Study Tips

Contact Us

La Plata Campus
Ternita Kassim
Phone: 301-539-4720

Leonardtown Campus
Megan Rabie
Phone: 240-725-5420

Prince Frederick Campus
Renata Zgorski
Phone: 443-550-6009
Fax: 443-550-6100

Congratulations on your decision to go to college! It may be the biggest, most life-changing decision you have ever made. A college education can open doors to many opportunities in your future career, your lifestyle, or even your social life. But it won’t be easy. The college environment is very different from any other. However, we at the DSS are here to help make it easier for you to adapt to college life. Here are some tips to help make the most of your time at CSM and beyond.

  • If you are seeking accommodations, talk to DSS early – at least six weeks before the start of the semester. Make sure your documentation is accurate and up-to-date. If you need help getting documentation, talk to a member of the DSS staff.
  • Talk to people about the courses you are considering. Academic advisors, DSS staff, faculty members, and other students can give you insight about class requirements, format, testing styles, teaching styles, and papers and assignments.
  • Make sure you try to keep a balanced work load. When you are planning your courses for a semester or year, try to take only one or two classes that you know will be extra demanding, and take other classes that are less demanding. For example, don’t take three lab courses and an English course that requires 300 pages of reading and a paper every week. You should have time to enjoy yourself in addition to studying! School work is only a part of the college experience. Take advantage of everything college has to offer!
  • Get as many general education requirements and prerequisite classes out of the way early on, especially in subjects you find difficult. You don’t want to wait until the last minute to take your math requirement if you know you have trouble with it, or you risk not being able to graduate on time.
  • In class:
    • Attend EVERY class, unless you are sick, and arrive ON TIME. Many professors go over important things in class that may not be in the textbook.
    • Participate in class! Class discussions and group activities are an important part of the learning process. If you have questions, ask! Chances are there is someone else in the class with a similar question.
    • When taking notes in class, avoid writing in complete sentences. Write short phrases and abbreviations. Leave space in the margins to add information later. If you miss something or are confused, mark it to ask about or come back to later.
    • If your accommodations include a scribe or notetaker, try to take your own notes as well. It can keep you focused on the information and help you remember it later.
  • Perfect your organization skills:
    • Create a study space that has minimal distractions and all the materials you need, including pencils, paper, calculator, computer, and any other things you will need during your study time.
    • Have an organized notebook for each class with all of your notes and handouts from class.
    • Make a calendar where you can put all your activities for each day. Write exam dates, paper and assignment due dates, meetings, study groups, reading assignments… everything you know you’ll have to do. This will help you organize your time, especially for assignments that you know will require a lot of time to complete. If you know you have a 10-page research paper due in two weeks, you should probably get working on it ASAP!
    • Break large assignments into smaller, manageable tasks. That 10-page paper seems huge, but if you take it a piece at a time it’s less daunting: library research, read this book, read that article, make outline of paper, write rough draft, edit, etc. Put each task on your calendar, allowing for extra time if you come across a problem.
    • Don’t procrastinate! Stay ahead of your homework and reading assignments. Nothing is worse than realizing you have 3 assignments due tomorrow because you kept putting them off.
  • Study time:
    • Schedule a specific time every day for studying. This should be at a time when you can concentrate on your work, when you’re not tired or hungry. Avoid doing all of your studying with groups, as people tend to talk about unrelated topics when with others. It’s helpful to get input from others, but study groups should not completely replace your individual study time.
    • Take study breaks. Your brain can process things better if it has a little time to rest, even just a minute or two. Marathon study sessions are not as helpful as they might seem.
    • You should be doing an average of two to three hours of work outside of class for every hour you spend in class. Some classes will require more time, some will need less. You can always make adjustments to your study schedule as you go along.
    • It can help to start your study sessions by doing your least favorite or most difficult subject first. That way you won’t have an exhausted brain when dealing with it.
    • Free tutoring and paper review services are available to all students through the Student Success Center. Consider taking advantage of it, even if you are doing well in your classes! It never hurts to have extra support.
  • Reading:
    • Before the first class of the semester, try to familiarize yourself with the textbook and other materials by going over the table of contents and the first chapter or two.
    • Keep up with assigned readings. This will help you be prepared for class discussions and lectures. You will already be familiar with any new vocabulary and concepts, and you can use your time with the instructor to ask questions about anything that wasn’t clear in the book. Reading ahead will also help you to take better notes in class.
    • Before you start to read, skim the chapter to look at any headings, bolded words, side notes, and graphs. Look up any unfamiliar vocabulary before reading. Read the chapter summary and any review questions. As you read, mark or highlight only important information. Use what you read in the chapter summary and review questions as a guide. After marking the chapter, go back and take notes on what you read. If there is something you don’t understand and the instructor doesn’t go over it in class, ask! There is probably someone else in the class who could benefit too.
  • Identify problems that repeatedly get in your way. Find ways to solve them. Can’t get through a 4-hour study session and still remember the material? Do shorter chunks of time more frequently instead.
  • Learn how you learn and find ways to incorporate your learning style. Do you learn best when you hear something? See something? Do something? Or a combination? Develop a study routine that matches your strengths.
  • If you find yourself having trouble, talk to the instructor immediately. Don’t wait until you’re already failing the class. The DSS staff is here to help you if you need assistance talking to someone.

In short:

  • Seek help when you need it
  • Make a schedule and a study routine… and keep it!
  • Keep yourself organized, in both your space and your time
  • Plan ahead for assignments and exams and start early!
  • Be an active learner, both in class and at home
  • Remember that you are ultimately responsible for your success in college. You have to be the one who takes charge. No one else will!

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