One challenge facing higher education is its dependence upon the fundamental learning of grades K-12. Any one missing piece may create a barrier for learning which overcomes the student’s abilities to cope and critically analyze the problem or subject at hand. In addition, stressors, such as poor dietary or exercise habits, may impede the brain’s ability to quickly and accurately process, store, and retrieve information. In fact, in his book The College Success Book : A Whole-Student Approach to Academic Excellence, Groccia dedicates en entire chapter to the importance of positive health habits (1992). This includes taking study breaks every twenty to forty minutes (Howtostudy.org). There is no shortage of options for reducing- or coping with- stress: meditation, exercise, hobbies, prioritization, hypnosis, etc. (pp. 35-36). These stress interventions use different approaches to relax the body and mind and make it receptive to what is being studied.
However, none of these stressors and interventions even come into play until after the student studies, and students can have a countless number of reasons which motivate them to read—or not read. In Howtostudy.org’s model, recall begins with class work and note-taking, reading, and making basic connections to one’s personal life. That information is then stored in short-term memory, rehearsed, fed back, stored in long-term memory, retrieved, and finally tested (Howtostudy.org). Plan for success. While making, monitoring, and reaching your goals is important to building self-confidence and necessary skills, the resistant person is clever at self-sabotage. When considering goals, students tend to think primarily of short-term goals, whereas a balance of short-term and long-term goals is often needed to realize the big picture (Allen, 2005). The big picture for study skills is that it encompasses a wider range of life habits and skills than one may expect.
Motivation and concentration go hand in hand, as interruptions can quickly break a mood of intense dedication to learning. When the inspiration to study strikes, the search for a pen can derail the whole process and eat up large segments of study time. Similarly, studying for several consecutive hours dramatically reduces the brain’s receptivity to new information. (Howtostudy.org). A noisy room, a last-minute skim over the required reading, a hazy understanding of what is necessary for success—these are all common barriers which each person has the power to plan for (Groccia, 1992). Enrollment in child care and alternative credit programs are but two options to ease the process of achieving goals in higher education. Testing is one of the most popular options for saving money and time, but they require the self-discipline to study an even broader range of material than is given in the narrowed focus of a syllabus. Nonetheless, the College Level Entry Program (CLEP) tests are among the most widely-accepted programs which offer subjects from Introduction to Educational Psychology to Calculus or Introductory Business Law (“CLEP Exams: What Do CLEP Exams Cover?”). If the home study environment distracts from study and work, then libraries and late-night restaurants or cafes are viable options for frustrated students, especially ones in many distance education courses (“Going Back to College: Frequently Asked Questions”). Coffee houses are favorites with writers, and one to two cups of coffee can last up to four hours and provide an easy short-term dose of energy and concentration (Groccia, 1992). Still, artificial ingredients, sugar, and caffeine provide a very short boost and do more harm than good when consumed in medium to large quantities (Howtostudy.org).
After they were given twenty minutes to peruse the thirty-page reading, only fifteen out of fifteen hundred first-year Harvard students could accurately identify a textbook chapter’s theme in 2001 (Howtostudy.org). Surprisingly, Groccia notifies students that a large portion of the literature reviewed in preparation for major papers or tests is unnecessary (1992). One way to prevent re-reading the same material is to create a simple filing system or copying only those pages which are pertinent (Allen, 2005). This does not mean that reading itself can be skipped, but that students should anticipate, read, act, and review (ARAR). They should review the specifications carefully and try to predict what they need to know; they should read; they should immediately do something which reinforces these ideas; they should review and summarize their learning (pp. 83-86). The glossary in the front of the book and the index in the back of the book may provide the book’s big-picture and detailed topics, respectively (Allen, 2005). In the above example of the first-year Harvard students, the one percent of students who correctly identified the chapter’s theme also reviewed the chapter’s summary or the descriptive headings or notes. The majority of these students tried to read in the same way as they would without the time constraints, and many struggled with time management and procrastination during the simple experiment (Howtostudy.org).
Variety can be a great asset to a student’s study skills. In particular, students should be aware of the different planning types and learning styles. Daily or monthly plans are common—with all the bells and whistles of eye-catching datebooks or color-coded iPhone calendar entries. Some goals and assignments will only be successfully completed by following a careful sequence of steps. These are no less important, and major projects, experiments, essays, and tests can often be approached with a long-term view of planning (Allen, 2005). Every person has intelligence in many different forms and levels. Gardner’s personality theory holds that there are naturalist, musical, mathematical or logical, existential, interpersonal, kinesthetic, verbal, intrapersonal, and visual strengths. These all present different optimal conditions for learning, which may aid one to reconsider their study methods and environment. Surfaquarium.com also offers interactive exercises for each of these strengths (Howtostudy.org).
Students often believe that failure is black-and-white, but it is often the result of few options and resources being used. The struggling student can take an inventory of the challenges, priorities, and desired goals and accomplished goals and identify gaps either in their attitudes or habits or in their schedule. Organization and self-discipline are crucial to making studying easier, reducing the pull of procrastination or the sheer dread of completing an assignment. If education matters to the student, then it is their responsibility to seek answers that work for them. Returning students face a greater challenge in this area, as technology has advanced rapidly in the last twenty years (“Back to College”). It is important to remember that one answer often leads to another as well as to great opportunities for experiencing the full range of positive benefits which the college world has to offer. Learning never ends, so it might as well happen in the places for which it was designed. Nonetheless, today’s world offers new opportunities which should not be underestimated. New resources are emerging online and in each community every minute. They are out there for students, waiting to be used. What are you still sitting here for?
Back to College. WD Communications LLC. Retrieved from http://www.back2college.com/library/faq8.
CLEP Exams: What Do CLEP Exams Cover? (2011). College Board. Retrieved from http://clep.collegeboard.org/exam.
How to Study Model. (2012). Teach Learn Online, LLC. Retrieved from http://www.howtostudy.org/overview.php.
Allen, K. (ed). (2005). Study SKILLS: A Student Survival Guide. John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
Groccia, J. (1992). The College Success Book : A Whole-Student Approach to Academic Excellence. Lakewood, CO: Glenbridge Publishing Ltd.