Being realistic about studying doesn't simply involve multiplying your hours in class by two and jamming that arithmetic product into a weekly schedule. To be realistic- and to actually learn-- you must be discriminating about when and where you study. It’s not just how many hours; it’s how much you accomplish, how much you learn. A loud and crowded residence hall at 10:00 PM, for example, might not be the ideal venue the night before a psych exam. You might not be able to silence an enthusiastic group of your classmates, but you can find another place, another time, or both. We have a library; it’s open long hours and is a wonderfully quiet and creative place (and you can grab a light snack as well). Use it—or any other place that works for you.
“Know yourself”—a wonderful life lesson but one that also applies specifically to college study. When do you study best? When can you concentrate and actually get some work done? Are you sharp and ready in the morning, or are you actually able to read, write, and remember later at night? So be honest and identify your prime study time. Let me put in another pitch for daytime studying when your mind and body should be alert. It's a point I can't overemphasize!!
Some studies show that you should study before you sleep or nap not immediately after. Supposedly you can retain better what you've learned right before going to sleep. But forget the book under the pillow trick; not happening!! Pick times with no other demands on you--not at work (unless you have the world's cushiest job), not right before a game, not ten minutes before you're going out, not when you know a friend will be texting. You know you just won't be concentrating that well.
Choose a well lighted (so you can see), quiet (so you can concentrate) place to do your work. If you're surrounded by distractions—human, electronic, or otherwise--either get rid of them or find another place to work. If your room is crowded, if you’re tempted to head for the mall with your friends and there is work you must do—get up from your desk, grab the book (s) for one subject, and go somewhere else (the Library, maybe), and do some work. An uninterrupted hour spent actually doing your work will accomplish more than three hours in a place that doesn’t allow you to concentrate. Then you can return and reactivate your social self—guilt-free!
Find a "comfortable" work place--not too comfortable though--one that's right for the business of studying. Find a sturdy upright chair (you know, like in the Library) and an uncluttered surface to work on. Don't try to work on a couch or a bed; or in a soft easy chair; or in front of the TV--you know what will happen and how much work will--or won't--get done. I know you’re going to say that you can do work in bed or with the TV on or while texting, but I encourage you to rethink this—at least do an honest analysis for a week or two to see if it really works. Fair??
Select a place that minimizes distractions- pleasant or otherwise; that would include talkative friends, stereos and TVs, cell phones, intrusive neighbors, windows to look out from, your Facebook page, the smell of pizza, etc.
Find a place that becomes your place for studying, one that works for you. When you go to the gym, you're there to workout; when you go to your place to study, you know what you're committed to do there. It really helps you organize your time and direct your energy.
Finally, if you commit yourself to a reasonable, realistic plan for studying, the chances are you'll do quite well with the main business of college--your courses. And you can enjoy yourself as well. You’ll have time to socialize, exercise, make new friends, keep in touch with old ones, and do all the things that make college enjoyable.