Studying is difficult. I don’t care what anyone else ever told you about college: One thing that will always ring true is that studying is one of the greatest difficulties of being a college student.
As with most things, one would assume that the more you practice something, the more efficient you become at doing it. While this is true when it comes to studying, becoming more efficient is not the same as it becoming easier. For a while, I thought that studying would never get easier because I was always starting with a base level knowledge for every new class I took up. Recently, I realized that the difficulty of studying is more related to the individual than it is to the material.
I think it’s safe to make the generalization that every college student has had classes where they just couldn’t get comfortable with the material. It’s not necessarily for a lack of trying, but more so a lack of interest, which is very often mistaken for the same thing. They’re not. I’ve never told a professor to their face, “I’m just not interested in the stuff we’re reading for this class,” but if I did, I imagine they would probably equate my lack of interest with a lack of effort.
It’s not an unreasonable correlation to draw. There are many new things that I haven’t given a real chance because I personally just don’t find them to be interesting. When it comes to college, this is a far bigger issue. As students, we are constantly engaging with new things every term, and very often, we have little or no knowledge of the new subject matter. It’s easier for classes related to our own majors because we can progress from the basics to the advanced topics of our area of study; however, we aren’t able to study just within our own majors.
A lack of interest in class material can very quickly lead to a lack of motivation to study, and that’s when it can become problematic. It’s not that we intentionally don’t want to do well in the class; it’s just that sometimes we don’t feel the work and effort required is worth it to get a supposedly all-important letter grade at the end of the term.
While I’m not trying to speak for the entire student body, I have many friends with whom I’ve talked about this subject. Many of them agree that it can be difficult to put effort into class work, especially when the material being studied doesn’t strike them as being particularly interesting.
“You have to find your way in,” as one of my friends put it rather simply. While this is easier said than done, they aren’t wrong. I’ve had to take a wide variety of English courses because that is my area of study, and there have been a few genres of literature that I had difficulty getting into. Sometimes, it isn’t even the genre that holds me back. Sometimes, it’s just the fact that it’s assigned reading, and there is a deadline for it.
I haven’t ever been able to fully understand why, but for some reason when something is assigned as homework, students automatically view it in a different light. I suppose it’s simply because it becomes work at that point, which isn’t very appealing. Nobody likes being forced to do work, and that is the lens through which we view homework in most cases.
So the question then becomes: How can we change our approach to homework so that it doesn’t feel like a chore? Unfortunately, the answer to this is subjective for the most part, but I think that in all cases, it is about linking the work to something that you have a general interest for. For me, some readings I needed to make annotations as I go along because that keeps me engaged with the readings. This works very well because making annotations forces me to pay extremely close attention to the reading itself. I can’t just glance over it and skim if I have to comment on what I’m reading.
Writing annotations is just one example. This same general idea can be applied to any kind of studying in my opinion. You have to create a relationship between the work and your own enjoyment. Treating a class project or assignment as a personal project will naturally make you more invested in the work, which will most likely lead to an end product that you are proud of. No doubt it is a difficult task to make this switch, but it can make the work not feel like work, making it easier to dive in and extract something from the material itself, as opposed to spending 10 weeks memorizing the information, only to forget 90 percent of it as soon as the quarter is over.
I think most people would like to enjoy everything that they learn in college, but at the same time, I think it’s unreasonable to have that expectation. There are always going to be some things that simply aren’t your cup of tea, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make an effort to try to expand your taste.