Create a Study Plan

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What is a study plan?

A study plan is an organized schedule that students create that outlines study times and learning goals. Just like with work or school schedules, college students should develop a study schedule where they can block off days and times in their calendar dedicated to studying. Creating a study plan not only helps you become more organized, but it also holds you accountable for your own learning outcomes. If you are an online student, a study plan is even more important in your success in college, since you need to have self-discipline and determination to complete your studies without the constant reminders of an instructor.

Why do I need a study plan?

A study plan is an effective way to help you navigate through your college education in an organized way. Every student will develop a different study plan; there is no correct study plan for everyone. When creating your personalized study plan, you will need to do some self-evaluation of your current schedule and time management. Find days when you have fewer personal commitments when you can squeeze some study time. Remember, each student studies differently, so the amount of time you need to study will differ from the time your classmates devote to studying. Some students find that studying nightly for thirty minutes is more realistic than studying a few times a week for a longer period of time.

You’ll have to identify your learning goals for each study session in order to maximize these scheduled study times. Determine why you are studying, and develop a plan that can help you achieve those goals. Take into consideration upcoming tests, your average in certain courses, and projects that you anticipate will take more time than others.

Lastly, create a study plan that is reasonable. Although you must set aside enough time in your schedule dedicated to your studies, blocking off five hours with no break will set you up for failure. You can spend less time studying if you do it correctly. For a detailed look at how to make a personalized study plan, explore the step-by-step instructions below.

Use these four steps to create your study plan

Step #1: Create a time chart of your current activities. Creating a time chart will allow you to see how you spend your time from day to day. For a one-week period, take notes about your daily activities. Record things like when you are at work, school, or home with family. Even note when you eat and sleep. Once you have done this for a week, look for times that you can slip in an hour of dedicated studying. This chart can be helpful for determining days and times that are consistent each week that you can devote to studying.

Step #2: Develop a schedule – Now that you have determined available days and times for studying, make a mark in your planner or calendar. Use detailed notes to block out times on your calendar so that you are reminded every time you look at it. It is best to have a schedule written down so you don’t forget. Seeing it written down can make it seem more important, like a doctor’s appointment you cannot miss. Also, it is helpful to write down which subject you plan to study, so you can be sure devote enough time to each of your classes. For example, Mondays and Thursdays can be set aside for studying math, while Tuesdays and Fridays can be devoted to English.

Step #3: Determine your study goals – At the beginning of each week, determine why you need to study and what you plan to accomplish in each class. Do you want to raise your average in a particular class in order to maintain a certain GPA? Are you preparing for a big exam? For example, if you are studying for an important midterm exam, alter your study plan two weeks prior to the test to incorporate review of old tests and notes in your sessions. On the other hand, when you don’t have an upcoming test, use your study time to read ahead one chapter in order to grasp the next lecture. You will need to tailor your study plan depending on your weekly goals, so be sure to analyze what you plan to get out of each study session. While it is tempting to skip your study session when there isn’t a test looming over your head, you will reduce your future test preparation time by reading ahead and preparing for lectures.

Step #4: Stick to your schedule – A study plan works best if it is followed on a consistent basis. You should try to develop a study plan that you can follow for the length of each semester of college. Since most students enroll in different classes each semester, you will have to reevaluate your plan and fine-tune it each term. Remember, the most important thing is sticking to your plan.

Strategize for effective follow-through

One way to ensure you follow through with your plan is to schedule time for other activities. By achieving a balanced schedule, your mind will be more receptive during time devoted to studying. If you schedule several long days in a row of studying, you will get discouraged and will be tempted to give up. It is acceptable, and even recommended, that you schedule time for nonacademic activities, such as exercise, hobbies, and socializing with other students. When you are studying, remember to take breaks in order to prevent feeling overwhelmed.

Lastly, some students find it helpful to find a study partner. Studying with a classmate allows for collaboration and discussion. When creating your study plan, check with other students in your class to determine if you can coordinate study sessions. However, if you tend to socialize more than study when you are around others, stick to an independent study plan. If you do choose to study with a partner, choose someone with whom you are likely to stay on task.

Leverage tools for creating a study plan

If keeping a paper and pen schedule is not helpful to you, consider other ways for keeping your studies on track. Take advantage of study planner apps, like My Study Planner, available for smart phones and tablets, which can help you manage your study schedules. Websites like MyStudyLife.com are also helpful, allowing you to create an account to better organize your study time with to-do lists and calendars.