Being the best you

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The leap from school to uni forces you to re-evaluate your learning habits

For those who are at university, or who recently started their tertiary studies, do you ever find yourself confused about what to do in your school work? Do you find yourself lost in a train of silly thoughts; preoccupied with the future or the past or distracting yourself with things like eating or YouTube? If so, you are probably a normal member of the human race. At the same time, you are probably wishing that you weren’t feeling these things.

When I was doing the HSC, I used to constantly cram for exams – staying up late into the night and intensely focusing for hours on end, ignoring the need for exercise and eating healthy. Studying in such an unstructured way was the only method of learning I had. At the end of it, when I received my results, I used to mindlessly compare myself to others and convince myself I was an idiot because I got 75 per cent on an exam. For me, it was a year filled with unnecessary stress and minimal growth as a student.

Then came day one of university. The lecturer was talking about influences on businesses – it seemed easy enough.

Then I went home and reviewed the notes I had written in class. I quickly realised that there was nothing to memorise but everything to understand. I recognised that the purpose of university was to prepare me for the workplace and memorising a bunch of information with no practical application was going to get me nowhere. I felt confused and out of my element until my dad suggested an open online course to me about ‘learning how to learn’.

Doing the course taught me that learning does not have to be about stress and intense cramming and focus for hours on end, it can be fun! It eliminated all the confusion I was feeling about how to study for university.

I used to spend a lot of time worrying about the uni I had chosen. I felt anxious that I hadn’t selected the best option for myself and I would compare myself to others and think about what they were doing. This left me feeling depressed and demotivated.

Recently, I decided to change this habit of mine so I could focus on improving how I learn.

My dad suggested trying mindfulness exercises. Mindfulness can be defined as ‘having a sense of mastery over your thoughts and feelings’. In just two days of genuine practice, I can honestly say I feel the difference.

I am less worried about events of the past, present and future and I can more easily bring my mind to what I’m supposed to be doing. I feel a peace of mind and less preoccupied with those worries I had previously.

Although it hasn’t been smooth sailing, the alternative of how I would feel if I wasn’t doing this pushes me to keep trying.

The only way you can become a better student is through making a choice to be different.

It’s easy to cruise through university but it’s much more rewarding to choose to take it into your own hands and be the best you can be.

 

Useful skills
Build your creative thinking skills and become an expert at using software such as Photoshop or Excel on Lynda.com. 

Study Break
If you need a break and are bored with Facebook, try visiting zenpencils.com for some interesting comic strips.

Deepening understanding of any subject
Visit sydney.edu.au and search ‘blooms taxonomy’. Following Blooms Taxonomy while studying will help you transform from novice to expert in a reasonably short time.

Writing study notes
Available from (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) http://web.mit.edu/uaap/learning/study/reading.html. This website will help you boil down one textbook chapter into four or five pages of good summary notes.

Learn to read faster
Try a technique called ‘eliminating sub vocalisation’. This method involves not saying the words in your head as you read. 

Essay Writing
Visit your uni’s language centre, or visit Monash Uni’s website for information on how to write an academic essay. Don’t forget, uni essays are different to HSC essays!

Workplace skills
Learn skills essential for the work place on mindtools.com. Read about effective communication, team work, anger management.

Most importantly, remember to look after yourself as a first priority! Eat well and get enough sleep and exercise so you can focus better while studying.