Table of Contents

self study tips for adult students

Self Study Tips for Adult Students

An adult student has the burden of balancing family, work, and personal responsibilities, all while keeping their grades up, young students usually don’t.

So, many adult students turn to self-study to get ahead, but not everyone does well in this. A lot of learners, including myself, have trouble teaching themselves and thrive on passive learning.

If you’re like this, it does not mean that you cannot self-study, but rather, you need to adjust your studying habits in order to absorb the information better.

To help you make your studying effective, I’ve compiled the following list of self study tips for adult students so you can achieve your academic goals.

7 Self Study Tips for Adult Students

By setting goals and priorities, engaging in active learning processes, maximizing your use of available resources, and testing yourself, you can easily retain a lot of information without cramming for hours. 

Here are some self study tips for adult students to succeed —

1. Pay Attention in Class

Students, especially adult learners, are always in a hurry to get through class so that they can cram the information on their own. This is a sure-way method to ruin your information retention.

Your first and foremost priority is to make the most out of all your lectures by being attentive and active. Here’s how to do this—

  • Write Down Notes

Note taking can help you deepen your understanding and improve your memory of what you’ve learned. Doing this in class will help you be attentive and focused on the topic at hand.

  • Make a List of Questions

While taking notes, also leave some space for questions. Think deeply about what you’re learning, and note down your struggles. Then, when your teacher asks for questions, take your queries up with them.

  • Observe Which Topics Your Teacher Focuses Most on

Your teacher has their own teaching method that pertains to their preferences. Studying the topics that your professor is most passionate about can help you learn.

Since your teacher is well-informed on the subject, focusing on the information they stress on can help you prioritize the topics you study.

2. Set Clear and Realistic Goals

Before you start learning a course, set goals for yourself to have a clear idea of what you need to learn and the time you have for it.

Ask yourself these questions—

  • What is my purpose for studying this subject?
  • What will be the benefits of learning this topic?
  • How will this help me in my career or personal life?

Specifying your goals and keeping them reasonable will help you focus on your efforts and make consistent progress.

For example, instead of vaguely saying, “I want to learn Spanish,” say, “I want to pass the B2 level exam in Spanish by the end of this year.”

3. Choose the Right Resources

There are endless academic resources available on the internet. Books, online courses, podcasts, videos, and apps are just some examples.

But, you may find that not all of them are suitable for your needs or preferences. This is why you need to assess which ones match your learning style, ability, and interests.

For instance, if you are a visual learner, you may prefer watching videos or using flashcards to learn. If you are an auditory learner, you may prefer listening to audiobooks or podcasts instead.

These are some ways to make the most of your resources—

  • Take notes of the key information when you read or during your lectures.
  • After learning the information, discuss it with others or teach it to a friend.
  • Connect what you learn with reality by finding real world examples.
  • Work with study groups or connect with mentors, tutors, or coaches.
  • Make your own study guide to refer to before exams for revision.
  • When memorizing, use mnemonic devices such as poems, acronyms, or songs.
  • Don’t be afraid to use a combination of all these resources to enhance your learning experience.

4. Make a Study Plan and Schedule

Go through your learning objectives, assess the syllabus for each of your courses, take note of important submission dates and exams. Then, make a schedule for your year or at least the semester.

From this schedule, begin making your study plan. This will help you organize your time and stay on track of everything. With this plan, you can decide how much time to allocate to self studying each day or week leading up to your exams.

You will also need to plan which topics you need to cover in each of your sessions and how to revise them before exam days.

For instance, use a calendar or planner (preferably Google Calendar so you can make quick changes and have it on you at all times) to mark your study days and hours.

Write down the specific tasks or objectives you will need to do in each session. Set reminders and alarms for them to help you stick to your schedule.

5. Use Active Learning Strategies

Active learning is when you engage with what you’re learning using multiple studying methods instead of passively reading or listening to it.

It includes using learning strategies such as summarizing, asking questions, taking notes, making mind maps, and applying what you’ve learned by testing yourself or teaching others.

Other active learning strategies include—

  • Class Discussions
  • Group Activities and Collaborative Projects
  • Think-Pair-Share
  • Case Studies
  • Peer Teaching
  • Debates
  • Problem-Based Learning (PBL)
  • Simulations and Role-Playing
  • Jigsaw Technique
  • Interactive Quizzes and Polls
  • Concept Mapping
  • Peer Review
  • Mnemonic Devices and Visualization
  • Brainstorming

These strategies can help you deepen your understanding and help you retain what you learned better. This will not only improve your learning skills but your memory!

For example, after reading a chapter from a book or watching a lecture, you can write down the key points and ask yourself questions about the topics to quiz yourself.

When you write something after studying, you’re processing the info from the study session in your own words, which is easier for you to process and of course, to remember.

You can even explain the topic to someone else and have them question you.

 Add another heading

6. Seek Feedback and Support

Self studying does not mean locking yourself in your room alone with your textbooks.

