As you move through your first few weeks of college, it’s likely that one of your most crucial adjustments will involve studying. There are a lot of high quality resources out there to assist you in the development of study skills and I will touch on some of those in the coming weeks. However, I would like to focus today on developing a healthy study attitude and plan.
I was good at this in high school...will I really have to study that hard?
If there are two monumental mistakes I see students make in their transition to their academic life at Scranton, it’s thinking that even intensive study of any subject in high school will render it unnecessary to study smart, hard and often in college or that the level of rigor of high school coursework at even more competitive high schools is comparable to what can be expected in college work. These are usually both very costly fallacies.
Examining this view critically, remember, you are paying a lot for college and possibly more importantly, you are investing four years of your youth in your higher education...would you really want to do that if college was a rerun of high school? Otherwise, you would just be paying for a diploma, not investing in an education. Don’t get me wrong--a good education should make you marketable to employers and help secure a successful future for you but it should do so much more...it should shake up the way you see the world and leave you not only with the ability to know what questions to ask and how to find the answers but also the passion to do so. It should prepare you to embark on a lifetime of continued learning and the intellectual ability to find the truth. It should prepare you to lead yourself and others in your discipline and in your life. That’s a tall order for four years so you have a lot of work to do.
How much should I study?
Educational experts suggest that you should be studying 2-3 hours a week for every hour you spend in class. That means that the average freshman who is carrying around 15 credits should be finding 30-45 hours a week to study, read for class, do practice problems and otherwise engage the material. I know that may seem unrealistic at first but remember that you spent around 36 hours a week in class in high school and now you are committed to less than half of that time. To learn more than you learned in high school, you will need to invest more time and effort.
Anyone can do anything...but most things probably won’t come naturally to you so you will have to work very hard. Sometimes it might seem like your peers don’t have to work as hard as you to achieve better grades and that might very well be true. In college you will encounter many people with different levels of aptitude and background. Don’t allow this to discourage you. Your job is to figure out if you want to succeed in a specific major/field badly enough to invest the effort required. If you start feeling like your effort is not matching the result, talk to your faculty members, come see us in the advising center and consider signing up for a tutor!
How do I prepare for class?
Ben Franklin is credited with saying, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” By now you should have a syllabus for each class that outlines not only the dates for tests and quizzes but also what you can expect to cover each day and what reading or problem sets you should familiarize yourself with prior to class. The lecture should not be your first exposure to new material; it should be your opportunity to gain a deeper understanding and get your questions answered. You may not always have time to read every last word before you come to class but you should at the very least look through the chapters, familiarize yourself with key terms, study important diagrams and study the chapter overview. The deeper you can delve into the material ahead of time, the more productive your time in class will be.
Revisit the Material
At some point shortly after class, you should reread your notes. Does what you wrote make sense or is it a disorganized jumble? Do you feel clear on the topics or do you need to seek your professor’s assistance? Are there key terms you can put on index cards to study or do you need to work on some practice problems? Doing these things shortly after learning new material will deepen your understanding and save you time and effort later.
Developing a Study Zone
The where, when, how and how long you study is tremendously important and will be dependent upon what works best for you but there are some key things to consider. Most students, whether they want to admit it or not, study better in a distraction free environment—usually a dorm room is not conducive to productive study. Having your roommate traipsing in and out, your friends knocking and texting and having constant access to the distractions of social media and television can keep you from focusing and what’s worse, can make you feel like you spend all of your time with your face in a book without accomplishing anything. Going to a quiet study room or the library can help you eliminate distractions. You should make time in your life for socializing and relaxing as well as for studying but you should try to keep these times separate.
Consider your most productive time. Many students benefit from developing an 8-5 attitude about college. For the next four years, college will be your full time job; it can help to schedule it that way. If you establish that the daytime is dedicated to classwork, you will have more free time in the evening to socialize or pursue entertainment. You will also decrease the chances of too many late night cram sessions.
Be sure to take breaks for meals and stretching. Most people can only be productive for around 45 minutes at a time. You shouldn’t expect yourself to hunch over a textbook for hours at a time. Frequent breaks will help you maintain focus.
What if I am overwhelmed?
These adjustments can be a lot to take in and incorporate into your life. There are so many supportive resources on campus to help you do just that. Remember that your faculty were in your shoes once too. Your biology teacher had to figure out how to study for biology at one point and they obviously managed to adapt to the subject successfully. Who would be better to assist you in doing the same? You can also come to the CAS Advising Center, go to the CTLE or the Counseling Center! It would be our pleasure to help!
CAS Academic Advisor