Why Listen to Us

It isn’t where you start that matters…It’s only where you finish.

15 min read

How To Study In College is based on the experience of two different students. One graduated in 1979 near the top of his class and the other in 2015 near the bottom. While their paths were different, they both came to the same conclusion. There is one best way to succeed in college, and this is it.

I’m Jim Siverts

The old grad

I graduated near the top of my class in college, but it didn’t start out that way. I was a horrible student in high school. In fact, I didn’t even graduate with my class. I was pumping gas when my relatives convinced me to go to college. They saved my life.

I struggled my first semester but I loved college and wanted to do as well as I possibly could. I knew what I was doing wasn’t working out and I started reading everything I could find on how to study effectively. That helped a lot.

In a way, I was lucky. I didn’t play college sports and only had to work a part-time job. I had plenty of time to get things done.

College wasn’t easy, but I was disciplined. I developed certain behaviors that helped me avoid distractions and gave me a serious focus on my academic work. I also used certain study techniques that helped me better retain what I learned and made it much easier to prepare for exams.

Soon I was getting perfect grades almost every time and I wasn’t stressed at all. I always got things done and had plenty of time for fun. I didn’t realize it then, but I had developed a system – a consistent way of doing things in a way that delivered a predictable result every time.

It had become a habit. I didn’t even have to think about it. From the time I got up in the morning until I went to bed, I did things the same way every day.

You can learn more about how this site came to be here, but fast forward many years. I had the opportunity to know another student whose story is a lot different than mine.

I’m Petr Placek

The recent grad

I am the guy who was not at the top of his class, but it didn’t start out that way.

I came to the US from the Czech Republic when I was 15 to play hockey at a boarding school in Connecticut. Like most high school students, every minute of my life was scheduled. Extracurriculars were required. We couldn’t miss class. There was a required 2-hour study hall every night and curfew at midnight.

It was very hard to slip up. Classrooms were small and teachers always had time to interact with us one on one. I thrived.

So what the hell happened to me in college?

Good question. I was drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers right out of high school and came to Harvard with aspirations to succeed on and off the ice. Freshman year, Jim showed me how to study and how to get good grades in college just like he did. It all made sense but I didn’t listen. Whatever the reason was, not following his advice was a very bad idea.

You see, when you lose your supporting environment that enforces your good study habits (your parents or a boarding school in my case), add chronic back pain and a bunch of other injuries to the mix, combine all of that with a busy hockey schedule, and THEN sprinkle the freedom of college on top – you have a recipe for a disaster.

I stopped playing hockey my junior year due to injuries and I thought that my grades would improve, but I was already so far behind and depressed that I struggled just to keep my head above the water. I graduated on time, but my grades were worse than I had hoped.

I had a lot of excuses, but in the end, I just never made effective studying a habit.

After I graduated, it took me a LOOONG time to get a job. The wait got very uncomfortable. Staying at your girlfriend’s house as a graduate isn’t where all the hype is, trust me. You can read my full story here.

The reason why I helped Jim develop the Shovel Study System is that I don’t want others to struggle the same way I did. It’s unnecessary.

Anyways, after four long months of gardening and shoveling literal horse shit, I had the opportunity to work in New York City on a skyscraper project called the Steinway Tower as an assistant project manager. What an amazing building! I mean look at it. What a beast!

What I learned on the construction site was that if someone was able to build that skyscraper, you could get through college with A’s.

On my first day, I thought that the construction site was absolute mayhem. Over 200 people running all over the place, bundles of rebar everywhere, trucks coming in and out, demolition here, pouring concrete there, crane lifting loads from the street… it was never-ending. All of this was happening at the same time on a small lot in the heart of NYC. How the hell was this giant going to rise up? I was baffled.

But after a while on the job, I started to understand. There was a system to all this madness and it was controlled by my boss, the project manager. He had a plan for every day and stuck to it.

So what about you? How can you manage your time and workload the exact same way? You can and we’re going to show you how. I’m going to let Jim give you the overview.

Note: At the bottom of each page, you’ll see the time it took to read each page. You’ll understand why that matters soon enough!

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