Published: Jan. 2, 2024

students studyingWhether in your first or final year at CU, you can start the semester with good study habits and a plan to stay on top of your academic responsibilities. CU Boulder offers tutoring and academic resources to support students. Here are tips to help you start strong. 

Get organized 

Find an organization system that works for you to manage your class assignments, projects and exams. By getting organized, you can be on top of your studies before midterms and finals. 

  • Put important dates in your calendar. Whether you use a calendar app or an old-fashioned paper planner, decide what works to track important dates. Add dates from your syllabi to your calendar, including exam dates, project and paper due dates, presentations and other assignments. 
  • Add reminders and to-dos. Add smaller tasks to your calendar and set reminders. Don’t wait until the week before a big project or exam to start working. Instead, break projects into smaller tasks, schedule group meetings and set aside study time for exams. 
  • Review lecture notes. Plan time each day to organize your lecture notes. Turn your notes into an outline, chart or diagram. Decide what works best for you to understand what was covered in class so you can study the material later. 
  • Check out the Lending Library. The Academic Success and Achievement Program (ASAP) has books for many general education and lower division classes. CU Boulder students can check out books from the Lending Library for free. Email for more information. Please include your name, the course number, the book title and the edition in your email.  

Avoid procrastination 

College is fun and busy, but remember to prioritize your academics. At the beginning of the semester, it can feel like you have plenty of time before your first exams or project due dates. However, staying on top of studying can help you remain familiar with the material and avoid last-minute stress. Procrastination can result in lower-quality work, late assignments, increased stress and errors in your assignments. When you hear your internal dialogue say, “I will do the task later,” that is an indicator to avoid procrastination.  

  • Set aside study time. As you plan study time, a good guideline is to dedicate two to three hours for each hour you are in class. For a lecture that meets three hours a week, plan to study six to nine hours a week for that class. 
  • Follow the schedule and reminders in your calendar. Treat the time you set aside as a commitment and not a suggestion. If something else comes up, like a student organization meeting or work hours at your on-campus job, don’t delete your scheduled study time. Instead, reschedule that time in your calendar to avoid falling behind. 
  • Ask someone to keep you accountable. Talk with a friend, roommate or family member and ask them to check your progress. You can agree to weekly check-ins with your roommate or have a family member text to ask how studying went for the week. While you are ultimately responsible for your academic progress, having someone remind you to stay on track may help you adjust to the demands of college academics. 

Find what works for you 

Each person has their ideal study environment and method. You can try different study spots and techniques to see what works best. You may prefer to study alone in your room or find a location to study with classmates. Explore different study locations on campus. You can even reserve some spaces for group study sessions. Here are a few tips for focused and effective study sessions. 

  • Remove distractions. It may be tempting to reply to a text message or check Instagram, but distractions can make focusing difficult. Turn off notifications when you are in class or studying, put your phone on airplane mode and block websites that aren’t helpful so you can focus. 
  • Color code your notes. Review your notes after class and highlight any themes or topics your professor voiced as important. Use different colored pens for definitions, vocabulary and other important themes. 
  • Create flashcards. Flashcards help you engage in learning by stimulating memories and creating lasting connections to the material. Create images and write keywords, themes and definitions for subjects you need to remember. For vocabulary, write the word on one side of the flashcard and its definition or translation on the other. Do the same for dates. Study both parts of the flashcard to learn the information and create meaningful connections. You can use these flashcards later to study for exams. 
  • Take breaks. Schedule time for breaks in your study sessions. Decide the timeframe that works best for you. Set a timer for 15, 25 or 35 minutes based on your focus and needs. Take a break for five or 10 minutes when the timer goes off. During that time, take a quick walk, use the restroom, grab a snack or stretch. Continue studying after the break. Repeat the process until you complete your study session. Determining your optimal study and break times may take several sessions. 

Ask for help 

One of the best ways to ensure you’ll do well in your courses is by using available resources and support. You don’t have to wait until your first exam or project is due to ask for help. The sooner you ask for help, the more successful your semester will be. You could also consider joining or creating a study group with your classmates. 

  • Connect to ASAP. ASAP offers free peer tutoring to all first-year students, students living on campus and transfer students. ASAP provides tutoring throughout the semester. 
  • Explore other tutoring options. CU Boulder offers many ways for students to connect with tutoring support. Some resources are limited to specific degree programs or departments. Also, some tutoring options charge a fee, while others are free. Check out the options available to you. 
  • Meet with a peer wellness coach. Peer wellness coaches are trained students who can help you meet new people, make friends, create study plans, practice self-care, set goals and more. Coaching sessions are free and open to all CU Boulder students. 

Attend Office Hours

Professors hold scheduled office hours for students to ask questions and find support for assignments and classroom instruction. Visiting office hours early in the semester and working with your professors can build confidence as the semester progresses. Here are a few ways to make the most of meetings with your professors. 

  • Meet your professors. Even if you don’t have an academic reason to attend office hours early in the semester, you can introduce yourself to your professors and get to know them. Meeting your professors now can make it easier to go later in the semester if you have a question or need help. 
  • Be prepared. Come prepared with questions and concerns you have about the course. Office hours are helpful for a variety of reasons. You can ask questions and learn about their teaching style early in the semester. Later in the semester, you can get clarification on assignments or class material. 
  • Maximize the time. During your meeting, stay present mentally to get the most out of your professor’s time. Ask the most important questions first, bring any assignments you plan to discuss and take notes to help you better understand your questions. 
  • Follow up. After attending office hours, follow up via email and thank your professor for answering your questions. If you have unanswered questions from your meeting, include them in your follow-up email. 

Start strong this semester 

The Division of Student Affairs offers support to help students connect to resources. Whether you need academic support, help managing stress or ways to get involved, you can find help.