Freshman Survival Guide: Studying Strategies and Time Management

This post is part of the Freshman Survival Guide series. Visit the FSG category to see new posts as I add them this summer.

5 Great Places to Study

I’m only listing 5 because I don’t want to take away the excitement that comes with discovering a special (sometimes secluded) place on your own. There are some really cool places on campus, and I had fun finding new ones every couple of months. Explore your campus, and you’ll find that there are many more places to study than I’ve mentioned here.

1. Whispers

Whispers Café

WashU’s hottest café is Whispers. Located on the first floor of Olin Library, this atmospheric study spot has everything: bathrooms, chatty Kathy’s, vending machines, coffee, pastries, electrical outlets on the floor for easy laptop charging. And next semester, it will have new and improved WU-FI. What’s WU-FI? It’s the punny name for the wireless internet system, which got revamped over the summer because the old one had issues.

But Dera, Whispers can be a little bit too loud. Isn’t there somewhere quieter where students can concentrate?

Yes yes yes yes. If you’re looking for a place to concentrate, I know just the spot.

2. The Stacks

Olin’s quietest floors are the A and B stacks. Located below the main floor, the stacks have everything: old and dusty books, printers, bathrooms, comfy couches that you can push together to make a bed, and vibrating desks. What’s a vibrating desk? It’s when someone puts his cell phone on vibrate and lays it on his desk, and every time he gets a text message the person at the next cubicle glares at him. (Don’t be that guy with the vibrating desk.)

Alright Dera, but that’s not really what I want. I want somewhere that’s quiet for the most part, but where I can speak out loud if I need to.

Oh, not to worry. I have just the place for you.

3. Goldberg Formal Lounge

goldberg formal lounge

WashU’s comfiest lounge is Goldberg. Located on the second floor of the DUC, this place has everything: a crackling fireplace, a grand piano, squishy chairs, new carpeting, a nice view of campus. And sometimes you might even spot a deep dozer. What’s a deep dozer? It’s that student who says, “I’ll just doze off by the fireplace for a few minutes,” and then 3 hours later they wake up from a deep sleep.

Okay, that’s great. But Dera, there has to be more. Isn’t there somewhere else people could go to study?

4. Holmes Lounge

holmes lounge

Don’t you worry. I have just the place for you. WashU’s yummiest hangout is Holmes Lounge. Located in Ridgley Hall, this place has everything: delicious carvery wraps, copies of StudLife and WUnderground, a beautiful ceiling, and on Thursday nights you can enjoy free live performances by noted local and regional jazz artists from 8-10 p.m.

Food is distracting. Tell the students about a place that doesn’t have food.

5. Earth & Planetary Sciences Library

WashU’s Earth & Planetary Sciences Library is out of this world. Located in Rudolph Hall, this place has everything: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Uranus, Saturn, Neptune, and even Pluto. (Actually, I’ve never studied in this library, but I’ve heard it’s really nice, so you should check it out.)

Bonus: Music Library

I know nothing about this library, sorry. But I’ve heard that it’s nice, quiet, and a great place to study during finals.


14 Tips for Studying and Time Management

1. Don’t be afraid to talk to your professors
Approach them after class, visit them during office hours*, or email them. Don’t be surprised if they give you incredibly helpful feedback or if they respond quickly to your late-night email. I had a particular professor who did both of these things. And when I set up an appointment with him, he helped me figure out the right way to approach my computer science major.

*If you can’t make it to designated office hours because you have another class, don’t let that deter you. Ask them if you can set up an appointment.

2. Use a calendar

post it calendar

cheaper than a regular calendar, and much bigger. I changed the Post-its every month. One multicolor pack of Post-its lasted me the entire year.

I used a combination system of Google calendar and Post-it wall calendar.

Post-it calendar

– Tests/deadlines were in red Sharpie
-mandatory meetings were in blue Sharpie
-extracurriculars and fun things I wanted to do were in green Sharpie
-you can use a different colored Post-it to make an important day stand out

Google calendar

You’ll have to change this around each time you get new classes, but it’s worth it. This was a lifesaver for me. I was struggling with time management in the first few weeks, so I went to Cornerstone (go to Cornerstone if you need help!) and someone helped me set this up.

google calendar

This is an example of my second semester calendars

I created a new calendar for each class and blocked out the classes I had each day. Being able to see when all your classes are is important. It helped me not to schedule counseling meetings and other events at the same time as a class. (Initially, I didn’t think this was helpful. Then I scheduled a registration meeting with my academic advisor at the same time as my Psych class. Yeah…it’s helpful.)

