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Middle Earth Roots- Just say “No” to “cramming”

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“I can’t go out. I have to study.”

However distasteful the prospect of studying is to many students, new and old, this process leads to learning, graduation, and success in your chosen career. In fact, the definition of a student is a person who studies something (Surprise!). So how do we begin? How do we make the time we spend studying worthwhile?

The answer is to begin good study habits now and to avoid stressful, all-night, “cramming” sessions. Jamming or cramming, can be avoided by planning ahead of time and setting yourself up for success. Choose a study area that is free from distraction and temptation and study there regularly, based on the schedule you have developed. If your dorm room is too noisy, try the library, a student lounge, an empty classroom, or a quiet area outside, while weather permits. Have all the materials you will need with you and organized.

Study time is not the time to sort through piles of papers and books. Studying is an ongoing process and can be relatively painless if you do not wait until the last minute to do it. Read assigned chapters and written materials before the class in which they will be discussed. This way you will begin to learn and understand the material well before the test. Highlight and/or outline chapters as you go along. Writing questions or comments in the margins of your reading material will help you to take a more active role in learning and understanding the material. Another method to promote active learning is to write potential test questions for yourself or for a study group. This way you can begin to explore relationships between the concepts you learned and synthesize the material.

Professors are often more interested in how you can evaluate or apply the information you learned rather than your ability to simply memorize a bunch of facts. As you approach the day of a test, incorporate daily reviews of the material into your weekly schedule. Always look for patterns in the material you are studying and try to put concepts into your own words. Make up index cards for learning brief facts like dates or vocabulary words. You can use these to quiz yourself and review later on.

You may want to consider studying with a group in order to stay focused and discuss any questions you may still have about the material. While studying, you should take a break periodically so that you do not lose your concentration or get fatigued. A good rule of thumb is to break for about ten minutes for every hour of study.

Rewarding yourself with a movie or such is a good idea throughout the process, if you have been sticking to your schedule and your goals. On the evening before the exam you should be reviewing information you have already organized and essentially learned.

The need to “cram” and stay up all night should not be necessary if you followed the above suggestions. In fact, you will not really learn material that you cram into your head at the last minute and will probably be too stressed and tired to perform well on the test.

Although the above hints are generally helpful in establishing good study habits, studying is still a very individual process. For example, some people may study better in the morning, and others in the evening or late afternoon. You need to determine for yourself what time of day you are most alert and your attention span is at its peak. Some people may be able to study with the TV and radio on, while others may need total silence. Some people may want to study in groups, others alone. Also, the tendency to procrastinate is an individual factor, one which you should assess and try to overcome before cramming becomes a regular and stressful event in your semester.

Think positively, use relaxation techniques, divide tasks into manageable parts, etc. Finally, don’t overlook your health. Be aware of your diet, exercise and sleep patterns. Poor health and high stress make effective studying very difficult. Maybe with all of this in mind you can say, “I would love to go out. I’m finished studying for the day!”

If you would like to talk to a trained peer about other ways to improve your study habits, you can call the Middle Earth Peer Assistance hotline at 518-442-5777.

The Middle Earth Peer Assistance hotline is free, anonymous, and open when classes at the University at Albany are in session during the academic year (September through May). The hotline hours are from 1pm to midnight Monday through Thursday and 24 hours on weekends beginning on Friday at 1pm and ending on Sunday at midnight. If you would like to talk to a professional confidentially about this topic, there is a great option for you. If you are a University at Albany student, you can make an appointment at Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) with a mental health professional to discuss this subject further. To make an appointment with any of the psychologists at CAPS, call 518-442-5800. Additional information about services that Counseling and Psychological Services offers can be found at albany.edu/ counseling_center.



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