This blog article is based on the College Talks podcast brought to you by Mybookcart.com. Co-hosts Hanna and Cari interviewed May who offers advice on studying. She started out by giving a brief overview of herself:
My name is May, I am a registered nurse with a bachelor’s degree. For my undergrad career, I went to three different colleges before I had settled on Keuka which was my third college and I got my bachelor’s degree from there and then I’ve been out of school for 15 years and decided it would be fun to go back and get my nurse practitioner.
Where do you study?
So currently, because I have three kids I mostly study at home but when I get the opportunity to, I hit Panera Bread, the library, anywhere where I can just sit quietly now that it’s nice and warm out, I can sit outside – anywhere I can where I can chill without distraction.
Do you participate in any study groups?
So actually I do. The thing with nursing is that even if you do all online courses, you are required to study in groups. Nursing is a group-based profession so it is actually a requirement of all colleges that nurses do study groups. The last one I was in was for epidemiology, and we had to do Zoom and various things like that so we could study together.
Do you have any study or note-taking tips to give us?
Some of the stuff that I used for my undergrad doesn’t really translate well to my grad studies. For undergrad, I found that what worked for me was to partner with someone who knew more about a certain topic than I did. Then if my partner didn’t know a topic as well as I did, we could bounce lessons off of each other. As far as note-taking, when I would take notes in class, I would try to jot everything down, but my handwriting was so bad that I would go back to the dorm afterwards and type it all out. That way it was nice and neat. It also helped to drill everything into my head, especially since there is a lot of memorization in the healthcare field. With grad work, all the notes are already there for you. They send you all the slides, so I would just go through and print everything. I’m a paper person, so I have to hold it in hand and see it. With the online work, I just print it out. Then I can go back to the book and try to reference which pages things were specifically on. I jot little notes, like if the professor did a voice over where she said something that wasn’t added to the slide, I would make a notation. I just have to have a physical copy in my hand to go back to.
Do you use post-its, index cards, take quizzes or anything like that?
No, I don’t usually do quizzes, I’m not an index card person, but I do use a lot of post-its.
What advice would you give on taking tests and exams?
Undergrad was so different from grad. With undergrad, I was physically on the campus and taking tests. When it came to tests, you wouldn’t bring your books with you, and you did the studying beforehand. The hardest thing for me was just trying to get myself to focus and not get distracted by others in the classroom – the coughing, the heavy breather. I had to always try to get myself into a mindset of taking tests, as I was diagnosed with dyslexia just before going into college. I was allowed to take my tests with a proctor, if the classroom was too distracting, or in the Education Center in a room by myself. That way I didn’t have other distractions in the things around me. I also read test questions aloud which really helps me with my reading comprehension.
How far in advance do you start to study?
I am not a “hit the books and study every little thing before the exam” type of person. As each new subject comes along I review it as I go along, that’s the best way to get it into my head. If I know the test is coming up next week then I organize my notes. Any questions that I have for professors, I try to email them as soon as possible. That way I can get their response memorized before the test.
Do you procrastinate when it comes to studying, and if so, how do you overcome that?
Procrastination is something I do, but as far as studying, I don’t procrastinate. When it comes to writing papers or writing online responses, I do tend to be a last-minute kind of person. On the other hand, sometimes I feel my papers that I’ve written under pressure come out better than they would if I had taken my time. Even in my undergrad that was proven true. As with my research, I did better when I did it in the very quick short-term with no all-nighter the library. Right now, as far as hard core studying, I try to do it as I go because there’s so much to memorize.
How do you set effective goals?
I really try to set one goal at a time. If I know that I have something that I’m worried about, I try to focus on that goal and what I can do to attain that goal – whether it’s studying more, whether it’s pulling certain facts from the book, maybe finding another book that I can compare to , and reviewing, reviewing, reviewing. This really does help with the goal setting. The other thing is I have a hard time with my health. so a lot of times, and especially now, I try very hard to focus on getting one task done at a time. Then I don’t have to worry about what happens if I am in the hospital for a couple of days, or if I am working and something else comes up. It helps me stay on track when I set goals.
What is your motivation when it comes to studying, what really drives you?
For my undergrad, what really drove me was my focus on getting out of school and getting my real life in order. Now that I’m going back to school as a parent, a lot of it is really focused on my kids. I want my kids to see me working hard. I want them to see me succeed in college. I want them to see the effort that goes into it and the rewards in the end like graduating with a doctorate and having my nurse practitioner. I think at this point, I want them to be proud of me by seeing what I’m doing, and then hopefully I’ll Inspire them to get their work done and put in the effort that college requires.
How do you cope with stress from studying, in other words, how do you take care of yourself?
One situation that causes me stress and frustration is when I feel like I’ve read the same paragraph in my books. I deal with this by putting the reading aside and doing something else. Sometimes, if the weather is nice, I will go for a walk. I also watch a TV show I haven’t seen in awhile or go into my sewing room. When feeling stressed, it’s important to figure out what makes you happy, so you can take a break from studying and be able to come back with a fresh look at the assignment.
How is the covid-19 pandemic affecting your studying?
It’s different because I can’t go to my usual studying spots such as the library or Panera Bread. Unfortunately, I have to tell my kids to be quiet and play on their tablets for an hour. This way, I can do an hour of studying and then do something with my kids after that. Under these circumstances, I find myself setting more time limits and learning efficient time management. As far as my school work, this pandemic hasn’t changed anything because most of what I’m doing is online. In the fall, if any of my clinicals change, I will still be doing them with other nurse practitioners, but we will have to do virtual visits. My school work has only changed a little bit, but everything requires an adjustment.
Lastly, how do you manage your time to have a good personal work and study balance?
In the medical field, time management is very important. During my undergrad years, I learned how to balance my personal life and my school life more efficiently. While in college, a good skill to obtain would be to set the books down and have fun every once in a while. Now, I have a lot more work in my undergrad years, plus three kids and a job, so time management is even more important. I like to balance personal life and work life by setting aside an hour and a half to two hours to look through my books, get assignments done, and even look ahead in my textbooks, so I can get future assignments completed to make sure I’m never behind. I try to get out as much as possible and even bring my books. Usually, I take my kids on a walk and bring a book or two so I can be with my family, but also work on my school assignments. Even with a lot of work to get done, I can still be involved with my family and have fun. The ability to manage time well has helped me get school work and studying done while having a good personal life. It’s also important when managing time to figure out a way that works best for you.
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