Studying smart: tips for the seemingly limitless reading

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Photo by Leo Hilton

“I really don’t know if I want to reveal this to you.” Laura Song ’16 said as she looked around the bustling street fair. After a moment of consideration, she hesitantly continued. “The best place to study is Blodgett, especially during finals week because there’s no one in there.”

The rigorous amount of work at Vassar is nothing AP courses or SAT prep can accurately prepare you for. It can be especially difficult for freshmen to get into comfortable and produc­tive studying habits.

One of the first steps to doing this is finding the right place to study, which can take consid­erable time for some people. The ideal palce is both confortable, but not so comfortable that you fall asleep, as well as being free of distrac­tions.

The library seems like the obvious choice, and while it is a perfectly good and beautiful study environment, it is not the only available place or even library on campus.

Chiara Mannarino ’16 shared some of her alternatives, like the Skinner Music Library or the Art History Library, which are always less occupied.

Aliyah Harith-Bey ’16 added that finding the best place to study was actually a motivation to declare her major sooner rather than later. She said, “Something exciting for me was that once you declare a major, you get access to the de­partment’s building. So I’m always studying in Rocky because that’s the Political Science build­ing.”

Other responses included the Retreat, the Deece, Taylor Hall, New England and the Jetson Lounge. But choosing a place to study isn’t the only step to being a good student. According to Harith-Bey, it helps to make sure you’re on top of your work.

Your path to success starts as soon as you get the assignment. “For papers, always read the prompt as soon as you get it! Even if you don’t start it immediately, let it marinate so it’s in your head. If you don’t read it right away, you can eas­ily forget about the assignment and that leaves you stressed out for when you eventually begin.”

When it comes to reading assignments, Song had an interesting study hack that she learned from LSAT prep.

“To speed up your reading, you should draw a vertical line through the page,” Song said. While this may seem a little unorthodox at first, Song went on to explain the reasoning behind and benefits of this method. “Pay attention to your eye movement when you’re reading because a lot of the time only one eye moves along the text, which slows you down. You should be reading with both eyes moving.”

According to Song, “This technique will get you into the habit of moving both eyes across the page and it will train your mind to look at the words and pick up what the reading is about without reading every word.”

If you’re someone who gets everything done on a device instead of on paper, Harith-Bey sug­gested an app that changed the way she studied. “I highly suggest downloading the app Good Notes because it allows you to download PDFs from Moodle or any other place and add, sort, annotate, and highlight them on your screen.”

Although the app is not free, Harith-Bey guarantees that it’s worth the buy because of the money you’ll save not printing out every read­ing. “Everything is on my ipad because of this app. I’ve printed out about two readings in the past two years.”

Once you’re in study mode, you may be tempted to take a 20 minute break, which will inevitably turn into a two-hour break. To avoid doing this, Song suggests studying in a group. “I do work with other people because it moti­vates me to stay on task. We’ll let ourselves take a break and talk for 15 minutes, but as soon as that’s over, we get back to work.”

Procrastination leads all students to try to write an essay in one sitting at some point in their careers, but both Song and Harith-Bey emphasized the importance of getting a head start on assignments. Song explained, “Section your work off by days. If I have a paper due on Wednesday, I’ll work on it Sunday, get it done by Monday, then go my office hours to review it.”

Harith-Bey echoed this statement by saying, “Nothing sucks more than taking an outline to a professor at the last minute and having them switch everything up.”

Besides the reading, writing, and problem solving, office hours are equally an important part of studying. ”Get into the habit of going to office hours,” advises Harith-Bey. ”Within two to three weeks of the semester, make an appointment with your professor just to talk to them, maybe bring up something you found in­teresting in class. They appreciate it a lot more than you think.”

For people who are new to the concept of office hours, Mannarino cleared up a common misconception about them. “Many people think they need to have a big, concrete plan when they go to office hours. They don’t need that! They can just go in with an idea, and the professor will help them develop it.”

Mannarino also stressed the fact that office hours conversations aren’t restricted to the class subject. “I once went in with an idea for a paper and it turned into a conversation about my life and planning my study abroad,” Mannarino said.

Building strong relationships with profes­sors is helpful to not only studying habits but also future connections. “Remember that you’re eventually going to have to ask them for letters of recommendation,” Song says.

Harith-Bey recalled a time that her professor helped her get in contact with the design de­partment at Anthropologie, which eventually left her with a job. “You never know whom your professor knows,” she commented.

Now, no matter how prepared and organized you are with your studying, accidents happen and essays are ruined. Song recalled just a mo­ment. “I was studying at the deece on one of the tall tables, and I had finished my essay. I got up to get some juice, and when I got back to my table, I tripped over my charger wire. My com­puter fell off the table and broke when it hit the ground!” Luckily, Song was able to contact her professor and get an extension.

In moments like these, which might happen, and in moments of extreme stress, which will without-a-doubt happen, it’s always important to stay calm.

For newly independent freshmen just figur­ing out the path to success in college, these steps are proven to help, as they have already helped freshmen like Mannarino. She concludes, “You have to remember that having a lot of work al­ways seems overwhelming, but you will always find a way to get it done.”

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