Let’s face it, most students put off studying until the last minute and then cram a giant study session into the night before an exam, causing stress and desks to explode with coffee stained study guides.
So how do some people seem to perfect this into an art, with minimal stress and good grades to put on their procrastination certificate? Well, I’ve gathered a few tips and found, from several years of experience myself, that there are a few must-haves to make an all-nighter successful — as in less unpleasant while still getting a good grade.
The first thing to do seems obvious, yet surprisingly not everybody does it — print out a copy of the study guide. Don’t just download it, print it so that you can bring a hard copy anywhere to write notes on or jot down page numbers to reference as you study, regardless of if there’s WiFi or if your device has battery. Not only does this give you a set of guidelines of what to study for, it’s a great starting point for figuring out how to study. Most study guides will have the readings covered so you can go back and fill holes while many list the major concepts to review, which basically gives you a checklist to define and review.
Tip: Go through and start with concepts you don’t remember or are the most difficult to define so that you do not end up starting to review the difficult stuff at four in the morning.
The next thing is to get “in the zone”. This might mean something different for everybody, but the majority of people I’ve talked to find the right music playlist or station to help get them there. Finding the right music or white noise helps people block out distractions and focus on the monotonous task in front of them. I, personally, like to listen to rainfall and thunder or music without lyrics when I study, since lyrics can be distracting for me. There are several mobile apps for white noise, with sounds from that of a cat purring to monks chanting and other random sounds that help some people focus. Others like to listen to jazz music while others still rock out to music to get them motivated.
Tip: If you can’t find the right music, don’t waste time going through your music library — pick a pre-made study music station or download a white noise app so that you can get back to studying.
If you find it hard to stay “in the zone”, even with the right music, it could be because you need to do something fidgety or are hungry. Chewing gum works well, as does light snacking. Obviously, snacking for every all-nighter in college might be a contributing factor to the “freshman-15”, so be careful with what you pick. Some great snacks I love for studying are popcorn (of course), apple slices and pomegranate seeds, when they are in season, as they’re great to munch on mindlessly. Just knowing that if you finish a section you can eat more snacks helps keep your mind from wandering and takes away any excuses to go get more food.
After getting in the zone, you might easily crank out some work and feel accomplished for a while, and hey — maybe you can get done in time for a few hours sleep! All seems well until the clock strikes 3 am and you suddenly can’t keep your eyes open anymore. That is when it’s time to break out the coffee, if you haven’t already that is. Luckily, some places on campus have the express open until late, but sadly they are not always open through the night when you need it most. Granted, some coffee shops near campus are open all night and are available to anybody who desperately needs coffee and has no means to make it themselves. However, I get uncomfortable walking half-asleep across campus at 3 am. So, to people like me, invest in coffee makers in your dorm or, if you live off-campus, for somewhere in your kitchen. Granted, the home brewed stuff isn’t usually as sweet or foamy as a fresh latte, but it serves its purpose. For those, like me, who can’t swallow black coffee, try this to make you own “latte.”
- Fill a mug 3/4 of the way with milk and heat it up in the microwave
- Pour the hot milk into a water bottle that seals tight and shake like crazy until it’s foamy
- Pour the foamy milk back into the mug and add hot coffee (made like normal)
- Flavor to taste with sugar, chocolate or whatever you normally like (a squirt of Hersey’s chocolate syrup isn’t too bad if you like mochas)
You can also buy personal espresso machines and fancy syrups around town or online if you want to be an expert at late night coffee.
Tip: Don’t like coffee at all? Hot Chocolate also works, as does a good cup of tea — anything sippable to keep you moving.
Be prepared, all-nighters are a fact of life in college. If you miraculously have been able to get away with no all-nighter practice, you could also set alarms to make sure you don’t fall asleep (every hour if necessary). It might be a pain for your roommate but hey, gotta get those grades! So get out those stacks of books and be ready for a messy desk by morning — it’s study time.
Collegian writer Anna Hoover can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @annahoover17. Leave a comment!