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How to become a highly effective student: Six tips for succeeding in higher education

How you study is almost as important as what you study. In fact, how you study can make an impact on other areas of your life, including your relationships, health and non-school activities.

For example, college students are becoming more effective studiers by using technology to play to their strengths—more than 80 percent of students now study on a mobile device, and 77 percent report that technology has improved their grades.

But tech tools will only take you so far. Your mental and physical environments also play a big role in how successful you’ll be as a student.

Here are six ways to improve how you study as a student at University of Phoenix:

1. Clear your workspace. Where you study should be a different place than where you do other activities. “The only things on that table should be whatever it is that you’re studying, whatever course you’re taking, nothing else,” says Quynh Nguyen, a Los Angeles-based learning strategist who works with students at all levels to reach their learning goals. If you’re studying in a communal space such as a coffee shop or library, go to one you designate solely for that purpose. “If you have bills to pay, if you have something else to do, don’t bring it along.”

2. Communicate with your family and roommates. You have to set expectations with the people you live with. “There’s going to be some transition period of being around each other and doing this, but at least put it out there so that you can have that support system,” Nguyen says.

3. Build a relationship with your instructors. “Your instructor, aside from the materials that you’re given, is your biggest asset,” Nguyen says. If you have a great relationship in place, you’ll have an easier time asking for help when you need it.

4. Collaborate. Even if you prefer to work independently, take some time to study with peers and participate in your study groups. “That feeling of being not alone and having a support network both inside and outside of your classroom is really important,” Nguyen says.

5. Mind your health. Exercise is extremely important, but don’t make it a burden. Do something you enjoy when you work out. Is it high intensity? Is it low intensity? Is it repetitive? Is it swimming or jogging? Find out what brings your body to a state of calm before you sit down to your coursework.

6. Take effective breaks. No one works well for four hours straight. Shutting off your focus also helps your brain access solutions you might not if you’re looking directly at the problem. “That’s actually just the way the brain works,” says Nguyen. “It’s like your musclesany muscle. If you want it to work, you need to give it a break.”

The most common barrier to success isn’t someone’s capacity to learn, it’s the fear of not being good enough, says Nguyen. “Once you have a good understanding of how you work best, you’ll be able to focus and learn the material better and thus feel more confident,” she says. “This understanding, along with taking the material step by step, will help you barrel through things that you think are really hard.”