What is a study plan?
A study plan is an organized schedule that students create that outlines study times and learning goals. Just like with work or school schedules, college students should develop a study schedule where they can block off days and times in their calendar dedicated to studying. Creating a study plan not only helps you become more organized, but it also holds you accountable for your own learning outcomes. If you are an online student, a study plan is even more important in your success in college, since you need to have self-discipline and determination to complete your studies without the constant reminders of an instructor.
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Use these four steps to create your study plan
Step #1: Create a time chart of your current activities. Creating a time chart will allow you to see how you spend your time from day to day. For a one-week period, take notes about your daily activities. Record things like when you are at work, school, or home with family. Even note when you eat and sleep. Once you have done this for a week, look for times that you can slip in an hour of dedicated studying. This chart can be helpful for determining days and times that are consistent each week that you can devote to studying.
Step #2: Develop a schedule – Now that you have determined available days and times for studying, make a mark in your planner or calendar. Use detailed notes to block out times on your calendar so that you are reminded every time you look at it. It is best to have a schedule written down so you don’t forget. Seeing it written down can make it seem more important, like a doctor’s appointment you cannot miss. Also, it is helpful to write down which subject you plan to study, so you can be sure devote enough time to each of your classes. For example, Mondays and Thursdays can be set aside for studying math, while Tuesdays and Fridays can be devoted to English.
Step #3: Determine your study goals – At the beginning of each week, determine why you need to study and what you plan to accomplish in each class. Do you want to raise your average in a particular class in order to maintain a certain GPA? Are you preparing for a big exam? For example, if you are studying for an important midterm exam, alter your study plan two weeks prior to the test to incorporate review of old tests and notes in your sessions. On the other hand, when you don’t have an upcoming test, use your study time to read ahead one chapter in order to grasp the next lecture. You will need to tailor your study plan depending on your weekly goals, so be sure to analyze what you plan to get out of each study session. While it is tempting to skip your study session when there isn’t a test looming over your head, you will reduce your future test preparation time by reading ahead and preparing for lectures.
Step #4: Stick to your schedule – A study plan works best if it is followed on a consistent basis. You should try to develop a study plan that you can follow for the length of each semester of college. Since most students enroll in different classes each semester, you will have to reevaluate your plan and fine-tune it each term. Remember, the most important thing is sticking to your plan.
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Strategize for effective follow-through
One way to ensure you follow through with your plan is to schedule time for other activities. By achieving a balanced schedule, your mind will be more receptive during time devoted to studying. If you schedule several long days in a row of studying, you will get discouraged and will be tempted to give up. It is acceptable, and even recommended, that you schedule time for nonacademic activities, such as exercise, hobbies, and socializing with other students. When you are studying, remember to take breaks in order to prevent feeling overwhelmed.
Lastly, some students find it helpful to find a study partner. Studying with a classmate allows for collaboration and discussion. When creating your study plan, check with other students in your class to determine if you can coordinate study sessions. However, if you tend to socialize more than study when you are around others, stick to an independent study plan. If you do choose to study with a partner, choose someone with whom you are likely to stay on task.