Queen's University Logo
--IMPORTANT NOTICE-- Up-to-date COVID-19 information Click Here

Is that something I should be doing? Finding your own learning structure

Naomi Chernos, 4th Year English/Physics


Friends and peers are great resources for picking up ideas on how to study. Talking to other people about study strategies and course content, and hearing about how other people structure their time is a great idea, and I’m not about to tell you not to do it. In fact, I think learning as many different ways as possible to find academic (and general) success is incredibly helpful. I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but in the face of stress and confusion of midterm season easy to forget the main caveat to this approach: someone else’s approach to studying isn’t necessarily the best approach for you.

You probably know someone who never seems to work hard at school, who quickly reads over lecture notes before a test, starts essays the night before they’re due, and yet appears to do fine. I don’t need to tell you that although anyone can take this approach, that doesn’t mean it’s the best route to success. First of all, they may not be coping as well as you think. Alternatively, they’re doing great because they have a magical brain. I don’t need to tell you not to emulate them. You already know that you can’t survive that way. You’re jealous, I’m jealous, this doesn’t really bear discussion. We all already know that the person doing all their assignments at the last minute probably isn’t a viable person to emulate.

The study strategies that are harder to ignore come from people who are on top of their studying. Whether they’re working around the clock, or writing 30 drafts of an essay, or making colour-coded flash cards weeks before the midterm, these people always seem to have it all figured out. When you talk to them, you feel like you can’t possibly be doing enough, but you can’t imagine staying up that late to work every night, or pacing your breaks on a timer, and writing colour-coded notes just gives you a headache. But the paranoia now plagues your brain. If someone else is working this hard, how can you possibly be doing enough? Whenever they tell you about their new technique, you think, “am I supposed to be doing this too?” And that’s where you start to get in trouble.

It’s a good idea to ask friends for ideas when you’re struggling in class, but it’s important to keep in mind that everyone learns and studies differently. Finding a solid strategy that works for you and balances academic and regular life in a way you can handle is more important than pulling all-nighters or starting a bullet journal, just because you’re worried you’re the only one not doing it. Keep in mind that those people who seem to be working around the clock often aren’t making their health a priority, and that it’s important that you don’t forget about yours. Take time for yourself, get enough sleep, and eat well.  But it can be hard to figure out what works best for you. Luckily, the SASS website has some fantastic resources to do just that.

First, if you go to the SASS website, you can find a diagnostic tool that will help you figure out your strengths and weaknesses. Once you take it, you can move on to the other areas of the site, which will help you find tons of other resources with ideas on how to combat procrastination, organize your notes and budget your time. If you’re looking for something more, you can book a one-on-one appointment with a learning strategist who can help you figure out a study plan, or you can attend some workshops that might give you ideas! Just remember, if what you’re doing is working for you, don’t worry about anyone else!