Freshman ‘15: How not to study

Opinion by Bianca Chavez
Jan. 23, 2012, 12:27 a.m.

Freshman ‘15: How not to studyI am going to be honest: I never studied much in high school. The night before any test, I’d allocate one to two hours for studying. Approximately 70 percent of that time was spent staring at my bedroom wall and convincing myself that I needed to study. The other 30 percent of the time was spent scanning through my textbooks (read: looking at the pictures) and reviewing my notes (read: looking the funny things I drew in the margins).


For the most part, I survived high school by doing two things: going to class and asking questions. That’s it. As long as I did both of those things, I could gain good grades and a decent understanding of the material.


I know my story is far from unique; practically every kid in my hall has a story about how he or she used to sleep through Spanish class or never did homework, then still miraculously got A’s on tests.


Maybe Stanford kids are just that smart. Maybe we’re all insanely lucky. Or maybe our high school teachers were so preoccupied with saving other students from failing that they basically left high-achieving kids to their own devices. I’m thinking the real answer is probably a dash of the first explanation and heaping spoonfuls of the latter two.


In any case, I pranced through high school without many academic struggles. Then I came to Stanford.


Now — and I’m sure this will come as an Earth-shattering statement to upperclassmen — I’m starting to realize that, um, college is hard. For every one hour I spend in class, I can expect to spend at least two in the library. Between hundreds of pages of assigned reading, papers, and projects, college seems to be much more about studying than it is about learning from your professors.


Obviously, this change in learning style presented a huge challenge for me. Since I had never done it extensively in high school, I wasn’t really sure how I was supposed to study. Should I just re-read the textbook? Write down any and every bolded word? Highlight random sentences that seem sort of important?


After speaking to some of my friends, I knew they were just as confused as I was.

Fortunately, now that I have one quarter of college, I’ve finally started to figure out which study tips do NOT work. Below are three of the worst offenders:


How Not to Study:


1. Don’t study with your friends. So three of your friends happen to be in your IHUM class. What a perfect situation; this means you guys can study together! Um…or not. Nine times out of 10, group study sessions devolve into chaos within the first two minutes. Someone asks the person next to her, “Hey, have you seen ‘Shit College Freshmen Say?’” and the next thing you know, all plans of studying have been thrown out the window.


2. Don’t study in a common area. Because any attempt to study in a lounge or a hallway will fall apart faster than Kimmy K’s wedding.


3. Don’t use your computer unless it’s absolutely necessary. Why? Because, while the Internet is an amazing resource of information, it is also where productiveness goes to die. You tell yourself, “I’m just going to look up this one quick fact,” and then suddenly it’s 3 a.m. You’ve spent the last two hours stumbling through mildly amusing cartoons and cute pictures of animals. And you have an exam in six hours…shit.


So after one quarter in college, I have a decent idea of which study habits are completely unproductive. As for finding out what tips actually work, I’m sure that will happen within the next quarter or two.


Bianca recognizes that emails from you will probably lead to procrastination, but she wants them anyway. So email her at blchavez “at” stanford “dot” edu. 

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