Becoming a better student can be a wonderful and rewarding process that leaves you feeling like your days are fulfilling and well spent. It can also be a massive headache full of breakdowns and crippling self-doubt. The following will explore some of the ways you can become a better student by tackling health, motivation, study techniques, and addressing your needs as a student.
You might think everyone has the same definition of “good student,” but they don’t. To some, this means getting the best grades possible. To others, this means learning as much as possible. To others, it means staying on top of the work to keep anxiety and overwhelm at bay. Sometimes being a good student means setting yourself up for the job that you want.
Knowing your student aims will help with motivation and influence the courses you take and which units you focus on more heavily. For example, if you’re studying psychology, the courses and projects you prioritize will vary depending on whether you want to work in research, clinical psychology, or counseling.
Figure out what you mean when you say you want to be a better student. What do you want to learn? What are your requirements for courses, grades, and future opportunities? Maybe even spend half an hour or so envisioning what the life of that sort of student looks like. You will probably have a few changes you can make right after this simple exercise.
It is all too easy to get overwhelmed and bogged down by work and skip meals in favor of vending machine snacks or to skip sleep in favor of more reading time. All the studies show that this isn’t the way to go about things. Without proper nutrition, hydration, and sleep, you won’t be functioning optimally, and you’ll need double the study time to learn the same material. You’re making things harder than they have to be. Eat a healthy meal. Get some sleep. Keep water on your desk so that you sip when you’re thirsty. Not only will this improve your schoolwork, but it will also improve every other area of your life.
This seems irrelevant, but it’s not. Having a clean, safe work environment is vital when it comes to studying and learning new material. If you feel unsafe, you won’t be able to focus properly, no matter how many fantastic memorization techniques you employ. Of course, this means find new accommodations if you are physically worried about your safety or are afraid of the people your roommates bring over.
It can also mean keeping things clean. Humans are animals that at one point lived in the wild; we’re programmed to be on the alert for dangers like bears, wolves, and poisonous snakes. If your room is so messy that you wouldn’t be able to see a snake in it, you can bet your DNA has you on high alert, taking away some of your focus. You might also want to try rearranging your space a bit. Set things up so that your back is to a wall—one part of you is always going to be paying attention to whether or not something is sneaking up on you.
Each of us learns a bit differently and, because of this, there are countless different memorization techniques developed by people all over the world. If you’re finding you’re not getting the results you think you should be, switch up your technique. Try using an anagram to help you remember long lists of technical terms. Make up rhyming stories or songs about what you’re learning. Look for inappropriate silhouettes in the 200 art history images you need to memorize. If one technique isn’t working for you, ditch it and move onto the next. One of them is going to work for you. Keep looking.
For most of us, studying and schoolwork is a solitary activity. We’re not here to tell you any different. What we will say is that humans are pack animals. We know that one of the fastest ways to drive a person bonkers is to put them in solitary confinement. Ensure that you’re getting in a bit of socialization every day. It doesn’t have to be a lot—it can be walking to class with a friend. It can be having a twenty-minute tea break with your roommate out on the porch. Our bodies tend to shut down when we don’t interact with other people. This, of course, influences all areas of your life: including your motivation which drastically impacts how much studying feels like a battle.
Each of us is different in this regard. Some people feel accomplished if they’ve read a certain number of pages, whereas others might feel better being able to write a mini-essay on what they’ve just read, recalling details and proving to themselves that the work wasn’t a waste of time. Some people like crossing things off their checklist. Other people find a long to-do list daunting and disheartening. Some people consider getting lost in the material and truly thinking about it and connecting to it a reward. Other people want to tackle subjects methodically with the goal of understanding as much as possible with the least time commitment.
Figure out what makes you feel like your hour hasn’t been wasted when studying and cultivate more of that. Break each textbook heading into a task on your checklist if you’re someone that responds to that. Walk into the woods with your book and nothing else to pull you out of the course material if you’re the type who wants to get lost in learning.
Many will suggest that you find ways to reward yourself for studying progress; this method is a little different. We think it’s almost always better to figure out a way that studying is its own reward. That’s the goal: to feel good while studying.
The above tips should help you begin your journey towards becoming a better student. Like with anything else, this is a process and one that should be reexamined on a regular basis. Take a bit of time each week to notice which things helped you out and which things slowed your progress. Readjust accordingly.