Going back to school has been an interesting experience so far. I’m a firm believer in the idea that its not how smart you are that determines how successful you are in schooling, but what kinds of strategies you use. There are more or less efficient strategies for learning the material and doing well in school. There’s also a set of beliefs that I’ve found useful to root out and change. So, here are some of the random things I’ve learned that I hope might help others:
1. I go to classes to learn. I have personal goals for each class, as well as the secondary (or tertiary) goal of getting an A+ in each class.
2. I study to learn the material and do well on my tests, not just try to avoid failure. Memorizing something just so that I can do well on a test and then forget it is a waste of money, energy and time.
3. I pay attention when the material is first presented and try to understand it all, so I don’t have to learn it all again later whilst I’m trying to study for a test. "Studying" before a test is best as a bit of a review rather than trying to learn the material.
4. I’ve still got some procrastination issues to work throguh, but I’m getting better at building a "now habit".
5. I try to relate what I’m learning to other stuff I already know, including stuff I’ve learned before in the same class.
6. I see the process of learning as building a mental model, which is a web-like structure.
7. Each of us has a primary modality. Mine is visual, but yours could be auditory or kinesthetic. Take advantage of that. For me, this means visually seeing information and structures.
8. Try to understand the structure of things and how they relate to each other, not just memorize random facts. This is related to number 6. I also mind-map stuff, so I can see the general lay out. So I can tell you that there are three main types of therapies, three most common ones in the first one, four in the next one, and two in the last one. On this structure, I can hang the actual names (treating the body, treating the mind, changing behaviours), etc.
9. Reading The Memory Book was really useful for me. I highly recommend it.
10. Life is great! Enjoy it!
11. Learning is fun!
12. When studying, my goal is to have a high rate of comprehension per hour. That means I want to have optimum concentration and mental clarity for longer periods of time. That means taking frequent breaks and studying for short periods of time (say 25 minutes of study and five minute breaks or so). Getting proper sleep and eating proper food really helps my concentration and mental clarity.
13. Take courses you’re interested in. And take them with good profs. There’s no point in going to classes if the prof sucks and if you don’t go to class, you’re wasting money, depending on how you look at it. How do you know you’re interested in a course? Go to a class or two of that course (this has to be done before the semester ends, so you can pick courses for next semester, obviously), with that prof if you can. If you’re considering taking introductory courses, you might wnat to grab a for dummies or idiot’s guide to book on that subject and see if its interesting to you. For higher level courses, talking to students is somewhat helpful (there’s different kinds of students, so this isn’t always very useful), talking to profs is pretty helpful (especially if you can get a prof to talk about other profs who are good), and grabbing a copy of the text book definitely helps. You will be spending much time with the textbook, so it’s really helpful if you find it interesting (or at least not so boring that you cry when you try to read it).
14. There is nothing wrong with being a part-time student, or taking fewer courses. Living a rich, full life is more important than getting a degree right now. Maybe I’m just in the unique position where I’m very confident about my future, and I’m not getting a degree to get a job, strictly speaking, that I can do that or say that. But, really, a life totally centered around one thing, be it school or work or what have you, is not fun and makes a stunted individual, which, to me, sounds like the antithesis of education.
15. Forgive yourself and go easy on yourself. Your worth in life is not determined by your grades or your degree, or whether you procrastinate or not. You need a different kind of motivation than fear-based one, and that takes time to build.
Oh, one final thing, don’t procrastinate like I do. Writing entries instead of studying. :p