Study tips 101

Back to school means back to studying! Feeling overwhelmed already? Worried about getting behind instead of staying ahead? The Imagine America Foundation has put together a list of our four favorite tips for staying on track with your studying this year.

Use your calendar

Particularly if you’re returning to school after a summer of sleeping in and hanging out by the pool, it can be tough getting back into a schedule. But one of the biggest favors you can do for your study habit is to really make it a habit. Put regular blocks of time on your calendar dedicated just to completing homework assignments, preparing for the next exam, and writing papers. Staying committed to your calendar will ensure that you don’t fall behind and that you’re always on top of your work.

Set up a space

It’s so easy to set up camp to study on your couch or in a recliner, but these likely aren’t your optimal study zone and can promote unnecessary distractions. Find a space that you can create some boundaries: ideally away from the TV, separate from family members or roommates, and conducive to concentration. Make sure you’ve collected your textbooks, reference materials, notebooks, highlighters, pens, and whatever else you’ll need to work. Have a bottle of water and a high-protein snack handy. Taking a few minutes to create a study-friendly environment with all the right tools can go a long way to ensuring you have a successful homework or cram session.

Ask for help

With so many resources at your fingertips for getting your work done, it can be tempting to dig in until you figure it out on your own rather than asking for help. It can certainly feel rewarding to learn something or overcome a challenge all by yourself, but sometimes your pride gets in your way and slows you down unnecessarily. When you get really stuck, don’t let your wheels spin too long: reach out to your instructor, a fellow classmate, or a tutor. This can help you keep learning (possibly even with some extra insight or context) and prevent you from getting discouraged and throwing in the towel altogether.

Take a break

It may seem admirable to dedicate yourself to an 8-hour study sesh, but your attention span won’t appreciate it. At a certain point, you’re bound to start losing focus and even if you keep reading, you’ll have stopped retaining the information. Use the pomodoro method and set a timer for 25 minutes: stay completely focused until the time is up, take a 5-minute break to stretch, have a snack, or check out Facebook (but make sure you don’t take longer than 5 minutes!), and then set another 25-minute timer.

Keep going until you’ve accomplished what you set out to do! Or set an alarm to buzz every hour to remind you to take a deep breath, roll your shoulders, or take a quick walk. These moments give your brain a chance to rest before digging back in and can make all the difference in the quality of your study time.


Planning ahead, staying committed, and giving yourself a break will do wonders for your next semester in school. Do you have a study tip to add? Share it with us below! And be sure to check out the rest of the IAF blog for more helpful resource for making this school year (and beyond) a success.