Changing your study habits for college coursework

UC student Mariah Talley shares her tips for success

College is a significant change and adjustment for many people regarding studying habits. A lot of first-year students struggle to transition from high school to college. When I started in the University of Cincinnati's Health Sciences Pre-Pharmacy program, I quickly realized just how much more content there was since classes are done every semester and not every year.

Furthermore, there was so much more independence in college than in high school. I had to stay on top of all my work to do well and stay caught up. Allied Health majors often have prerequisite coursework that you take at the beginning of your college curriculum; if you struggle in those courses, it can be challenging to catch up.  

College is a balancing act that can be hard to figure out at first, but it can be much easier to manage with the right tools. It took a while for me to find my coursework groove; I am now a pharmacy student in my first year, and I feel much more confident in my studying skills. I will share some things I learned along the way that may make your time more manageable. 

Stay on top of schoolwork

By staying on top of your schoolwork, you can eliminate the stress of feeling behind or cramming. If you wait to get organized and study right before your first exam, it is often too late. It is much easier to create good habits at the beginning of the semester and pace yourself. 

Headshot of Mariah

Mariah Talley. Photo provided.

Start early, make a schedule of when your finals are and complete final assignments as early as possible to ensure you have the maximum time to study without the stress of finals.

Go through your syllabi and write down all assignment due dates and exam and quiz dates. At the beginning of each week, make a to-do list of the assignments that you need to complete and try to schedule when you want to do them.

Time blocking is an excellent method to block out the times of your days that you are going to do your assignments in between classes and extracurriculars. Google Calendar is a platform that many college students use to block their days and when they are going to classes, work or extracurriculars. 

Another method of keeping up with your assignments is an Excel sheet. Making a sheet and sorting it by due date helps put your assignments in a list format to keep them organized and all in one sheet. I have used this method throughout college, and it has worked well in keeping everything in one place and in order. 

Learn how to study

Many students must adjust the way they study after coming to college. Some habits you used in high school may not translate to college courses, especially in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) courses.

For example, previously, I would just read the slides or take notes on the slides, but in college, you must do more active recall strategies to understand and apply the concepts. It is not enough to memorize; content will often build on each other – so understanding it deeply is crucial to long-term college success. 

Here are a few study tools/resources that worked well for me: 

  • Quizlets — Make flashcards or use premade sets to test your active recall; helps more to make your own. 
  • Kahoots — Multiple choice, select all that apply format of testing your knowledge. You can either make your own or use premade sets. 
  • ANKI  A free, open-source flashcard program that uses active recall and spaced repetition testing. 
  • Summary sheets  Summarize all the main ideas and help gain a big picture of the content. It is an excellent method to compile all the information in one place. 
  • Slide decks — Look over all the slides and pay attention to things that may be bolded or discussed multiple times. Look at all the figures and small text to gather a more comprehensive understanding of the material. 
  • Rewatching lectures — A handy tool for reviewing anything you missed and paying attention to anything the professor emphasizes that will be on the exam. 
  • Active recall — Forces your brain to retrieve information from memory instead of simply recognizing it.

In addition to using studying tools, it is essential to take breaks when doing long studying or work sessions. These breaks are a time to get up and stretch, get off technology and detach from school.

Some students benefit from switching up their studying spots to help keep themselves motivated. Lastly, make sure to get a good night's sleep and not cram before a test because you will not remember that content. This is a mistake I have seen many classmates make, and it rarely ends well. 

Allied Health programs can be rigorous, but they are meant to help prepare you for an exciting future career in helping patients or clients. To get there, you must establish good study habits along the way, and I hope these tips have helped you find your path to success. 

Need Extra Support?

If you are struggling, our team of academic advisors, success coaches, and counselors are happy to help you find the proper methods for success. View our full list of support and resources.

Featured photo at top of Mariah Talley with the UC Bearcat mascot. Photo provided.

Headshot of Written by: Mariah Talley

Written by: Mariah Talley

Current PharmD student , Former Health Sciences Pre-Pharmacy student

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