College classes are unquestionably different from high school. It’s hard to know if the study habits you had in high school will carry you through your classes in college. Personally, I never had much of a routine in high school. I went to class, took notes, did the homework, and reviewed assignments a couple of days before the exams. This may have helped when I was younger, but I definitely needed to develop new study habits when I began taking STEM courses at UC Berkeley.
My first year, I struggled with my introduction to biology and chemistry courses. I felt so overwhelmed by the pace of the class that I fell behind on my note taking and review schedule. I tried to review in groups and attend review sessions, but without building the foundation of information independently, I could only benefit so much from those settings.
In my second year in college, I was committed to finding a study routine that worked for me. I knew that I needed to work independently to conceptually understand the material, and use tutoring and group review sessions to apply the information. I took advice from some older peers and decided I needed to approach my note taking differently. Previously, I would attend lectures and take as many notes as possible - just as I did in high school. But I decided to try a different routine.
I started off by only jotting down a few notes or questions during the lecture. I focused on listening to the professor speak and really following along with the visuals. Then later that day or the next day, I watched the recorded lecture over or read through the lecture slides again to create my own notes. I took my own time to make 1-2 page study guides for each lecture. Of course this meant I was watching each lecture twice, and was putting in double the effort, but I really needed that to grasp the information. And those study guides really came in handy when it came time to study for the exams! I also took advantage of office hours and group study sessions to apply the information with practice problems. Slowly, with these habits, I fell into a productive routine.
Everyone's study routine will be different. Maybe you like taking lengthy notes in lectures. Or maybe you prefer looking over the textbook before the lecture. Some people even find that lectures do minimal benefit and they spend more time doing practice problems. At the end of the day, STEM classes are all about one thing - diligence. Find what works for you and go with it. Keep up with your schedule. Ask for help. Office hours were truly the tipping point for my improvement. By asking the professor to repeat a concept they had introduced in lecture or give a different example, I found myself grasping onto the information much faster.
It will take time to find a routine that works for you but be patient with it. Reflect on which habits are most helpful to your understanding of the content. It can be easy to compare yourself to others or feel overwhelmed by the progress of your peers, but focus on yourself. The more you listen to your own mind, the more you will allow yourself to learn. You got this!
Navya is a consultant on the Study Hall Consulting team. She recently graduated from UC Berkeley in May 2021 with a double major in Molecular Cell Biology and Public Health. She is currently working as a medical assistant and applying to medical school. For more application and essay tips, check out our Study Hall College Consulting website at: shcollegeconsulting.com.