Re-Learning How to Learn
When you were a kid, you probably didn’t think too much about how to study. You just did it, and somehow everything fell into place. After high school, though, it becomes a little more complicated, and no one is there to hold your hand anymore. If you are heading into college or vocational school straight from high school, it’s easier to cope with the rigorous demands of exams and course work, because you are still somewhat caught up in the momentum from your previous studies. But if you’ve had a break of a few (or maybe many) years from school, the thought of having to memorize facts and learn charts for a test can seem pretty daunting. The good news is, it’s not as difficult as you think.
For a lot of us, studying has a bad reputation, because it conjures up memories of hours spent reciting the same terms or dates over and over, making sure we get them all straight in our heads. Fortunately, as we get older our brains start to work in a different way, and this can actually make remembering things easier rather than more difficult. Often children don’t understand the ideas and themes behind certain facts and figures, so they have to rely solely on memory in order to make details stick in their minds. Adults, on the other hand, are better capable of seeing patterns and comprehending the reasons behind why certain things are the way they are, and so knowing a set of facts becomes less about memorization and more about just figuring it out logically.
The main obstacle adults have to deal with when it comes to studying is their own psychological blocks. We are often told that studying gets harder for us after childhood, but there is no evidence to support such a claim. Nonetheless, we often tell ourselves that it’s going to be more of a challenge simply because we’re older. Don’t start out by talking yourself into a disadvantage that only exists in your head — the very fact that you have made the effort to go back to school is ample indication to suggest that you are more than capable of making the effort to do do the preparation work involved.
As for the actual studying, it’s important to use common sense. Schedule a set time when you can study every week, mark it in your planner, and stick to it. Break it down into small manageable parts, and be aware of your threshold for frustration. If things are getting on top of you, step back, take a breather, and come back to it when you feel more settled. This is yet another benefit of being an adult — you are more aware of mood shifts and the causes behind them than a child would be, and you are less prone to tantrum-like behavior. Use these skills to your advantage, and make the most of your time.
When you return to education after a long absence, in many ways you’re actually in a much better position to learn than you were as a child. You have a wealth of experience and previous knowledge to help you work through problems, and you also have the benefit of a more mature mindset to help you deal with challenges and frustrations. Use these skills to your advantage, and make the most of your time, while enjoying the fact that it’s not all about memorizing anymore.