Contributing Writer

As we get this new school year started, here are some of the study habit traps we all fall into from time to time. When you finally break down and study (hopefully not the night before the exam) you should always avoid…

5. Nesting
It happens all the time: before students can study, they must arrange the pillows in just the right way; turn Mozart to just the right volume; have all the highlighters in just the right order; and wear lucky underwear.

When we study we insist we need a nest—a cozy home around us so we are at our most comfortable. Unfortunately, as we spend minute after dragging minute building our nest we cut further and further into our precious studying time. Nesting is a perfect example of procrastination; we can’t bear the thought of studying and working, so we make excuses to put it off as long as we can.

4. Practicing the Easy Stuff
As a baby, once you mastered crawling did you keep on crawling forever just because you had perfected the skill? No, you worked on the next big step; you walked, and then you ran.

We all want to feel good about ourselves, and we all want to feel smart. So, with a daunting task like studying for an exam, we reassure ourselves by looking over material we already know we can grasp. When studying for Calculus, a math major might practice solving 2x + 8 = 3 instead of working on advanced material he struggles with.

To learn, we have to practice the next skill; by studying 2+2 you’ll never learn the quadratic formula.

3. Blaming the Instructors
“I’m so screwed on this test! How could he give us a test today of all days? Doesn’t he know we have other classes to study for? I might as well just give up now. I’ll never pass this class, why am I even bothering to study?”

Stop. You’re paralyzing yourself before you even begin—all the excuses in the world won’t change the looming fact that you need to study.

Much like with nest building, you’re just procrastinating and putting off studying by blaming others for your unwillingness to learn the material. In the end, however, all you’ve done is convince yourself that studying is a lost cause, and you’ve given yourself the perfect excuse to goof off on Facebook and Twitter instead of just cracking down and studying your hardest.

2. Reckless Highlighting
During a movie montage—accompanied by some inspirational 80’s rock—we know that the main character is studying hard because she’s surrounded by books, her hair is a mess, and her highlighter flies across the pages until they look like a preschool coloring book. So when we study, we assume that we’ll learn the same way—somehow absorbing the information we highlight via osmosis. However, after all of our extensive coloring we realize we haven’t learned a thing, we blame the instructors, the lectures, or the books.

Highlighting may look impressive—a well-highlighted book exudes the appearance that the reader gleaned all sorts of brilliance from it. When in reality he was doing nothing more than coloring.

1. Getting “Help” With Your Homework
Everyone knows that plagiarism is a no-no: we’ve been told our whole lives that the police will track us down if we so much as think about using copy and paste. So, rather than ripping off the nearest Wikipedia entry, we form a study group with our smartest peers. But, after one of those helpful study sessions, you might find that you’re coming out knowing as little as going in.

Your homework might be done, but you don’t understand a word of it; in a study group like this you’ll inevitably write down every thing the smartest person says, taking their word for it that they know the material, and crippling your own ability to understand the next day’s lecture.

Questions? Email Charlotte at

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