College has always been about learning.
For me, that constantly means putting my pride aside and asking myself what I can do to improve. Most of the time, that means looking to people more experienced than me for advice.
One thing that I have found myself consistently having to ask for advice on is studying. I grew up excelling at most things when I was young while putting in very little effort. I figured that this type of brilliance (vain, I know) would absolutely continue into my later years.
Wow, was I wrong.
Having humbled myself many times to raise questions I was once too proud to ask, I have a few pieces of advice I would like to pass on to you so that hopefully you don’t make the same mistakes I did.
TAKE IT DAY BY DAY
I know a lot of people that like to take their plans for the entire semester and put them up on a calendar with colors and lines trailing in every direction. When they’re done with it, it looks more like they’re trying to prove a conspiracy theory than get any meaningful work done.
If you know anything about me, you already know that that is entirely too much work for me. I also have a tendency to group all of my work together mentally, making it difficult for me to even know where to start. I don’t think I’m alone in this.
It is absolutely crucial to give yourself time to plan out your schedule, but make sure you’re taking things in small bites. If you were having a nice steak dinner, would you take that nice steak and try to devour the entire thing in one bite? Or would you cut it up so that you don’t need a helpful neighbor to perform the Heimlich maneuver?
It’s important to plan for some projects with more advance, and sometimes it’s even nice to plan out your week. There’s always room for some flexibility, just make sure you’re not spending too much time distracted by things that are a lower priority when it comes time to get the big projects done.
SAY NO TO CRAMMING
It is inexplicably easy to look at a test happening Friday and decide that you’ll study sometime Thursday night. The majority of the time, I find that when Thursday comes, I have said that same line to so many different assignments that something has to give.
Most of the time, that’s studying.
That is only one aspect of cramming and procrastination that can have a negative effect on your grades. The other is that it is difficult to swallow and regurgitate large amounts of information in a short period of time. (Again, think relaxed steak dinner versus hot dog eating contest.)
From personal experience, there is a finite amount of information a person can hold on one subject on short notice. It’s not fair to your poor brain for you to put all of that stress on it at once.
Instead, consider studying throughout the week, focusing on small bits of information that you can take in and memorize in reasonable chunks.
Huh, that steak metaphor has more uses than I thought.
TAKE AN ACTIVE INTEREST IN CLASSES
I would argue that the best way to study is to make sure you’re involved in the classroom.
The hardest aspect of this for me is asking questions when I feel lost about a topic. I always feel like I am going to be labeled as the dumbest one in the room if I break the professor’s flow with my inquiries.
Yet, I’ve found that the classes where I swallowed my pride and asked questions are the classes that I had the deepest and most intimate understanding of the material. Once I had that understanding, it became easier for me to make connections while studying to past ideas from lectures or activities.
By being proactive in my classes, I was able to make my study sessions more meaningful and felt like I actually cared about the information as well.
The best part of this process is that, the majority of the time, the information did not just drop out of my brain as soon as I finished an exam.
TAKE TIME TO PAUSE
Anyone can learn to study, even if they feel like it has never been one of their strengths. You have the ability to become a successful student by taking it day by day, saying no to cramming and taking an active interest in your classes.
Just make sure you don’t overwhelm yourself with the idea of studying—it really isn’t as scary as it sometimes seems. If you’re intentional with your time, you can be sure to make the most of your time here at Cornerstone University.