Top 10 Study Habits

As a current junior studying Civil Engineering, I have found the following to be the top 10 study habits all students should have to succeed at IIT.

  1. Go to class

Professors did not get the title professor just because they thought it would sound cool.  They generally have at least one doctorate’s degree related to what they are teaching.  Even the most boring lecture professors can give one great example and help you learn the material better than you could on your own.  As an engineering student, I study very difficult material that has already been mastered by my professors, meaning that it is silly for me to not go to lecture and listen to their approach of the subject.  I enjoy most of my classes at IIT because the professors are passionate about what they teach.

  1. Read the book

When a textbook is assigned to a class, the professor is usually the one who picks the book and it relates to how they plan to teach the class.  Depending on how your professor lectures is how you should approach reading the book.  How you decide to read the book is up to you, but use it. While it is ideal to read every chapter of all of your textbooks, it is nearly impossible to do that.  Skimming is okay too and has helped me just the same!

  1. Take notes and review them

A perk of going to class is that you can write down side comments your professor makes about an example or concept (or the funny things they tend to say too). While good to write these things down, it is meaningless if you do not go back a review it. I have gotten into the habit of reviewing my notes for a few minutes before each lecture.  This helps me understand where we left off and what I should be expecting for the current lecture.

  1. Have a planner

IIT’s Office of Campus Life helps with this by handing out free planners at the beginning of the semester, but make sure you fill it out! A planner is great for due dates, but the way I use it is to plan when I will do the work.  There are numerous ways to organize your planner to accomplish this, but my way is to write my classes on the side and draw a line across the weekdays.  This way, even though I may not have an assignment due until Wednesday, I can plan to work on it on Monday and Tuesday. This helps me realize that my day on Monday and Tuesday is not empty and that there is work to be done. Succeeding in college is more about time management than being smart in my opinion.

  1. Ask questions

During my first year of school I was terrified to ask questions, fearing that the professor or my classmates would think I was stupid.  However, I quickly realized that asking questions is a part of learning and college is about learning, not a competition of who is already the smartest person there.  I have turned into the student who will ask a seemingly dumb question but have the professor respond in praise of “good question” instead.  If you already knew all the answers, you wouldn’t be a student.

  1. Find a study group

Within my department, I have found a group of about 10 students that I regularly do homework with.  We have become close friends who care about each other’s academic performance. Having this group has helped me to focus, distress, and learn material more efficiently.  Naturally, some of us are stronger in some classes than others, meaning we help out those who are struggling in our strong areas for their help in other areas in return.  As I mentioned before, engineering problems are difficult and solving them is like following a tangled map of equations with no compass.  Your study group is your compass and a funny tour guide all in one.

  1. Take active study breaks

Instead of browsing a social media site on my study breaks, I have found that some sort of physical activity is better and allows me to return to studying more focused.  For example, in the warmer months, I will go outside with a friend from my study group and toss a Frisbee or football for ten minutes.  If I am stuck inside, I will have a silly dance party to 2 or 3 songs, obnoxious singing encouraged.  I always feel much better after doing something active and it rids my mind of any grogginess.

  1. Drink more water, not coffee

I have pulled quite a few late nights studying and working on projects in my 3 years and from experience I have decided on a coffee water ratio of 1:2.  This means for every one cup of coffee, I will drink 2 cups of water before I can have another cup of coffee.  This helps me from feeling shaky or over caffeinated in general.  Both of those feelings are distracting to me and this ratio had allowed me to feel better and still power through a late night.

  1. Learn how you study best

For me, I need to read the book and take notes, then try example problems with a book open and notes spread out everywhere.  For other students, my study space may look too chaotic and impossible to focus in.  Learn how to set up your study space to match your learning style.  Creating a plan for how to study for a certain exam can make a difference.

  1. Sleep

I will not promise that you will get a full 8 hours every night, but a good amount most nights will make a huge difference.  To make sure I am maximizing my sleep, I tracked my REM cycles for a few months and now use that to determine how much sleep I need to feel refreshed.  To do this, I used an app on my smart phone that calculated the efficiency of my sleep every night.  I learned that going through 2 REM cycles, or about 3 hours, was enough for me to sleep as efficiently as I do on a night where I got a full 8 hours.

Part of the Study Crew in action! CAE’s for life!!


