5 Study Habits of Successful Social Work Students

Successful social work students are diligent about time management, organization and self-care. They apply what they are learning to real-life and study in groups. These skills help students be accountable and efficient as they study to become effective social workers.

Time Management

Regardless of subject matter, most students struggle with procrastination and ineffective time management. However, aspiring social workers must learn to master their time because they will eventually be managing multiple clients and administrative responsibilities.

There are many ways that students can improve their time management skills. Prioritizing their work from the most to least important tasks can provide clarity and direction. Maintaining a calendar of deadlines and tasks can help prevent procrastination.

Dr. Jenny Yip, Ph.D., suggests "scheduling daily tasks in a to-do list. Break down work into 15 minute time slots. Each time you've accomplished an item, you'll feel rewarded."


In addition to managing their time, students must learn to manage their paperwork, materials and study space. Social workers frequently work with many clients, busy schedules and excessive amounts of paperwork. Students must understand that when their paperwork and study space are organized, they are able to spend more time doing meaningful work.

Students can prepare for this by learning to keep their coursework and study space organized. Being organized encompasses prioritizing tasks, developing a schedule, maintaining records, creating a filing system for paperwork, keeping a clean work space and more.

Real-Life Application

The concepts that social work students study are many and nuanced. To better retain and understand the material, students have found great success likening the material to their own lives, the lives of people they know or even the lives of fictional characters. This makes the subject matter more memorable and deepens the student's understanding of the information.

Find a Partner

Communication skills, interpersonal skills and empathy are all important skills for social workers to possess. Studying with a partner or in groups gives aspiring social workers the chance to practice these skills together while increasing their understanding of the coursework.

Students who study with a partner or group experience greater accountability for their work, develop compassionate friendships with people who understand the rigors of social work and benefit from the experiences of others. Studying in a group setting allows group members to share effective study tips and materials, such as flash cards, study guides or websites.


Social work is an extremely rewarding but also emotionally demanding career. Helping other people through their problems, stresses, traumas and crises every day can be extremely taxing. Even simply studying these topics can take a toll.

Successful social work students understand that they need to take care of themselves in order to study and serve most effectively. As a result, they set boundaries, schedule study breaks and are intentional about relaxation. They pay attention to their bodies, ensuring that they receive proper rest, nutrition and exercise. They are careful to avoid burnout because they know they have to take care of themselves before they can take care of others.

Together, these five study habits help students prepare for a flourishing future career in social work. By mastering organization, time management and self-care skills while in school, students are preparing to be able to manage their professional caseloads. Learning to apply their studies to real-life situations and working with others equips them to be more empathetic and compassionate when they begin working with clients. Clearly, the most effective study strategies are those that help students succeed today while also preparing them for their future.