Practice College Study Skills During High School

Making the transition from high school to college requires disciplined academic habits.

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High school students can prepare for college work by becoming comfortable with high-level reading assignments.
High school students can prepare for college work by becoming comfortable with high-level reading assignments.

The changes students will face as they make the transition from high school to college academics are inevitable. While high schoolers may not be able to wrap their heads around the idea of professors instead of teachers or lecture halls filled with hundreds of students, they can begin adapting to the necessary study methods before college orientation.

Assignments and tests will undoubtedly become more challenging once students enter college, so it's critical to instill disciplined study habits sooner rather than later. Some current college students say that identifying these study strategies in high school paves the path to success in university academics. 

[Learn ways to prepare for college each year of high school.] 

"High school students should try a variety of study methods to figure out what works best for them," said Lexie Swift, a senior at the University of Iowa. "That way, when they are in college, they will know what is most effective and won't hurt their grades trying to figure it out." 

Such study methods could include making and using a series of flashcards for a test, alternating between subjects when reviewing for final exams to avoid overwhelming oneself with one particular subject, or having a friend quiz you on the material so the information is not right in front of you. 

The potential strategies are limitless and can each be tailored differently to the individual person's learning style – but identifying that style is key. 

One of the most infamous challenges of college-level course work is the voluminous reading assignments. It is unlikely that students experience this level of reading in high school, so start practicing now in order to get ready. 

It is pivotal to understand the importance of actually completing a reading assignment and not skipping it altogether. Tiffany Sorensen, a 2013 graduate of Stony Brook University—SUNY, feels this is a particularly important piece of advice. 

"You'll be doing yourself a huge disfavor if you do not get into the habit of reading in high school," said Sorensen. "Also, you should make a conscious effort to understand vocabulary in your high school readings. The words will only get more complex in college." 

When preparing for exams, high school students should get into the habit of creating their own comprehensive study guides. Caleb Zimmerman, a senior at King's College in New York City, advises taking all of the information you need for the test and organizing it in one spot. He said it has helped him immensely in studying for his college exams. 

[Get tips to prepare for college as a home-schooled student.] 

"Whenever I have a big test, I get everything I need to know together in one place. Usually, a Word document does the trick," he said. "Sometimes that document will run 10-20 pages, but at least your mind won't feel scattered." 

Students who do not wish to use a computer for this purpose might instead find it useful to get out a stack of highlighters and color code the information in their notebooks. Applying sticky notes to specific pages in assigned readings can help focus your studying as well. 

However you choose to create the study guide is up to you, but having one is a very important step to succeeding on a college exam. 

Another element that cannot be underestimated is getting to know your professors. Some students say it is one of the best ways to ultimately support your academic goals and better understand what material you need to study. 

High schoolers can practice this now by reaching out to their teachers for extra help in order to develop stronger relationships with them – some of them might even become prime candidates for writing those letters of recommendation later on. Zimmerman says he regrets not taking this approach when he was a college freshman. 

[Learn how to ask teachers for college recommendation letters.] 

"I wish I had gotten to know my professors better," he said. "Professors are surprisingly approachable in most cases and getting to know them on a personal level will give you very helpful hints as to how they think." 

If high school students truly apply themselves to experiment with various study methods, fully process assignments, consolidate information for tests and understand exactly what relationships with professors can bring to the table, success in college will be on the horizon. 

Cathryn Sloane is a marketing coordinator for Varsity Tutors. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Iowa.