Leslie Lyons, 3rd year Civil Engineer

Innovation At Its Finest

Here at IIT, there are many opportunities for students and faculty alike to innovate. The first example that comes to mind is the Idea Shop, a prototyping lab that has two different types of laser printers, a laser cutter, CNC milling machines, a vacuum former, 3D scanners, as well as various more traditional shop tools. Getting started in there is as easy as walking in and asking the shop manager, John Welin, to show you around to get started. If you’ve ever heard of the X-cube, sold in shops around the country now, that was an invention prototyped in the Idea Shop.

Another chance to step up and make something new are the IPROs that are part of the degree plan of every IIT student. An interview with an IIT alumnae who now works for ComEd (the largest electric utility company in Illinois) as a hiring manager shed some light on the role IPROs play in looking for jobs and internships. Paraphrasing, this former IIT student stated that IPROs are one of the things employers look at most when hiring IIT students, as IPROs are essentially semester-long projects to solve real-world problems presented by academia and companies alike. It isn’t uncommon to be working on an IPRO sponsored by a company and then be offered a job or internship at the company if you produce good results in your project. Some students and faculty have even turned their results from IPROs into their own start-up companies!

It’s safe to say that if every opportunity to innovate on campus were shared, this post would be way too long. Therefore, I’ll end on this note: IIT has begun its plans to make a new innovation center, the Ed Kaplan Family Institute for Innovationn and Tech Entrepreneurship, which will host the Idea Shop, IPROs, and its Entrepreneurship programs all in one place. The building is anticipated to open its doors in 2017!

Written by Adam Denchfield, Applied Physicsideashop_main_550x350 ipro_main_550x350

Robotics Club at Illinois Tech

As a high school student, I was a participant in the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC). FIRST was the best part of my high school career, and it solidified my choice to follow a path in a STEM career and inspired me to give back to the organization. Without my participation in FRC, I would not be at Illinois Tech, and definitely would not be on this career path.

In high school, I had the time of my life working with my fellow students on a team where our goal was to build a robot in six weeks. In addition to the engineering and science-related skills I gained as a part of my high school team, I also gained a lot of leadership, presentation, and public relations skills during the time I served as my team’s captain.



My high school robotics team – FRC NeoBots 2903 from Arlington, Washington


When it was time for me to decide on a college, aside from finances and programs available, one of the defining factors of my decision to attend Illinois Tech had to do with the opportunity to pursue my passion for robotics during my collegiate career. While many universities have collegiate robotics teams, I was excited to learn that Illinois Tech’s team has a threefold purpose:

  • building awesome robotic projects
  • creating an exciting and hands-on learning environment for all students regardless of academic background
  • giving back to the local community through volunteer service and philanthropic projects benefiting FIRST Robotics, the very organization that had helped shaped me as a person

Illinois Tech Robotics is also a leader in local and national FIRST activities, and many of it’s members have achieved great things at IIT and beyond.

When I arrived at Illinois Tech, I was beyond excited to join the team, and was amazed to find out how much fun it would be. I’ve gotten to work alongside many very talented students, staff, and faculty at the university, and I’ve made some great friends along the way. Even though I chose to major in Physics Education instead of an engineering discipline, I’ve still been able to continue my learning in the field of robotics and get a ton of hands-on application to some of the things I’ve learned in class.  I’ve also been able to compete in robotics competitions in a ton of cool locations (I took a trip to California for a competition last year!), as well as volunteer at FIRST events around the Midwest. More important than the cool robots or service hours earned are the awesome people I’ve had the chance to work with. There’s nothing quite like scrambling to get a part of your robot working when you have a match in 10 minutes or going out to dinner with a bunch of your best friends after an exhausting 45 hours of volunteering over three days.

This year, I’m excited to continue my involvement in Illinois Tech Robotics. I’ve gotten the opportunity to help with major event planning for hundreds of students through the volunteer work we do with FIRST. I’ve also had the chance to coordinate volunteer efforts and social media for the state of Illinois with FIRST as well as help coach my own high school robotics team in a nearby neighborhood that allows students in the city to have the same great experiences with the program that I had as a high school student. If I hadn’t gone to Illinois Tech and gotten involved in our campus community, none of these awesome opportunities would have been available to me, and I wouldn’t have the experience I have now as an educator and leader that will benefit me greatly in my future.


Illinois Tech Robotics at the 2012 Jerry Sanders Design Competition

-Kori Bowns, Illinois Tech Class of 2015


Check out IL FIRST here!