Study Skills for College

Whether you teach students who are heading off to college in a few months or in five years, there are a few study skills that can dramatically improve their odds of success.

study skills college

How do I know?

I’ve lived this story. If you have not heard it before, the short version of my story is that I struggled through elementary, middle, and high school. As I started college, I knew something would have to change or I wouldn’t survive school. So, I found a couple of books about preparing for college and took advantage of a few resources on campus. My grades skyrocketed immediately…to a 3.9 during my first semester!


Because I had accidentally learned study skills. For the first time in my life, I knew how to study with a STRATEGY. When I think back about that first semester, there are a few significant tactics that made the most impact:

First, I read my textbook *before* class.

One great thing about college is that professors give a syllabus detailing what sections of the textbook will be taught each day, so I took advantage and read before class. As a result, I was able to pay better attention during class lectures (instead of dozing off). Because I had a background “framework,” I was able to understand and organize the information from the lecture.

At that time, I was a very weak reader, so tackling a textbook was a challenge for me. But, before long, I developed a shortcut for reading pictures and visuals that dramatically increased my reading speed and comprehension.

Secondly, I reviewed my notes within 24 hours.

The brain stores new information in short-term memory for up to 24 hours.  After that,  it “dumps” that information in favor of more recent information. I learned how to prevent that “dump,” allowing me to file new learning into my long-term memory.

During this daily review, I reread my notes looking for connections; connections I could make to the textbook (this is one reason why reading my textbook before class was so valuable) or knowledge I had from previous classes or life experiences. I would ask myself questions, draw diagrams I remembered from class (but did not have time to write down), and add details I missed. I also highlighted areas of confusion to get clarification on during my next class.

I was surprised at how quickly I could review my notes from a full day of classes…often in ten minutes or less. These ten minutes easily saved me hours of “cramming” later!

Finally, I took advantage of the “most wasted hours of the day!”

I once read that the hours between 3-6 PM are the most wasted in a college student’s life. (I’ve come to realize this is true for people of all ages.) So, I challenged myself to make them the most productive hours of my day. Instead of lounging around the dorms between classes and dinner, I found a spot in the middle of campus to get work done. I would review my notes from the day, catch up on reading for the next day, and complete as much homework as possible.

It was sometimes hard to stay motivated after a long day of class, but I stayed focused by thinking of the time I was freeing up for myself later in the evening. (It was much more fun to hang around the dorms in the evening.) Sometimes, I would bribe myself with a soft drink or even allow myself to take a short, 20-minute nap.


These tips launched me on my way to a successful college career…and became the first elements of SOAR®.  I used them throughout college and grad school but continue to teach variations of them to students as young as fifth and sixth grade because learning *how to learn* is generally a universal process.

I also use them as an adult. People often ask me how I manage my growing business along with my growing family. It’s simple. I use my study skills. EVERY day!

For a guide to master your own study skills, check out our app here!

To your success,

-Susan Kruger Winter

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