Despite the prevalence of high school and university level courses on “how to study” and how to maximize your brain’s capacity for learning and retaining new information, a shocking number of people make it all the way through their public or private education system without ever actually absorbing or applying the most basic training in this area. This is especially true of those who are considered “bright” or gifted. Far too often, clever young people learn to navigate the basic task of “studying” entirely on their own, which usually means they don’t learn to do it at all. Many of these young people scrape by on the information they retain from class lectures, and they manage to pass their classes and graduate without actually learning very much…Or rather, they learn and retain only a small percentage of what they’re actually taught. Education is expensive, so don’t fall into this category if you can avoid it. Here’s how:
1. Get excited about your topic.
You’re about to launch in a course (or textbook chapter) on a specific subject, from physics to European history to plant pathology. Some excellent professors will launch the course by providing an overview that puts the subject in a broader context and sparks an interest in learning more. But if this isn’t done for you, take responsibility and light the spark yourself. Why is this topic important? Why is it fascinating? How will your life be enriched by expanding your knowledge in this area?
2. Commit a minimum amount of time each day.
At the end of the day, spend a few minutes sitting still and actively reviewing what you learned in each of your classes. Again, great professors will assign homework or additional reading, but if you don’t have the advantage of this external pressure, take some initiative and do this on your own. Don’t be motivated by fear of falling behind—Be motivated by a genuine interest in letting this course expand your understanding of the world in which you live.
3. Show off.
It’s okay to bask in the glow of new knowledge. If your new insight or information helps you contribute to intelligent discussions happening around you, don’t hold back. Share what you know. Keep in mind that you don’t know it all just yet (and probably you never will), and take correction and expansion from those who know more than you. But don’t be shy about sharing what you have to offer. An extra tip: surround yourself with people who encourage and inspire in-depth discussions on this topic.
4. Actually do the homework.
This may seem like a no-brainier, but again, far too many students make it all the way through the system without actually investing their full attention in their homework and non-class assignments. Don’t just phone it in. Actually place yourself in a quiet, distraction free environment and make the assignment your top priority until it’s finished. Focus on the spirit of the assignment, not just the letter. Years from now, the points you earn or loose on this assignment won’t matter, but the minutes or hours you spend immersed in the subject will stay with you.
5. Read with intent.
When you’re given a reading assignment, take on another assignment altogether: teaching this material to someone else. If your instructions say “Read chapters five through eight”, interpret the assignment like this: “Be prepared to explain the contents of chapters five through eight to another person.” Imagine the person as a family member, a friend, a child, a job interviewer, a junior coworker, or a boss.For more on how to make the most of every minute you spend with your books– and ultimately give yourself more leverage on the job market– explore the resources available on MyPerfectResume.