You’ve taken your final exams, turned in your final projects, and completed your classes for the term – congratulations! However, learning is a cumulative process; even though classes end, you will need to take steps to retain the skills and knowledge you acquired so you can apply them to future courses and projects. Whether you are progressing to a more advanced level of a subject, beginning work on a thesis, or practicing your skills in an internship, it’s important to keep knowledge fresh in your mind and have materials easily accessible for reference when necessary.
This section offers short- and long-term strategies for maintaining your studies after classes end. Keep in mind that the content of some subjects changes more frequently than others. For example, computer programming languages change regularly, and healthcare best practices are continually updated, but anatomy and physiology terms and mathematical theorems stay the same. For fields that are constantly evolving, you will have to be even more proactive to stay up-to-date.
7 tips for maintaining your studies
Just after the exam
#1: Save your textbooks and other reading assignments
Because textbooks are typically expensive, it can be tempting and sometimes necessary to sell them back at the end of the term. However, textbooks are also key reference materials that will be useful to you in the future, especially if they are relevant to your career, or if you made notes in them. The same goes for any individual book chapters or articles your instructor assigned during class. Whenever possible, keep your textbooks instead of re-selling them, and hang on to other reading materials instead of discarding them. These materials will come in handy if you attend graduate school, teach, or need a refresher in certain skills or concepts when you land a new job.
#2: Keep and organize your notebooks
Throughout the course, you should have been taking detailed notes to help you study and understand the course content. Even though the class has ended, these notes are still beneficial because they serve as a record of what your professor emphasized during class, and explain concepts in an easily understandable way. As with your textbooks and reading assignments, you will likely find it necessary or helpful to reference these notes and handouts in the future.
Once the term ends, take a few minutes to go through your notes for each class. Discard any irrelevant materials, organize the remaining notes and handouts in a binder or folder, label it with the course title and term, and store the notes in a safe place. Develop a storage system that works for you. For example, you may want to group your notes together by subject, or by the term you took the classes. The key is having these materials easily accessible so that you can locate critical information when you need it, whether it’s two semesters or ten years later.
#3: Backup your data
Backing up data is important for any digital media that you recorded during your courses, from tape-recordings to videos of lectures, as well as for assignments you created for class, like papers and projects. As with your written notes, you may want to access lecture videos for reference in the future. Keeping written assignments or digital media projects is important as you may need to submit academic writing samples for graduate school applications, or have a portfolio of work to show potential employers.
Whether you backup your data in the cloud or on a device, it’s worth it to take this step in case something happens to your computer. Also, keep your disks and license keys for software, as changes in drivers and display equipment can change your works dramatically.
Next semester and next year
#4: Stay in touch with your instructors and peers
You likely developed favorite teachers and study partners, even if it was an informal arrangement based on having several classes together. Maintaining connections with these individuals is a key part of being successful after college. Instructors are a great resource for guidance, work and internship opportunities, and future career or education paths. Whether you are joining the workforce right after graduation, or continuing on to graduate school, you will need references, and professors are a good go-to for these recommendations. Keep in touch with faculty you admire and get along with, through email, social media, or visiting them during office hours.
Beyond providing a social network and support throughout your degree program, your peers are also a useful resource. As you head out into the workforce, classmates become colleagues, and you can help each other by providing work opportunities and references. Even if you don’t have classes together anymore, stay connected to peers in person and on social media.
#5: Join a professional organization
Most fields of study have a professional association of experienced professionals and students pursuing a career in that discipline. These groups typically organize conferences, publish journals, and offer continuing education and networking opportunities. Being a student member of your professional association helps you start developing your professional identity, connects you to your industry’s community, and gives you insight into the practical aspects of your career field. Some professional associations also offer scholarships for research, conference attendance, or general tuition assistance. Student members often pay a discounted membership fee.
After graduation and going forward!
#6: Continue your education
Earning your bachelor’s degree does not mean your education is complete. Some professions require a graduate degree before you can enter the field, or continuing education to maintain credentials. Even if your job doesn’t have these requirements, taking continuing education classes is a great way to keep your skills sharp and gain new aptitudes that make you an attractive job candidate.
There are a number of ways to participate in continuing education opportunities. Most universities offer continuing education classes for adult learners, at a lower rate than classes in their degree programs. Professional associations or local community organizations may offer classes and workshops. For distance learners, a wide range of open courseware and massive open online courses (MOOC) are available in many subjects, from colleges all over the world, with more being offered every term.
#7: Pursue publishing opportunities
Even if you are working in a field not known for many research opportunities, professional associations and industry websites welcome articles related to the field. The process of researching and writing articles for publication is an excellent refresher on many of the basics of research methodology and the writing style and conventions within your discipline. It will also help you gain new insight and unique experiences that add to your expertise in the field, and help boost your resume.
If the thought of publishing in a professional journal is daunting, contact former instructors or peers, and ask about collaborating on research projects. Collaborating can help you learn about other approaches to research and give you a different perspective on a topic or trend within your industry.