Study smarter. Not harder. Flickr photo courtesy of Sterlic. Licensed courtesy of CC BY-SA 2.0.This is the fourth post of the Incoming Freshmen Series. Read our introduction and our first post on stylesecond post on finance, and third post on partying for more information, and stay tuned this week for our upcoming posts.

If you were a student like I was in my high school, I kept going to classes that were meant to “prepare me for college”. AP classes, IB classes, PSAT, ACT, and SAT prep classes, to name a few. The daily lecture from my teachers always included on why we were doing so much work because this is what college was like. I’m sure many of my fellow HackCollegers were in similar classes, and some of our newest readers too.

Then, we got to college and found out it was a little different. The busywork we often were given in high school had disappeared in favor of semi-weekly or even daily lectures and the nightly homework is often replaced with papers, exams, lab and discussion sections, and occasional homework. 

The majority of the freshmen I know are taking classes like Plants, Plagues, and People and Man’s Food, right now, which just requires showing up a few times a week and turning in an assignment or two and passing. There are classes like that at every college, but I’m not going to speak on them. If you can’t pass EASY 101, then there’s a much more serious problem then your study habits. College is a different animal – a brand of learning meant for the more experienced learner. Below are some tips on how to study smarter not more.

Start earlier. The biggest issue most students have is cramming all of their knowledge in right before the exam. Spoiler alert: it won’t fit. Take more time to truly understand the material and the only way to do that is to begin looking into studying for exams and writing papers further from the deadline.

Schedule your studying. Freshmen often fall in two extremes – at least those I’ve met. The everyday partiers who don’t study enough and the kids who study way too much and don’t go out. Coexistance is possible. Schedule blocks to study and you’ll be golden to go out – though going out the night before your exam is a stupid idea.

Find out your learning style. Visual? Look at flash cards or make a visual aid. Auditory? Record lectures (if the professor allows) or read and record your notes. Kinisthetic? Study dance. I’m serious. Knowing this will make your learning actually work instead of tired, old, broken techniques.

Look into alternative options. Here in Gainesville we’ve got TutoringZone, StudyEdge, Smokin’ Notes, and the list goes on. These companies provide study sessions for an affordable rate and allow students a more interactive form of studying that doesn’t lead to distraction. Though their Facebook app might.

And finally, don’t rely on just one type of studying. Don’t just go to class. Don’t just take notes. Don’t just read Smokin’ Notes or a comparable brand. Don’t just record the lectures. The best way to study is to incorporate multiple techniques in – that’s how you’ll truly learn what a Fibonacci sequence is or the difference between an African and a European swallow. Kind of.