Get organized

Joining a scientific university course such as EPFL is the start of an exciting and exhilarating journey. However, this type of study is generally very difficult and requires a huge investment of time and energy. Even those who work between 50 and 60 hours a week can sometimes find it hard to keep up with everything they have to do… so you need to get organised!

To-do lists and schedules

from Is-Academia into your electronic agenda (Outlook or equivalent) – Add any regular activities you have like a part-time job, sports, association, etc. Be sure to include the key dates that are listed in the EPFL academic calendar.

Preview your schedule for the coming week and be sure to note all your appointments – You can do this in your daily planner, your electronic agenda, or this weekly calendar.

Write down the important things you need to do the next day and rank them by priority (you can write your list on paper or use this Excel file as a guide).

See if there are any tasks you can delegate. You can also take the list with you the next day and enjoy the satisfaction of crossing things off as they get done!

Find a quiet place to work, and use good study habits

Some students like to work at the library, while others are more comfortable at home. Whatever your preference, find a quiet place where you can focus and won’t be disturbed.

If you live with roommates, you might want to agree on a signal to indicate that you don’t want to be interrupted. You can use a piece of clothing (like a scarf), a figurine on your desk, or a sign on your door.

Clutter can be distracting. Keep your desk clear and your working area well-organized so you can concentrate more easily on the task at hand.

Make a habit of setting aside a few minutes after your classes to read back through your notes, do the assigned exercises and think about the key concepts and takeaways.

Learn how to distinguish between what’s important and what can wait, and allocate your time accordingly.

And don’t bite off more than you can chew. Before you start studying, set yourself objectives that are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound). If you can, work on the hardest subjects when your concentration is at its peak. You can also alternate between harder and easier subjects so you don’t get frustrated.

Breaks are more important than you think. Get up, stretch, change your position, drink a glass of water, or even just stare out the window for 30 seconds. Don’t run your brain too hard, or you’ll hit a wall and your productivity will nosedive.

Are you an expert in putting off until tomorrow what you can do today? Try to pinpoint the reasons for this and implement a strategy to address it. You can find more tips under Don’t procrastinate.

EPFL offers courses on effective study methods; find out more information here.

Tips for studying for exams can be found under Exams: preparation.

Peers available for you

  • Class representatives: Represent the students in a class to the sections and teachers
  • AE: Support first-year students in specific course exercises
  • Mentors: Help first-year students organize their studies

Your section will be able to tell you how to contact these student groups.


Social consultation

Social advisors are available to offer you support, work with you to find personalized solutions and refer you to the right specialists if necessary.

MOOC “Apprendre à étudier”

Note-taking, solving exercises, exercise checking strategies, work planning, revision techniques…

Livre “Apprendre à étudier”

Study science or engineering at university with the most effective working methods according to research (In French only)