Back to School, Study Season!

"Education is what one has forgotten when what one has learned at school" - Albert Einstein


Back to school time in upon us, whether you are entering your final year of secondary school or just beginning the ultimate adventure in college, getting yourself study ready is essential to maintaining your sanity! Have no fear, I am here to share lessons I learned from all the mistakes I made during my years in education. 

1. Style: One of the biggest failings in the education system is the failure to educate students on different forms of learning. There is seven primary forms of learning styles appearing as visual, aural, verbal, physical, logical, social and solitary. Essentially you need to identify the forms of learning that are most effective for you. Then go home every day and convert your learning into a system that works for you.

During my degree, I found myself to be a verbal and visual learner. I have a good short term memory, which means that I studied at a low level continuously during the year, and 3 days before an exam I turned each page into a series of letters and visually remembered the trigger letters during an exam. Sounds impossible? Well it worked for me! 

My point is there is no one rule fits all, explore some different forms of learning and adapt the standard notes to suit your brain. If I had known this during my leaving certificate it would have saved many tears and stress induced fits of anxiety trying to memorise 20 pages off by heart as we were expected to.

2. Sleep: Although you may have heard that pulling an all-nighter is the ultimate solution to cramming before an exam or finishing an assignment, I can promise you it truly is not.

Once upon a time during a spin of no sleep during college career I read an article on the importance of sleep for processing information, and forming long term memories. So instead of pulling a no sleep stint I explored a napping method for studying I had been told about by a college companion. I would study for 2-3 hours and sleep for 20-30 minutes, get up and repeat the process. It helped me in a moment where I simply had to stay awake due to my own mistake on examination dates, and it genuinely kept me functioning. It proved much more effective than staying awake all night. Even sitting here now the memories of being consumed by an Industrial Relations book ring strong, whereas work done during previous all-nighters are nowhere to be found in my brain.

So, my advice is do not procrastinate too intensely, and make sure you do not find yourself in a position where you feel as though compromising sleep is essential for you to make it through an examination. Sleep my friends, sleep.

3. Health: Pack away the Monsters and Red Bulls, do it now. Go on. This is something I learned the hard way after jittering my way to Dublin one morning for an exam after drinking one too many energy drinks the night before during a heavy study session.

You simply cannot focus properly when you are 50% caffeine, 25% sugar and 25% stress. However, when you see the high-flying business folk queuing up to Starbucks every morning for their legal fix you begin to believe there must be some merit in over caffeination. There is not. Work is tiring (Which you will all soon find out post schooling), but beyond the need for coffee as a booster it is simply a work comfort, a homely habit and often a social moment in your otherwise busy day. During study times, you do not need caffeine. When you join the workforce, you can dive head first into the overpriced elixir, but for now simply stay hydrated. Remember that old brain of yours is over 70% water, so keep it happy!

4. Help: Something I learned in third level education was the need to admit when you were lost, in all senses but particularly when it came to studying. When you lay all your notes out it can become incredibly disillusioning, and confusing. You may also discover you need help in understanding a certain topic, so this is where preparing ahead of time is important also. Spotting a gap in your understanding early means you can approach your teacher, or lecturer, and discuss the issue at hand.

When there is a hole in your understanding it can affect your overall feelings towards the subject, and ultimately your study! There is no embarrassment in asking for help, which is something I wish I had understood as a teenager. If only teachers had emails for exam year students! Although Moodle was a good addition in my time in secondary school it was still fifty shades of awkward to simply say I did not understand something. So suck it up, and lurk around after class or if you are on study break go into the school and reach out to someone for help. The relief you will feel will be so worth the initial uncomfortableness of asking for assistance. 

Learning to judge less and live 'A Judge Less Life'
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