How To Survive College: How To Survive Your Manuals

As you may or may not know (if you don’t: where have you been all this time?!?): I’m a college student. And because I do take on quite an extra load of work (extra courses, a job, extracurricular activities) and still do manage to get quite good marks (in general, there’s exceptions to every rule), I have been told that I’m pretty good at the whole studying thing.
What’s more, I have been asked how exactly I do it, and seeing how as “no sleep, no life” apparently wasn’t a sufficient answer, I figured I’d write some of my tips down here!
Now, this might just be me, but I have some professors that, I think, are really just trying to see how many pages they can force us to read – there’s the 600-pages-long manuals, that have nothing to do, really, with what’s being said in class, a gazillion pages’ worth of set reading, and some papers to top it off – sound in any way familiar? Then read on to see how you can survive your manuals!


First things first – if your professor assigned you a manual, you’re supposed to know everything in it (unless, of course explicitly stated otherwise).
It doesn’t matter if they say anything about it, it doesn’t matter if they said something in class that was actually contradictory to what’s in your manual – if it’s in there, you’re supposed to know it.

Of course, this also goes for any form of assigned reading.
Two of my courses last year required me to read 100s of pages’ worth of papers concerning the course – we didn’t really talk about the papers in debt during class, but that didn’t change the fact that I was supposed to know all of this:

If it doesn’t look that bad – let me just tell you that there’s approximately 850 pages in there. And that I also had a separate manual.
So here’s the first tip: start in time. There’s only so much you can do within a day, and if you can at all get your papers, or manuals, before school starts, take an hour a day to just read some of it – you’ll be thankful when school starts and you have quite a bit more leeway because you got a head start!
Second tip: highlight – if it’s important, make sure you can see it.
You can do this with markers, with pen, with pencil – it really doesn’t matter, as long as you can understand it.
For example, coming back to the papers you saw above, I didn’t really have to know any names or works mentioned in there, but it was important that I know what point the writer was making – so basically, I highlighted the white out of those papers:
Of course, if you actually have to more than just “the important bits”, just highlighting probably isn’t going to cut it – and that’s where my third tip comes in handy: colour code!
This is totally going to come back in one of my next posts, when I talk about how to actually get everything studied (if you want to read the other posts in this series: you can find them here!), but, yeah, colour coding – it’s a thing!
 There are, of course multiple ways to do this – again: you have to find what works for you, not what supposedly ‘works’ in general! – but I personally prefer to keep the same system throughout my books. In action, that makes my manuals look something like this:

Now, this isn’t a colouring book – I promise –  but this way of highlighting helps me immensely for manuals where I mainly have to be able to combine the information with what we saw in class. In this case, orange (or pink) is for dates, purple for names, green for places and yellow for titles of works – in other words: the moment I open this book up, I can immediately see which author wrote which work where in what year, and that was what I was supposed to study for this particular course.

However, for the following course, my professor was more interested in discussing what tendencies could be found in the works of particular authors, or, for example, in the romantic movement, etc

 

In other words:  I had to know more than just dates, names, and titles, I also had to know what was the link between those elements  which is where underlining comes in: if you’re already using highlights to colour codes, this is a helpful addition which allows for a further way of marking things – those of lesser importance than what you highlighted, but still important enough that you want to be able to see them very easily.
Or, of course, in the case of this particular manual: as a variant of highlighting, because I didn’t have any markers when I started on this book, and I couldn’t change my method half way through the books – it happens to the best of us right?

So there you have it, some tips on how to handle your manuals! Of course, the most important things are very simply this:
1) find a method that works for you – something that allows you to open your book and immediately know what that particular page is talking about.
2) start early – this is basically the first thing I mentioned anyways, but I cannot tell you enough how important this is: the easiest way not to fall behind is to make sure you stay ahead – and just about the only way to do that is to start early!

And of course: don’t forget to check back in for the next post, which will be up this Saturday!

-Saar