Hey new Gaels!

When I started at Queen’s, I quickly realized that study strategies that worked in high school weren’t always going to work for me here. University is much more fast-paced and the type and style of learning (big classes, independent work, critical thinking) is different than it was in high school.

The most important thing to figure out as a new Queen’s student is what works best for you. I can’t stress enough how much you should explore yourself as a learner during your first year here. I wish I had done that earlier; it would have made second year and beyond much easier. As work gets more complex in upper years,  there’s less time for experimentation—and you feel that GPA and course grades matter more when you’re starting to think about careers and grad school in your third and fourth years.

Everybody studies differently, so we’ve put together a guide, Academics 101, for new Queen’s students. You’ll find it in your onQ page on August 8. Work through it early and you’ll be set up for success!

To complement Academics 101, here are a few insider tips and tricks that I discovered in my time at Queen’s: different places to study on campus, what has worked for me, and apps you can use to help your studying.

What worked best for me:

In some ways I study in the ways your parents have probably always told you are best! I found that I worked best when I go to the library. When I can see others working, I’m motivated to do the same. I know I cannot work while listening to music as it distracts me. Indeed, distraction’s my big issue. I like to use “Do Not Disturb” mode on my devices, and I keep a notepad beside me to jot down random things that pop into my mind (i.e., if I must buy a specific grocery food). Try the same if you like, but did you know these things aren’t true of everybody? The research shows that if you prefer working in noisy environments, alone, or while listening to the music you like, you’re just as likely to be successful. Play around and see what works for different kinds of task at school!

A mistake I made in first year was being inefficient with my studying. I spent a lot of time re-reading, highlighting my books, and working long hours, but I didn’t remember much. Interleaving and spaced learning helped me a lot in retaining information. When it comes to taking breaks, I like to follow the 50/10 method. That means working for 50 minutes then taking a 10-minute break three times for each study session. I find this way I can digest/process the information best, but also stay on task and avoid burn-out.

Some places to study on campus:

Maybe in high school you loved studying in your room, but why not explore some of the awesome spots around campus to flex your study muscles? Bring a friend or two with you for support and you’ll find staying on track and remaining motivated much easier!

Stauffer Library – This is where SASS is located, and my personal favorite place to study on campus. It has lots of desks across floors and small group study rooms too. I like Stauffer because I can usually find a relatively quiet place to study on the upper floors. Better yet, I find that Stauffer is usually filled with bright natural light, which I know helps me concentrate.

Douglas Library – The infamous Harry Potter room is located here. Douglas has a very warm atmosphere. A lot of my friends like it here as the set-up, with round tables on the upper levels, allows you to do group work. Just make sure to keep it quiet!

Bottrell Library – The lower floors of Bottrell are always dead silent, and there are also earplugs on standby for you as needed. So if you are someone that needs complete silence to focus, then this is the place for you.

Cafes and Communal Areas (Common Ground Coffee House, Mac Corry, Lazy Scholar) – If you like being in a café to study, where there are people walking by around you, and there is a bit of background noise, then you can go to any of the retail places or other buildings on campus to study as there are seats everywhere on campus. Common Ground has great, cheap coffee and a nice, airy atmosphere. Mac Corry is a more unusual space in a 1960s-era concrete building, but it's been recently renovated with small booths and whiteboards for working out those equations. Lazy Scholar, in Vic Hall, is a great spot with cheap, tasty food and a darker, buzzing atmosphere. Check them all out—again, the name of the game is experimentation!

Apps I like to use:

Tech doesn’t have to be your distraction enemy. Use it to your advantage to keep on top of your work!

OneNote – This notetaking software is a great app for anyone to use, and it’s available for laptops, tablets, and phones. It’s also free with your student account (download Office 365 and it’ll be right there). You can annotate, draw on, and highlight PowerPoints and other documents shared by your professors. I love using an app to take notes because everything’s stored right there, accessible across devices, and easy to search through. It’s way easier to look for information from the beginning of a course on a computer than by sifting through dozens of pages of handwritten notes.

Focus Apps – There are a ton of focus apps like Freedom, Cold Turkey Blocker, and Serene that will help you stay on track. Flicking between windows and apps to take a peek at social instead of writing that paper is something everybody does, so use these apps to make sure you keep to the task at hand. Afterward, reward yourself with all the fun social time you want!

Remember there’s no right or wrong way to study, only a way that works best for you. I wish you the best in figuring what works best for you.

See you next time! - Phoebe


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