Optimizing Learning in College: Tips From Cognitive Psychology

Perspect Psychol Sci. 2016 Sep;11(5):652-660. doi: 10.1177/1745691616645770.


Every fall, thousands of college students begin their first college courses, often in large lecture settings. Many students, even those who work hard, flounder. What should students be doing differently? Drawing on research in cognitive psychology and our experience as educators, we provide suggestions about how students should approach taking a course in college. We discuss time management techniques, identify the ineffective study strategies students often use, and suggest more effective strategies based on research in the lab and the classroom. In particular, we advise students to space their study sessions on a topic and to quiz themselves, as well as using other active learning strategies while reading. Our goal was to provide a framework for students to succeed in college classes.

Keywords: college success; learning techniques; memory; metacognition; study strategies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Achievement
  • Humans
  • Learning*
  • Problem-Based Learning
  • Psychology
  • Reading
  • Students / psychology*
  • Time Management
  • Universities*