How to leverage your strengths and establish new study habits
Are you experiencing academic challenges or have you experienced challenges in the past?
Do you feel a bit lost in your courses or confused about how you should approach learning at university?
Do you feel frustrated you put in the work but don’t see results?
Academic Skills instructors are here to guide you as you reflect on your strengths, understand your motivation, connect with campus supports, and identify study habits you can change.
Start by taking this short survey to reflect on your current habits, your strengths as a learner, and the skills and strategies you want to develop.
- Develop a support network
- Think about Motivation
- Leverage your Strengths
- Take first steps to new study habits
University may require your independent learning, but that doesn’t mean you have to go it alone when things get tough. Don’t be afraid to reach out. It is important to ask questions when you are unsure about university processes or policies, need clarification on assignment expectations, or feel confused or frustrated by course materials. Research shows that students who are engaged in their learning are more likely to use university services and find academic success.
Talk to your friends and family about your classes, your learning, and your concerns. Let them know what you need: time to study, quiet space to focus, or encouragement when you experience challenges at school
- Academic Advising
- Academic Skills Instructors
- Student Accessibililty Services
- Counselling Centre
- Trent Tutor Posting Board
- First Peoples House of Learning
Connect with peer supports to see new perspectives and see you are not alone.
- Create mindmaps, illustrations, or diagrams to organize your thoughts for a paper or to create study notes.
- Try writing an assignment first draft or a summary of class discussion as narrative or story.
- List the specific tasks you need to complete for an assignment and estimate how much time you need for each step (e.g., plan research – 1 hr; find 3 articles – 1-1.5 hrs; read 3 articles – 3 hrs)
- List major concepts or themes from a course and then list specific ideas and terms for each concept or theme
- Free-write for 10-20 minutes to analyze and narrow an essay topic
- Write journal entries about course readings for review later
- Write short summaries of lecture topics for weekly review
- Plan out a paper or lab report like a presentation (use PowerPoint if you like making slides – then transfer to docs/word)
- Talk about course concepts (in a study group, with a family member or friend, or record yourself) to study for exams
- Treat course readings like research – have a question you want to answer, search for key words, think about connections
- Start your essays or labs with preliminary research to explore a topic; as you read, ask questions, think about connections, refine your topic, and take notes to use in your paper.
- Search for audio versions of books on your reading and research list, or use screen-reading technology for digital sources like PDF files and websites.
- Video or audio record yourself as you study for exams – teach yourself a concept and then listen to it later.
- To edit your writing, read your work aloud or use screen-reading technology – we can often hear grammatical errors before we can see them in writing.
Change can start small. Choose one or two strategies to commit to and make them habits over a few weeks. It can be helpful to get encouragement and create accountability for your commitments, so communicate your intentions with a friend, family member, or Trent supporter (e.g., Academic Skills instructor, Academic Advisor, SAS Advisor, Counsellor, Peer Supporter, Rebound Guide, etc.)
- Treat school like a full-time job (40 hrs per week for 4-5 courses), but it doesn’t have to be 9-5! Use blocks of time (30 min to 2 or 3 hours) to complete tasks like reading, review, research, writing, etc.
- Make weekly or daily plans to complete both regular course work, such as readings, review, labs, and quizzes, and major assignments. Use an agenda, calendar, or planning app.
- Create a list of tasks for major assignments and plan out deadlines for each task or stage of work.
- How to Manage your Time: advice, calendars, and planning tools
- Check your Trent email and Blackboard daily for important messages from your course instructors. Consider creating folders for each course so your messages are organized and easy to find.
- Review your course syllabi weekly to ensure you are up-to-date with assignments, quizzes, readings, and course content.
- Label and store all digital files (notes, articles, etc.) in folders named for the course.
- Make time for reading (approximately 2-4 hrs per course per week). Break it down into 1-hour blocks if that’s better for you to stay focused.
- Read the chapter summary or article conclusion/discussion first – this helps to direct your reading.
- Take notes for study: summarize key ideas, list important terms
- How to Read Critically: advice for reading different types of texts, note templates
Research and Writing
- Analyze your assignment instructions; highlight key words and make a checklist for requirements. Look back to your syllabus to see how the assignment relates to course learning objectives. Ask your professor, T.A., or an academic skills instructor if you are not sure of the expectations for the assignment.
- Create a task list for your assignments and plan mini-deadlines to complete stages of research, planning, writing, and revising.
- Don’t submit your first draft; take time to edit the substance, structure, and style of your writing.
- How to Use Sources: making a research plan, paraphrasing, and documentation guide
- How to Write for University: how to approach different types of assignments, topic and thesis development, organization strategies
- How to Edit your Writing: revision and proofreading strategies, grammar and style guide
Learning from feedback
- Take time to read and understand instructor feedback on your assignments. Meet with your TA or professor to ask questions for clarification on confusing points. Make a list of issues big (analysis, evidence) and small (grammar, formatting) to use as a checklist for future assignments.
Studying for Exams
- Plan weekly review or study through the term: flashcards, practice questions, vocabulary lists, study notes
- Develop a study plan for exams that relates to the course learning objectives (see the syllabus) and exam types (multiple choice, short answer, essay, etc.)
- How to Study and Write Exams: strategies for studying and writing different types of exams