You can benefit immensely from getting feedback and support from others who are learning the same topic as you or have more experience in the field of study.

This provides you with validation of your study, which in result, boosts memory and confidence.

Join online forums, groups, or communities where you can ask questions, exchange notes, share ideas, or discuss problems with other learners.

If you have friends who study the same topic, organize group study sessions to help each other understand the material better.

Because any topic can be analyzed from different perspectives and if you’re lucky enough, you may find the easiest way to understand it through socialization.

Aside from this, you can also reach out to a mentor, tutor, or coach who can help guide you, clear your doubts, and give you helpful and constructive feedback.

Don’t forget to assess your own strengths and weaknesses, and give yourself feedback by identifying areas of improvement.

7. Reward Yourself and Celebrate Achievements

Studying on its own is hard, but self studying takes another mile. But you can make this less of a chore and more fun and rewarding. Recognize your efforts and keep track of your achievements so that you can treat yourself for them.

You can reward yourself with something that makes you happy or motivates you to keep studying, such as buying a new book, eating a treat, or simply taking a break.

Rewards trigger a positive feedback response in our brains, which helps us to associate tasking activities, such as studying, with good emotions. This, in return lowers your stress levels and makes you like studying.

Study Habits to Avoid as an Adult Learner

If you’ve tried all the study tips and are still not able to learn effectively, then it’s probably because you haven’t cut out bad study habits. Unfortunately, many learners have counterproductive studying habits without realizing it.

But there are simple ways to identify and prevent them from taking over your study sessions. Here are some study habits to avoid as an adult learner —


Many students will cram a number of topics together into one session. While you may feel confident in being able to cram chunks of information in a few hours, it’s only going to lower your grades and affect your health. It isn’t practical.

When you cram, the information overload causes you to forget a lot of what you’ve studied. On the contrary, studying little by little every day can help you retain the information and actually understand it.


While many people view multitasking as a mark of intelligence, it’s actually harmful to do this when you’re studying.

Multitasking during study sessions reduces your productivity and focus drastically.

It makes it harder for you to concentrate on one task at a time and splits your focus into multiple different things. Plus, it increases the chances of you giving up studying altogether for distractions such as TV, social media, or phone calls.

Listening to Music

It’s an ongoing debate on whether music is good for focus or not.

But, when it comes to studying, you need to make sure all forms of distractions are cut out and your focus is solely on the material you’re learning. So, music becomes a detrimental factor.

Music, whether instrumental or lyrical, divides your attention while studying. Your “inner voice” while studying becomes muted due to the music, which makes it harder for your mind to process and store information.

Even though it takes time to master this, it’s one of the best solutions for those who have ADHD.

Skipping Classes

Your lectures may seem like a chore, but they’re your ultimate learning resource.

Classes give you the opportunity to have your material explained to you thoroughly by an expert on the subject and give you space to clear your queries.

Moreover, you might miss out on vital information shared by your teacher regarding tests and exams if you skip classes.

Not Making an Outline

Most students go by the syllabus handed to them or make a rough to-do list. This is not practical and students end up deviating from it.

Instead, make a clear outline of what you need to study, important deadlines and test dates, and revision days. A study plan and schedule will help you stick to your studies and keep track of your progress.

Not having an outline to refer back to is also the reason why most students end up procrastinating, forgetting important submission dates, and cramming right before exams.


The worst habit a learner can have is constant procrastination. This is when you put off your work until the very last minute, and it comes with long days of guilt and regret.

Procrastinating is highly counterproductive as it lowers the quality of your work and puts your mind under a surplus amount of stress. This can put you at risk of failing a course.

While you may feel confident that you can put off studying, the effort it took for you to avoid the work is far greater than actually doing it.

Pulling an All Nighter

Aside from cramming and procrastination, many students also tend to pull all-nighters for exams, assignments, and presentations.

Whether you’ve been procrastinating or are simply on a motivation kick, you should never pull all-nighters.

Working continuously for long hours uninterruptedly puts your mind under immense pressure, which drastically decreases the quality of your work. Plus, it throws off your sleep schedule, which puts your body at risk of many illnesses.

Eating Unhealthy Food

Alongside maintaining a good sleeping schedule, you should also avoid unhealthy eating habits. Many students overlook this and fill themselves with junk food and caffeine continuously. This, in return weakens their bodies, tires them, and puts them at risk of developing serious diseases.

Eat well-balanced meals with vegetables, fruits, grains, and protein to upkeep your energy levels and protect your body’s natural immunity. Also, make sure to eat on time and avoid skipping meals.


Self studying is a powerful tool learners can use to absorb and apply any type of information. It only requires minor adjustments to your daily habits to do this effectively.

I hope my self study tips for adult learners have helped you find your own path to improvement. Remember that self studying is a process that requires dedication and discipline, but also motivation and courage. Happy learning!

Emily Watson
All Posts
Recent Posts
back2college logo

At Back2College, we’re firm believers that the pursuit of knowledge is an ageless odyssey.