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Keep an open mind with studying strategies

By Jill Girgulis, April 27 2017 —

I’ve always had a hard time talking to people about how I study. It’s my homework and it’s not very exciting. I also don’t think I’m particularly good at it.

I’ve always tended to procrastinate school work, which is nothing new for a lot of people. I’ve made poor decisions when it comes to allocating my study time and I might be the most inefficient person I know. My friends are undoubtedly familiar with my go-to phrase whenever they ask me about how prepared I feel before exams — “Ask me once the exam is over.” It seems like regardless of what study strategy I use, what really matters is my actual experience during the test.

It’s the same for any kind of activity that requires you to step up and perform. Like in sports, you can practice and practice, but in the end, you have to show up when it counts. And you better believe that there are many different ways to deal with this pressure.

Looking back at the last school year, I’ve lost count of the number of times I had to adjust my strategy because my study system simply wasn’t working. There was a course where it took me close to two months of labs to realize I needed to take notes during the instructional sessions. In another, I wasted hours labelling images of anatomical structures in a wide array of fancy colours before I realized I wasn’t actually learning anything. Despite my efforts, at times it felt like none of the study strategies I used resulted in any sort of measurable improvements.

It’s easy to get discouraged when all you hear is how much material everyone’s already gotten through and how prepared they feel. But the truth is, people are much more willing to share their successes than their failures. We all do it. Students only share their best work, doing things like sharing pictures of colour-coded diagrams depicting the steps of the metabolic pathway, but not half-finished summary notes abandoned mid-semester.

There isn’t a universal strategy for being a student. What works for one person might not work for you. What works for me in one class might not work in another. I’ve learned that sometimes you just have to be flexible.

If you start the school year with a plan in mind and you actually manage to stick to it for the entire year, then good for you! I admire you for being so in-tune to your learning styles. But if you’re more of a person who has to take some time and experiment a little to find your footing, then that’s okay too. Take it from someone who’s been there.

When it comes to university, keep an open mind and be willing to make changes. It’s better than banging your head against the wall.

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