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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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