Put in all exam dates, from small quizzes to big finals, when you get your syllabus. That way you won’t walk into class one day and wonder why the chalkboard is blank and everyone has a scantron on their desk…

3. Hand write your notes
Don’t try to type your calc, chem, or bio notes. You’re going to slow yourself down trying to figure out how to create a diagram on your computer, and then you’ll miss what the professor is saying.

4. Type your notes
I took handwritten notes for the first unit of Intro to Psych. Then I recopied them, neater this time, a week before the test. I did really well on that test, but it was the most stressful studying tactic ever. For the 2nd and 3rd Units, I typed my notes as I listened in class. Not only was I able to get more written down, but I was also able to print them double spaced and write extra notes from the book in the blank spaces.

5. Shout at your roommates
It’s 9:45, and you know your roommate has a class at 10:00. Your roommate is still asleep. What do you do? Shout at them to wake up, and don’t stop until they get out of bed. Hopefully they’ll return the favor when you need that extra push to get out of bed and go to class. Shout-out (no pun intended) to my two awesome roommates for forcing me to go to calc when I didn’t want to.

6. Read the syllabus
And don’t lose it. Some professors won’t mention assignments in class because they expect you to see them on the syllabus and take care of them. You can usually find office hours and grading and tardy policies on the syllabus as well.

7. Go to TA Office Hours
Halfway through first semester, I started going to TA office hours for my Intro to Computer Science class. Once I realized how helpful it was, I wished I had made use of office hours from the very beginning. If you’re taking a class that has TA office hours, consider going.

8. Sign up for PLTL
Maybe you keep missing lecture classes. Maybe you’d like to be taught by someone who is closer to your age. Maybe nothing ever makes any sense to you when your professor says it. Maybe you like learning in a group setting. If any of these apply to you, sign up for PLTL at the beginning of the semester! PLTL stands for Peer-Led Team Learning, and is available for calculus, biology, and chemistry. I was in a calculus PLTL group, and I can’t emphasize enough how great it was.

9. Form a study group
Study groups are great for several reasons:
-You know you understand a concept when you can explain it to someone else. When you teach, you learn.
-Your study buddies will keep you from falling asleep
-It’s more fun. I still remember some of the hilarious mnemonic devices my friends and I came up with one night while studying for psychology. That I can still remember them 6 months later proves that fun group study sessions can be very effective!
-You can share notes. Your study buddies may have written down things you didn’t catch in class.

10. Go to class
I’m serious. This needs no explanation. Just do it.

11. The best time to do laundry…
Is the night before a bio, chem, or calc exam. Everyone’s going to be inside studying, which means you get all the washers and dryers to yourself. Aww yeahh.

12. You’re not here to major in Extracurriculars
Choose your outside activities wisely. If you commit yourself to too many things, your grades will suffer. Allow yourself to have fun, but remember your commitment to your studies as well.

13. Wolfram Alpha
Wolfram Alpha has this really helpful feature where you can see step-by-step solutions to a problem. Many a time I’ve understood an entire math concept just by seeing one similar problem worked out on Wolfram Alpha. However, you can only view three step-by-step solutions a day. For this reason, I suggest starting your WeBWorK early (as opposed to the night before) so that you can make use of these 3 step-by-steps everyday if you need to.

14. Carry an umbrella every day.
You may be wondering what this has to do with time management. Well, I’ve had several experiences where I went to class without an umbrella on a nice morning only to be met by a torrential downpour when I stepped outside 50 minutes later. On these occasions, I had to walk all the way back to my dorm to change my wet clothes and get an umbrella so I wouldn’t be soaked for the rest of the day. This wastes a lot of time. You’re much better off keeping an umbrella in your backpack at all times so you can use your down time in between classes for other things (like reviewing notes or eating lunch).