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Teen study tips that pay off in school and life

On September 20, 2011

  • Experts say critcal study habits that will impact students in college begin in middle school.

(ARA) - In the balancing act of life, teens who juggle school with activities, like social networking and sports, typically find that studying is the ball that gets dropped most often. Poor study habits extend beyond middle and high school to damage a teen's ability to succeed in college. But with parents' help, teens can break poor habits and learn a solid study routine that leads to college success.

The roots of the study problem lie in kids' lack of time management and organization, and it can begin as early as seventh grade, according to Dr. Robert Neuman, former associate dean for academic development at Marquette University. During his 25 years of working with thousands of college students, he discovered a set of key study problems that cause students to either drop out or take years longer to graduate.

"Only one in three college students graduate from a four-year program on time," says Neuman. In today's economy, neither parents nor students can afford the financial drain resulting from not being prepared with a complete set of strong learning strategies.

Even students who get good grades in high school may struggle later because they have honed last-minute cramming to a fine art, Neuman says. "Their test grades are often good and might get them into college, but students won't have the knowledge a professor expects since it has evaporated within weeks of cramming."

Neuman has written a book to help students practice "effective, productive study" long before they get to college: "Are You REALLY Ready For College? A Dean's 12 Secrets for Success." He says parents should guide students as early as middle school to use simple tactics that will make all the difference in college. Here are some examples:

Learning self-management

Do your teens know where their time goes? They need a plan, and it should include daily study time for each course as well as giving additional time to harder courses. This takes organization.

  • Always use a day-planner. Planners help teens "see" and manage what they are doing: Study, music lessons, extracurricular activities, cell phone time, TV, and team practices. If teens can't fit everything in when they write it all down, they're overbooked. Being crunched for time leads to added stress and falling behind in classes.
  • Limit extracurriculars. Teens should participate in no more than three extracurricular activities -- they squeeze out study time. And if activities call for large time commitments, like school plays and competitive sports, one activity is probably plenty.
  • Keep track of key due dates. Kids should transfer dates for tests and major assignments to their day planner and refer to it daily so events don't creep up and catch them unprepared.
  • Use the "never-no-homework" rule. When students don't get a homework assignment, they should still use time to study the subject: re-read a chapter; copy and reorganize class notes or formulas; make charts, flashcards, and timelines to help learn the material.
  • Create a noise-free zone. Real studying occurs in quiet places without cell calls or Internet socializing creating constant interruptions. Social lives can be turned back on when study is finished.

Preventing problems down the road

Students must practice and strengthen these kinds of study tactics during middle and high school. Why? In college, no one will guide their behavior. That's why parental coaching is so important now.

"If your teens were inexperienced campers, you wouldn't simply drop them off in the woods and tell them you'll see them next week," Neuman says. The same is true of college.

Parents should view themselves as coaches helping their teen at home by monitoring study time, tracking their grades, and coaching them to seek help when needed -- before they take a test.

College is full of distractions and temptations to skip studying. The solid study habits you nurture early will pay off later in an on-time college graduation and money saved. Get more tips from the Are You Really Ready for College website at

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