How to be a Proficient Student

So, you are a new student.  You are in your undergraduate studies (veterinary, medical, graduate, law, etc.).  Maybe you have taken time off.  Maybe academia has always been a breeze.  Or maybe it has always been a challenge.  Regardless, you are in a new environment and you stumbled on my blog seeking answers!  I am here to tell you how to be a proficient student, at any level in your education!

Five Tips on Becoming a Proficient Student:

  1. Go to class
    • I am not going to lie.  I don’t always follow my own advice in this department.  As a veterinary student, our classes are recorded online so attendance is not 100% essential if you keep up with the lectures outside of school.  However, almost every single time I go to class I learn something.  Whether it be inadvertent, I am exposed to the material being taught.  This is essential when I am reviewing the material for the second (or third) time.
  2. Find a way to focus that works for you.
    • Let me introduce you to my favorite focusing tool: the Pomodoro technique.
    • Here is how it works:
      • Choose a task to be accomplished.
      • Set a timer for 25 minutes
      • Work on the task until the timer rings
      • Take a short break (5 minutes is OK)
      • Every 4 Pomodoros take a longer break (15-30 minutes)
    • I use the app BeFocused and absolutely LOVE it.  On my short breaks, I do things I need to do but have been putting off.  On longer breaks, I will take Apollo (my dog) for a walk or do some yoga.  It really helps me feel like I am getting a lot accomplished.
  3. Pay attention in class!
    • “Ok so I am in class, but I can’t focus to save my life!” If you are like me, maybe you are not an auditory learner.  Lectures tend to run around 50-75 minutes long depending on your schedule.  It can be excruciating for us visual people to watch someone stand in front of the room and lecture for that long, even if the subject matter is interesting!
    • Here is my favorite tip for focusing in class (which I just discovered in my 2nd year of vet school):
      • Institute the Pomodoro technique described in tip #2!  Our classes are 50 minutes in total.  When the professor starts class I look at the clock and say to myself “Ok, it is 9:02 am.  At 9:27 am (25 minutes), I am going to take a 5-minute break and do whatever I want (text a friend, Facebook, Instagram, write, draw, anything not school related).  At 9:32 am, I am going to focus during the rest of the class.”  At this point, I only have 18 minutes remaining!  Breaking it up like this helps me focus on the majority of the lecture, which is better than not focusing at all!
  4. Review your notes after class! 
    • This is something I have been trying to implement more, but many of my colleagues do regularly.  After attending class and listening to a lecture, it is important to solidify the information you have acquired.  Re-reading, and in some cases, re-writing your notes can be extremely helpful in this area!  A way I review my notes is by creating quizlets.  I look through the material and try to think of how a professor would phrase an exam question.  This helps to re-expose my brain to the information so that when it comes time to study, I am not starting from scratch!
  5. You are not your neighbor!
    • You are your own person with your own unique learning style.  Sometimes what works for someone else will not work for you!  Oftentimes, you will have to adjust your studying technique depending on the class.  Certain classes will require more work than others.  Give yourself grace and do the best that you can.  Put the time in and you will be rewarded.
    • Want to know what your learning style is?  Take the VARK questionnaire by clicking here.  Knowing your learning style can help you be a more efficient student!  Embrace your strengths and acknowledge your weaknesses.  Talk to your teachers if you are struggling with a subject.  Don’t be afraid to look stupid because if you never ask, you will never know!
    • If you struggle with vulnerability and asking for help, I encourage you to read my blog post about this subject: click here to check it out!

In Summary:

Find what works best for you!  These tips have helped me excel throughout my career in academia, but particularly in veterinary school. I hope they find a way to help you too!

As always, if you have any questions feel free to reach out.  Until next time!

SB

 

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