Academic Advising Events and Workshops for Fall 2015

Tuesday, September 8
11 a.m. - noon, Rosenfield Center, Room 209
How YOU can Improve Accessibility on Campus
Wednesday, September 16
noon - 1 p.m., Rosenfield Center, Room 209
Accommodations 101
Monday, September 21
4:15 - 6:30 p.m., Rosenfield Center, Room 311-B & C
Disability Resources and Assistive Technology Open House
September 21 - 25
Advising Week
Tuesday, September 29
11 a.m. - noon, Rosenfield Center, Room 209
Time Management
Tuesday, October 6
11 a.m. - noon, Rosenfield Center, Room 209
Study Spaces
Tuesday, October 27
11 a.m. - noon, Rosenfield Center, Room 209
Mindset Matters
Monday, November 2
8 p.m., Rosenfield Center, Room 101
Techno(logy) BINGO
Tuesday, November 3
11 a.m. - noon, Rosenfield Center, Room 209
The Cognitive Learning Process (Four-Part Series):
Finding Your Focus
Tuesday, November 10
11 a.m. - noon, Rosenfield Center, Room 209
The Cognitive Learning Process (Four-Part Series):
Studying that Works
Tuesday, November 17
11 a.m. - noon, Rosenfield Center, Room 209
The Cognitive Learning Process (Four-Part Series):
Finding Time to Sleep, Study, and Thrive
Tuesday, November 24
11 a.m. - noon, Rosenfield Center, Room 209
The Cognitive Learning Process (Four-Part Series):
Retrieving, Testing, and Demonstrating What You Know
Tuesday, December 1
11:00 a.m. - noon, Rosenfield Center, Room 209
Choosing a Major

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