After almost a year of remote learning, I finally felt ready to tackle my online classes when the spring semester started. But while I was getting things done in synchronous classes, I was ignoring one of them altogether: Biological Chemistry. Since the course was asynchronous and didn’t have any early deadlines, I prioritized doing assignments for my other classes, while Biological Chemistry went on the back burner.
How I Write and Learn
Sometimes it feels much easier to just ignore academic duties when I feel like something will become overwhelming. I realized very quickly that staying focused while attending a Zoom call made things even more difficult than I anticipated since I could distract myself with things like Netflix or online shopping. To nobody’s surprise, this habit was not allowing me to fully understand the content of my courses, and I was often left scrambling to catch up.
Since my freshman year of college, one thing I have noticed about myself is that I tend to get stressed the day before and the day of an exam. This would often lead to me performing beneath my potential. It ended up being a never-ending cycle. Slowly, throughout my years of college, I have developed small coping methods that have worked for me and might work for you as well!
When I think back on how my study habits have evolved over my time at UNC, there is one key change that had a dramatic effect on how I prepare for exams. During my first semester, I adopted the strategy of reading textbook chapters, notes, and lecture slides over and over again in hopes that somehow this would magically deposit information into my brain. I also did practice problems and practice exams, but I dedicated a large chunk of time to this strategy of obsessively rereading material. It didn’t take very long for me to realize that once the test was put in front of me, almost all of the information that I thought I had retained went straight out the window. I knew that I needed some way to supplement my approach of doing practice problems with a strategy to retain important concepts and information as well.
I remember reading my professor’s comments on a paper I’d written in one of my first graduate seminars at Carolina. The paper excited me because it was a topic that interested me, and I believed that my excitement would also factor into producing a well-written, deeply riveting original argument. I was wrong. When I read my professor’s comments, which were few, the words that stood out most were on the last page. Scribbled around some other notes that mentioned the promise of my idea, the professor had written, “This is almost unintelligible.” Reading this comment took a heavy toll on me even though I thought I could shake off the unhelpful criticism.
This semester, my anatomy course has posed a unique challenge for me. My previous studying methods were not helping me reach the level of understanding needed to excel on the quizzes; instead, I found myself falling into the trap of reading over material in the textbook and feeling a false sense of understanding. I could recognize what I was reading or the diagrams I was examining, but my quiz grades were still less-than-ideal. Frustrated with this pattern, I decided it was time for a change in my studying habits!
I have always felt that, in my life, there is a direct tie between food and focusing. When I get hungry, I have no desire to do my work. If I find myself wanting to stay focused, I know that snacks motivate me. I used to carry at least two in my bookbag with me at all times. Whether I’d sit under a tree outside and eat in-between classes or go to Lenoir with my friends instead, I had a system to stop my hunger and help me focus.
Somewhere in this year of quarantine, I went from just casually using social media to being a full on addict. Between Snapchat, Twitter, Youtube, and Instagram, my attention span was totally shot as notifications, dings, and buzzes pulled me away from class, homework, and even sleep. After a few months, I’d become a master at logging onto Zoom calls with half my attention and getting by with only half a night’s rest.