college · productivity

College tips that DIDN’T work for me + What I did instead: Part 1

There are a lot of college tips out there, and they will not all work for everyone. Here are some common tips that did not work for me, and things that I did instead, with explanations for both.

What didn’t work for me: Making flashcards for anything other than vocabulary.

Why: Making flashcards was a time-consuming process that I found redundant when I had written notes already. The only way I’ve found flashcards to be effective when writing down definitions for key terms or when learning a foreign language. In other occasions, flashcards are not as effective for me. I occasionally see people write questions on one side of a flashcard and write the answer on the other end. That method ends up accidentally teaching me to answer one wording of a question in a very specific way. When I have an answer to a question memorized, if there’s a minor change in the wording on the test, it ends up throwing me off.

What I did instead: Strong notes and the “slide down” method.

Why: I wrote a little bit about this in my note-taking post and in my study habits post. Testing myself with the slide-down method is somewhat similar to flashcards, but I save time by not rewriting my notes. As a refresher, the slide-down method is using a blank piece of paper to cover up your notes and test yourself.


What didn’t work for me: Study groups with my best friends

Why: I love my best friends, but whenever I got into study groups with them, we always talked about something other than the task at hand. Again, I never regretted spending time with my friends even if I got a slightly lower grade later, but I would be lying if I said that I was more productive when I was with my friends.

What I did instead: Working as a tutor, teaching others the concepts in class, or study groups with acquaintances

Why: Working as a tutor was helpful for me to build a stronger knowledge of foundational concepts. Teaching others the concepts of the class is extremely helpful because I can synthesize the material, and the people I am working with can check me and also explain concepts to me as well. Study groups with acquaintances/classmates is the most productive dynamic for me, because the only thing we have in common in class… So the only thing we talk about is class. No distractions there!


What didn’t work for me: A traditional paper planner that I carry in my backpack

Why: Paper planners do work for others, but they did not work for me because I end up abandoning them halfway through the semester. Then I don’t remember what my assignments are later because I didn’t write them down.

What I did instead: A weekly planning notepad on my desk AND Google Calendar

Why: I don’t know what it is about weekly planning notepads with tear-off/disposable pages, but I was able to stick with them in a way that I was never able to stick with paper planners. There is something so satisfying about ripping off one page for the week, throwing it into recycling, and writing down a new page. Google Calendar also helped a lot when I was on the go and needed to schedule a meeting with someone or schedule an event.

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