Experts Reveal the Keys to Successful Study Habits

We all have habits; some are good habits, others are not. One way to increase the likelihood of success in your educational pursuits is to consciously maintain productive and intentional learning habits. While it is debatable how long it takes to break a bad habit or instill a healthy one; one thing is for certain--cultivating positive study habits is essential to pursuing a degree in counseling, therapy, social work and psychology.  See our piece on obtaining better grades. We asked various psychology experts to share the secret to their learning habits; the ones which helped them to succeed scholastically. Here is what they said:

Allison Buskirk-CohenDr. Allison A. Buskirk-Cohen, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor in the Counseling Psychology Department of Liberal Arts at Delaware Valley College in Doylestown, PA. She advises,

The best way to approach learning is to realize it’s an active process. You need to ask questions, make personal connections to the material, and review information. Complete your assigned readings before class so you have an idea of what to expect. When you take notes, focus on the main points. You can always go back to the professor for more details. Form study groups and meet regularly to discuss the information. Talk about how the concepts relate to your life, a character in a movie, a song on the radio, an assignment from another class. The more connections you can make, the better. You’re creating multiple pathways in your brain so that when it comes time to use that material, you’ll have no problem remembering it!

Michael TheisenMichael Theisen, M.A., is a Professor of Psychology at City University of Seattle; a private nonprofit university dedicated to serving working adults and transfer students looking to start, change, or grow their careers. Dr. Theisen shares with us,

I think most importantly it is important to be a critical learner. What I mean by this is that when you read course material or are involved in any part of the learning process in the course, that you reflect on the material from your own perspective and experience in life. As I noted in question two, we all can learn from one another, and what this means for me is that we take all academic information in with a respectful and critical eye.

Jenny YipDr. Jenny Yip, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist who specializes in OCD and anxiety. Dr. Yip is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Southern California - Keck School of Medicine. She shares,

When you're learning, it's important to be productive and focused. Students can accomplish this by scheduling daily tasks in a to-do list. Break down work into 15 minute time slots. Each time you've accomplished an item, you'll feel rewarded, which will boost your motivation forward.

Jessi LailJessi Lail, MA, earned her Master’s Degree in Psychology from New Mexico State University, where she has also been a professor and departmental advisor,

Never sit in the back of class thinking that you can passively learn. Though a lot of major universities have enormous class sizes, create study groups where you can debate course topics. When someone challenges your opinion or what you held to be true, you have to have the knowledge to defend that. A lot of that knowledge stems from research that you do and that ends up being your strength and helps to cement that information in your mind. If you can't do that, taking good notes and practicing what you learned helps. When I learned about operant conditioning in undergrad, I spent the next week performing conditioning experiments on my family!

Emma MansourDr. Emma Mansour has a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology and has taught numerous undergraduate psychology courses (i.e. Developmental Psychology, Group Counseling, Personality Psychology).

Given the amount of information one has to learn, memorization is inevitable. However, memorization is easier if the student can find a way to apply or relate the information to their own lives or to people they know. Elaborating on and relating to the information will make the information much more relatable and easier to understand.

Misha GranadoMisha Granado, MPH, MS has her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology, her Master’s Degree in Community Psychology and a Master’s Degree in Public Health (emphasis on Behavioral Health);

When I am in a learning environment I totally immerse myself into the new space, attempting to learn as much as I can and utilize various resources in order to receive various perspectives. I also ask questions for clarity, and finally, I take the concept and apply it to my world, this always makes the concept and/or new information come alive and real for me.

Lori WoodringLori Woodring, Ph.D., is a psychologist licensed in NY and CT. She received her undergraduate degree in Human Development and Family Studies from Cornell University and her graduate degrees (MS, PD, PhD) from Fordham University. She has also taught in the Graduate School of Education at Fordham (NYC),

In a learning environment, the best learning habits for students are to be good listeners. There is much to be learned from professors and peers, and students need to develop the skill of asking challenging questions to both professors and peers. A well-read and prepared student is paramount.

Leslie DavenportLeslie Davenport, MFT, is a licensed MFT in practice for more than 20 years, teaches at two Universities and is a published author,

Self care. It's easy to get focused on memorizing the material and completing papers, which is important. But unless you eat and sleep well, and have some time for enjoyment and stepping away, it will be difficult to endure the academic and clinical journey.

Ultimately, your study habits will reflect your personal capabilities and past experiences. The point is to never stop looking for superior ways to do something. If it works don’t fix it; but if it’s merely adequate, consider replacing it. You’ve got what it takes to be more than a mediocre student; you can be an excellent one.