With the world in the grip of the coronavirus pandemic, many everyday things we’ve taken for granted have become challenges. With social distancing becoming today’s new normal, the way we live our life must necessarily undergo some drastic changes while, at the same time, we continue to move forward with our essential work. This is a great time for college students to focus more on independent study to keep up with their college and research work.
As you must have realized over the past few weeks of self-quarantine, some subjects are best learned when you are by yourself. Some concepts can be grasped better and retained longer in your head when you find some alone time and sit down to study. For many people, self-study works even better than studying with a professor or a tutor.
In the current day and age, with plenty of materials and online explanations available, self-study is even more easier and convenient. With the right amount of determination and discipline, you can effectively cut off all distractions and concentrate on studying for a solid few hours. If done the right way, you can finish way faster by yourself than you would if you were studying with a group or a tutor.
Whether it is a particularly difficult topic that you have been struggling with for a while, a new skill or concept, or something that you feel your professor has not sufficiently covered in class, following a systematic self-study method can greatly improve your performance.
There are no fixed rules for self study. Instead, you get to make your own rules depending on what suits you best. Here are some important tips to can keep in mind:
- Make notes. Jotting down notes as you read through a chapter or listen to a lecture is a crucial study skill. Even if you end up writing down the same points that are mentioned in your textbook, picking them out and noting them separately can still help. Always keep a notebook handy during lecture or study time to jot down important points and any questions or ideas that occur to you. This is a much better option than just highlighting because as you revise these notes, new avenues of study or research could occur to you. You can also work on more creative ways of making notes like drawing mind maps, using colorful ink, etc. This would make your notes more readable when you revise them later, with specific markers for different kinds of notations.
- Use more than one resource material. Having more than one textbook or resource material helps. This way, if you come across a concept that is not properly elucidated in one book, the other material makes up for it. It also gives you a broader understanding of the topic by providing different viewpoints and explanations of the same concept.
- Practice and apply what you learn. The best way to retain what you learn is to apply it. Therefore, whenever possible, practice any new concept you’ve recently studied. If you’re working on math or physics related topics, you can practice doing sums with detailed steps to retain the concepts better. If you are learning a language, you can try chatting online with speakers of that language or seek out online forums in that language. Even in these self-quarantine times, one need not look too hard for opportunities to apply one’s learning, thanks to the internet. Seeking out new and unique avenues to practice and apply the new concepts you learn will help you retain your knowledge better.
- Remember to take breaks. Every hour or so, take a short break for at least 15 minutes. Similarly, take a longer break every few hours and do something unrelated to what you were studying. Play a video game, watch a movie, or take a walk. Studying non-stop for too long isn’t really helpful. After a point, your brain starts getting tired. Forcing it to focus on one topic or activity will not help. Switching between tasks, especially mental vs. physical, can increase your productivity.
- Self evaluate. The best way to ensure that you have understood the topic you are studying, especially when you are learning on your own, is to periodically self-evaluate. To do this, try solving past papers or answering questions by yourself without taking help from the answer key or looking into your books. This way, you get a better understanding of how well you understood the subject and where you need to work more.
Needless to say, self study requires discipline and dedication. You need to be able to let go of all distractions and concentrate on what you’re studying. Push yourself a little and focus on your books for a while, and you’ll thank yourself later! Do share your other self-study tips in the comments below. Happy studying and stay safe!