When I was younger I read a lot of books, loved to study and always got good grades. Hermione Granger was probably my biggest example. I thought it was so cool how she knew everrrrything and was always one step ahead of the boys. She kicked ass and she was awesome doing so! Being a nerd suddenly wasn’t so bad anymore.

Nowadays I’m up to my eyeballs in study material and I have to say… sometimes I feel like throwing those books out of the window. I still have one or two years to go though! Luckily I can draw from five years of past experience. That still doesn’t mean I always study when I should. Whoops. Sometimes you just need a little kick in the butt to finally go and finish up that essay. At least I know I do.

Well, attention fellow students! Here are some tips and tricks I picked up on along the way. Some things are probably very “The Pope is catholic” and “Miley has a tongue (and likes to show it)”, other things are the ones I wish I had known about sooner. Maybe you will get something from it as well or maybe you won’t. What might work for me, might not work for you. Feel free to leave your own tips and tricks in the comments. Let’s go!

1. plan ahead and manage the workload by dividing it into smaller pieces
The prospect of having to write a thesis or just a regular big essay can be a bit daunting. Doing research, deciding on a research subject, doing some more research, coming up with a writing structure and of course: the actual writing. The thing I always try to do when faced with such a daunting task is dividing it into smaller tasks. Sounds super simple and yes, it kind of is!

Let’s say I have an essay due in three months, but have to present it to my class the third week of november and I haven’t started yet (this is just hypothetical…… of course… ahem). Instead of being intimidated and freaking out and writing everything in the last week, I try to make it easier for myself and plan ahead. On monday I look up three sources and on tuesday as well. That’s all I do for that day, nothing more, nothing less. On thursday I try and come up with a structure for my essay. On saturday I write an introduction and on sunday I assign myself to write 200 words. These are all very small and manageable tasks. Instead of freaking out about having to write a whole essay and because of that freak-out not having done anything at the end of the day, this is a way better solution. This also works for exams or any other schoolwork. I use this method all the time and can’t do it any other way now. Way better for my blood pressure ;-)

This is going to be annoying and I’m going to sound just like your teacher, but it has to be done: read the assigned literature!!! Do it!!! Not only will it help you keep up with what’s being said in class, you will also be able to process it better (because it’s not all new to you, you’ve read about it already!). As a result you will get more out of your class. And let’s not forget about that exam that’s coming up at the end of the course. For this one class I’m taking I have to read an average of 300 pages a week and it’s all scientific literature. It’s kind of boring and well, let’s just say it’s no Harry Potter. Imagine you had to read all that in the few days you have before your exam. My exam is coming up in two weeks and if I hadn’t kept up with all of the reading by now, wow… That would be awful. I would probably feel the same as Harry when he had to come up with a spell to swim under water for 1,5 hours… (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire reference, sorry non-Potterheads). Long story short: just read the assigned literature! And in my experience it also helps to print everything instead of reading it of the screen. You can write in the margins and get little sticky notes to highlight the important pages.

3. create the right environment
After all these years I know the right study environment is very important for me to even be productive at all. For some serious studying I need: no internet-connection (or working somewhere I don’t even dare to open ohnotheydidnt because of all the smart people around me…), no television playing in the background, something to eat and drink, a comfortable chair, pen and paper (for organising my thoughts) en preferably some headphones on my head (with Coldplay music). And I have to take breaks, otherwise I will turn into a puddle of desperation after two hours of non-stop studying. For me this place can be at home, but if I have to be REALLLLY productive, I go to the library. There I get done in one hour what would’ve taken me three hours at home (yes, I’m awful). So, that’s what I’ve learned: better to sit one stupid (but very productive) hour in the library than three half-assed hours at home.

4. think up a study plan (in regards to the classes you’re taking)
By this I don’t mean planning your assignments and exams, but I’m talking about THE BIGGER PLAN. What do you want to get out of your studies? In the first year of my studies, I had to choose a minor. Because I did not educate myself well enough on all of the options my university offered, I had to take some verrrry boring classes that I did not enjoy at all and eventually I dropped my minor. I chose the wrong one. I don’t regret it (everything worked out in the end), but it did set me back for almost a whole semester. You can learn from my mistake by educating yourself on all of your options. Trust me, you won’t regret it! You’re certainly paying enough for you education to be thinking about that. I’m not saying you have to think about which career will bring you the most money to pay of your study loans as soon as possible (I’m studying history for gods sake……), but I AM saying that you should see your studies as an investment in your future. You have four to six years (sometimes more if you’re lucky – or if you name is Richie Rich) to gather all the knowledge you want to have, so use that to your advantage! Look at all the classes your university is offering or maybe take some extra courses. Now is the time to learn. And of course you can learn after your time at college/university, but maybe then it will be a little bit more difficult to do so, with also having a job and all that.

5. get something extra out of it

You guys are probably getting tired hearing me talk about it; my semester abroad. In 2012 I went to Sweden for 5,5 months to study in Lund and I loooooved it. That’s what I mean by “getting something extra out of it”. I don’t mean you absolutely have to go abroad, because it’s simply not for everyone and that is absolutely fine. There are a lot of other ways to get something extra out of it and other things you can do to make your studies worthwhile. Join a student club, go to lectures about subjects you find interesting (a lot of universities organise those), look for an internship, talk about your studies with fellow students, write about it… In my experience this is all very worthwhile. If you’re busy enough as it is, you can of course skip this part. I think that everyone should do what feels good to them anyway. I myself never joined a student club and I don’t go to lectures that often. Instead I have a job, my own social circle and I’m a bit of a “homebody” anyway. But, I’ve always wanted to see more of the world and thus, going abroad for a semester was my ideal way of getting something extra out of it.

Well, these where my experiences.

Feel free to share your tips and tricks!

If you’re still procrastinating after this and don’t feel like studying at all today, even though you should, do what I always do: imagine how happy you’ll be to get that positive feedback or good grade.

Being smart is totally sexy. Le geek c’est chique! Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.