Study habits can make or break your time in college. Good study habits will lead to a much higher success rate in academics. Luckily these good study habits can be learned. We have put together this article to talk about some helpful study habits and explain why student veterans have an edge in acquiring these habits.
What are some good study habits?
Do the readings.
This may seem like an obvious thing to do, but the number of students who do not do the readings along with the class work is alarming. You should read the chapter you will be discussing in class prior to the class taking place. Know the subject matter before you engage the professor and your class in conversation. If you are hearing what the professor says about the material after already reading it, then you can devote more of your time to comprehending the way the professor interprets the information, rather than just learning the material.
Another obvious one: learn good note-taking skills. Understand the difference between the rate which your mind can think, the rate the professor speaks, and the rate you can take notes. Thought>Speech>Writing. Do not try to write everything the professor says, learn to use abbreviations that you can understand, and only write down the important information. Learn to think things through while the professor speaks, since the mind can think faster than one can speak.
Study over a long period of time for exams; do not crunch the day before.
It has been shown that studying for at least 30 minutes over a three-day period is more beneficial than studying for an hour and a half the day before the exam. It helps to convert short-term memory into long-term memory. Not only will this help with your exams, but it will help you remember the information for classes you take in the future, or even years later in your career.
Take breaks when studying.
Sitting in a room alone for hours with a textbook is not going to get you very far. Make sure to take breaks to stimulate and clear your mind.
Use/make practice exams.
Instead of simply reading the text over and over, try making practice exams or flash cards. Repetitive writing has shown to be more effective than simply reading something over and over.
Ask questions about the exam.
Ask the professor what the exam will look like. Not all professors will answer this question but most will give you some idea of what to expect. Will it be multiple choice, essay, short answer, or some mix? Check your syllabus to see how much the exam will count toward your final grade.
Read the directions.
Understand the questions you are answering. Be sure to look out for qualitative statements like “Which of the following is NOT…” Directions can give an entire new meaning to the questions that follow. Read and understand them carefully.
Why do we as student veterans already practice many of these good habits?
Commitment to excellence
As veterans we have an incredible desire to succeed against all odds. This drive enables us to work harder, faster and longer. Our mission may have changed, but the drive is the same.
Critical thinking ability
Critical thinking is present every day in military life. Whether you are figuring out the best defensive strategy, deciding the proper method for completing a patrol or figuring out how to fix an engine, critical thinking is a necessary skill that we have all used. The ability to see a task ahead and think about it from all possible angles is a skill we can take with us.
Desire to be in academics
Most of us have a desire to be in college, otherwise we would not be there. Many traditional students attend because they feel they have no other options. We, however, had the option to stay in the military or take a job related to our MOS in the civilian world. We chose to be in college, and that desire will allow us to work harder. Chris Howell, the co-founder of The Warrior Scholar Project, which is a non-profit organization that prepares veterans for life in college, discusses student veterans and motivation, “One of the most surprising things about The Warrior Scholar Project is how quickly the student veterans engage with the material. They are in many ways the most motivated students on the campus,” Howell said in an article for NationSwell.com. Howell’s statement about student veterans shows us how motivation can lead to high-quality students, due to being engaged in the learning atmosphere.
Completing tasks you are told to complete
This may be one of the biggest ones. One of the biggest surprises to me when I started college was when the professor asked how many students had done the required reading ahead of time, very few raised their hands. I thought to myself, “He asked us to do it, so I did it.” One of the most important things we learned in the military is to do what we are told without question. I simply could not comprehend that students did not do the reading. Instead of taking this as an opportunity to slack off and stop doing what was asked of me, I decided to maintain my mentality and through that excel.
Although the military is obviously a different experience than college, we have used many of these skills in the past. Whether we were studying for an exam to be considered for the next rank or training for a deployment, we have exercised good study habits. Do the readings: as a machinery technician I always made sure to read the repairs information prior to working on any piece of equipment. When sent overseas, many units are given guidebooks to living with the local population. Take notes: During briefings many of us took notes in order to understand and remember key points given. Study over a long period of time: training never ends in the military. We did not train for one day then begin executing our missions. We trained constantly. Other skills that we may not have used, like making sure to take breaks, can be incredibly helpful when utilized correctly.