Study with me: Matthew Zehren

Matthew Zehren is a junior marketing and management & leadership major in the KU School of Business.

What types of supplies or materials do you prefer to use when studying?

I like to use sheets of computer paper when I’m studying, along with pens — the color doesn’t mater, and two or three different-colored highlighters. Computer paper gives me more freedom to organize a sheet how I want or draw diagrams.

Then, for each of my classes, I have one binder, one notebook and one folder of the same color, and I have a different color for each class — and then I’ll also have my textbook for the class with me when I’m studying.

What is your ideal environment for studying?

My couch. It’s comfy. Occasionally, I’ll study on my bed, but I mostly just like to be on my couch.

Do you have a common routine for studying?

It depends on the class, but generally, I like taking notes by hand in a notebook in class. Then, I use computer paper to make a study guide and go through each chapter to write down key terms and concepts to know. Then, while I’m studying, I’ll cross them off as I find the definitions of them in the chapters.

Once I have it all written out, I go over it and then have someone quiz me.

What is your note-taking style?

I typically follow how my professors organize their lectures. Sometimes it depends on how a professor is lecturing. If they put their slides on Blackboard, I’ll go through those and find key points and then circle those or make notes on the slides.

Do you have any tips for making a study guide?

You have to know what you need to study — you have to know what notes matter and what don’t. I like to highlight key points and then take it chapter by chapter. In every class, you start to figure out what’s going to be on the test, or at least things you think might be on a test.

Studying doesn’t start the night before. It starts with how you prep in class, how you pay attention and how you learn in units.

Are there any routines or traditions that you follow on exam days?

I’ve used the same pencil for every test since my freshman year of high school and on every test in college. I got the pencil from my geometry teacher when I needed a pencil for a test, used it and then got a higher grade on the test than I expected. Then I used again while taking a test in my next class, AP freshman English. Even when I’m taking a test with a Scantron sheet, and I’m not sure whether my pencil is a №2, I’ll go through and tap every answer with the pencil first.

I also like to count every question ahead of time to make sure I don’t miss anything. As soon as I get a test, I’ll write down any formulas or something like that I’ve memorized, even before I put my name on the test, so that I don’t forget.

How did you develop your study habits?

My freshman year, the first semester, I didn’t know anything. I struggled with Calculus I, Accounting 200, Economics 142, and and the end of the semester, I had a much lower GPA than what I was used to in high school. I actually received an academic probation email from the business school, and that was a wake-up call for me. I kind of expected it—I knew I needed to improve. I spent that morning calculating what I needed to do to improve my GPA.

That forced me to study and get better grades. I also had a class that had a study guide example. So, I followed that and then kept repeating it until I improved my GPA. I also use the myHomework app now because I decided I need to keep better track of everything.

What do you prefer to listen to when studying (if anything at all)?

I don’t have a strong preference about sound when I study.

Is there a certain time of day that you prefer to study?

Not necessarily. I’m usually studying at night because of my life as a student.


Need help studying? Use our “Study with me” video set to instrumental music to help you focus. It guides you through 25 minute study sessions broken up by five-minute breaks in between.