The Beginnings Of
How To Study In College
Most big ideas start with something small. How To Study In College began with a simple request – “can you tell my kids what you did to be successful in college.”
I was a horrible student when I was in high school but I turned it around in college and made pretty much perfect grades. I went on to law school and on to a successful career.
Many years later my nephew was about to head off to college too. My brother asked me to tell him some of the things that I did in to get good grades. I wrote a few emails explaining what I did and why I thought they worked for me. Pretty soon I started forwarding them to others as well.
Over the years I forwarded those emails to others so many times that I decided to put them up on a website to make those ideas easier to share. I didn’t even look at it for many months but when I did, I noticed that I was getting a lot of visitors, hundreds of thousands of them. I had over two and half million page views from almost every country in the world.
Enter my partner, Petr Placek.
I’ve had the opportunity to host exchange students over many years. About ten years ago one of our Czech students invited her brother to visit for the last month of her stay.
Petr was a great hockey player. He came to the U.S. to play hockey at an elite private high school and wound up playing hockey at Harvard where he majored in Economics.
Early in his first year of college Petr called me one day and said that he was struggling in his economics class. He knew about my website and wanted to get some advice. I asked him to bring up his books, syllabus, and other materials so we could go over what he was doing.
The first problem was time. With practices, games, and social activities, college athletes never have enough of it. It is even more important for busy students to have a solid understanding of their time. Petr didn’t.
We also went through his workload, how he read his textbooks, took notes in class and studied for exams. It was clear that he wasn’t doing things efficiently or effectively.
Petr figured out how to get things done and long story short, he graduated from Harvard in 2015 and went to work as an Assistant Project Manager on a new skyscraper being currently under construction in New York.
His experience there was the beginning of the Shovel study planner app.
Petr was responsible for coordinating the endless movement of people and materials needed on a specific aspect of the project. There might be hundreds of people from many different companies and dozens of trucks dropping materials exactly when they were needed at each stage of the project.
Any mistake could create endless delays, increase costs and create even more chaos. What Petr noticed is that even on a project of massive size, things still worked. Never perfectly, but well enough to keep things moving.
How do they do that? They do it with careful planning. They know how long things take and can make very accurate estimates on when to get started.
Petr would visit my house and tell me about his work experience. We realized that trying to get things done in college is really no different. You have a big project – your semester. You have to do a whole lot of small tasks in the right order and with a high degree of quality. Getting behind on any one of them starts a cascade of problems that cause delay and reduces the quality of your work.
Sound familiar? What we realized was that there is a big difference between a construction manager and a college student. While they both know how much time they have, only one takes the time to estimate how long things are going to take.
How can they possibly do that on a project that big? The answer is experience. Everyone at every stage of the project knows how long their tasks take because they’ve done them many times before. Sure, they are often wrong, but they learn from their mistakes and get better the next time.
When I did my website, it was full of advice about managing time and understanding your workload, but I could never recommend a tool to do it. Most students run their studies directly from their syllabus, a day planner, or an online calendar. The apps that are out there are really just calendar To-Do lists. That’s not good enough.
Planning a skyscraper is way harder than planning a semester. Why couldn’t students do a study plan that the same way? One that showed them the time they really had available for study but also the time they needed to get things done.
We realized that we had to create an app that would do just that and the Shovel Study Planner was born. It gives students a way to create a highly accurate study plan. They can simply and efficiently manage their time and workload, and do it automatically, in real time.
But even that isn’t enough.
You can have all of the time in the world, but if you aren’t doing things correctly with that time, you are still going to be wasting a lot of it unnecessarily.
It’s important that students understand good study habits and methods as well. This is the ‘how’ of how to study in college. How you take notes, read your textbooks and study for exams is critical to getting the best results with every minute you have. We’ll explain how to do things from start to finish.
We don’t try to do everything. We keep it as simple as we can. We can’t cover every possible study method out there all at once. We stick to the basic behaviors and study methods that get the best results for the effort you put in. We give you the tool to manage it. We’ll add more over time.
Lastly, we need to follow up so you follow through.
We can provide college students with college study tips and a great app, but will they stick with it and get things done? I know all too well from experience that many wouldn’t.
Everyone has bought apps only to stop using them within days. We have also all bought some kind of self-help book hoping to help make us better in some way. Soon the book is on the shelf and we fall back into our old ways.
We want to make sure that doesn’t happen. We plan to follow up relentlessly to make sure that students follow through. We have to give students continuous reminders, encouragement, examples, engagement and just plain harassment all semester long.
We have to make sure you succeed or we have failed.
While you are busy learning, we are too. We know that whatever we write today may change tomorrow. There will be new ways to learn, new technologies, and new study methods. We intend to continually improve our site, our content and our app to make sure that every student has the chance to be their best. When they do, we all win.
So thanks to my brother for asking me to send that email to help my nephew do better in college. From that simple start, we hope to help millions of others do the same.