by: Haiya Patel, Kennedy College of Sciences Well-being Leader
As a college student, you must have heard the phrase ‘work smarter, not harder’. As a freshman in college, I failed to grasp the message behind the phrase, but sooner or later I learned the meaning behind it and it helped me further in my academic career.
As a college student, you are engaged in multiple activities on and off campus, which can challenge your time commitment towards your required academics. Hence, using the limited time that you can contribute towards academics in an effective manner is the key to staying on top of your academics. One of the most mind-blowing concepts I was introduced was the forgetting curve. Psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus demonstrated the concept of forgetting curve – curve that demonstrates the rate at which one forgets the new material introduced. Usually, we learn a new concept or new material in class, and we usually end up forgetting most of the information obtained after few hours. Further, when it’s time to study the materials, we are mostly clueless about the material. Hence why, educational psychologists developed a method to optimize study times. As seen below, there are three peaks in the graph: the first peak – first revision immediately after the class, second peak – second round of revision, third peak – third round of revision. The graph shows the drop after the first revision leads to most of the material being forgotten. Second drop shows that more information is retrieved compared to first drop. Comparatively, the third drop shows that the rate at which you forget the materials is very slow. Hence, revision of the materials constantly at timed intervals leads to better information retrieval, and the repeated revision consumes minimal time, uses the time effectively, and helps to avoid cramming all the material on the day before exams. Moreover, spending long hours in the library the day before your exam can be stressful and cause burnout. Hence, the repeated revision is also effective at managing stress about your exams and prevents burnout.
Another factor that can help is a change in location for a refreshed experience – it can feel constrained to study in the same location, so a change in scenery can help you feel refreshed and able to produce better results. However, some people also prefer to stay in the same location as it can be a ‘comfort’ spot for them to study. If this is the case, schedule times to take a walk away from your study spot to get that same refreshed feeling.
Another thing that can help is journaling. The repeated stress to study for your classes and exams can lead to burnout that furthers into a lack of motivation. One such method that helped me stay motivated when I lacked motivation is to write few minutes in my journal. Usually, the journal entry starts with the main statement of my long-term goal, what I imagine myself doing in the next 10 years. Then, I breakdown the goal into factors such as: what and why I am doing what I am doing, how it is contributing towards my goal. Lastly, I end the journal entry with a message along the lines of ‘I know my future self will appreciate the efforts that I put into my goals today!’. This serves as a reminder for my purpose to study and amplifies my motivation for the study session.
Overall, college students spend hours and hours in the library trying to ‘cram’ study, but still don’t end with expected grades. However, implementing methods to study effectively in mini study sessions, taking breaks for a change of scenery, and focusing on your larger goals can lead to more beneficial results. Instead of cram studying all the material the day before the exam, try repeated revision of the materials ranging from immediately after class till the exam, studying in a new spot, or journaling about why you need to study to reach your larger goals!