What is a non-traditional student? Basically, it means that you are over the age of 22 years old and did not go to college right after high school. That may seem a little bit harsh, but I have learned a lot over the years of being a student in this category. I will be the first to say it’s not always as easy as it used to be.
The Good Old days
When I originally started college I was 18 years old. I eventually stopped going to college for a few years, so I don’t think it’s fair to assume this was my first real go at college. Being 18 years old, I was your typical run-of-the-mill teenager. I wouldn’t study until the night before the exam, drink an energy drink, stay up all night and cram for my exams. I usually did pretty well on them too (not realizing at the time how much abuse I put my body through).
When I did decide to return to college I was considered a non-traditional student. It felt like a death sentence at my age. Being merely 22 years old and already being grouped in with individuals who were much older, but I didn’t mind. I attempted to stay up all night studying in my old habits, making sure to waste as much time as possible. Yet, this time, I could barely make it past midnight without dozing off.
On the day of the tests, I would feel so drained and exhausted. I just wanted to get the exam over with so I could go home and fall asleep (which my body was desperately crying out for). When I got my test results back, I got my first college F. How could this be? What did I do wrong? Why can’t I study as I had before?
My Realization Moment
They always say it gets harder as you get older. I am 27 years old now, which is still extremely young, but I have had to learn how to change my studying habits drastically from how I started my study journey almost 10 years ago. It was so hard for me to realize that I was older than my peers, my educational experience was different, my priorities were different now and I was different overall. I have tried every study technique known to woman. It has taken me about 3 years to understand that the most important thing to do is listen to your body and not overly push yourself and allow yourself to be a student and to learn.
What is spacing? Spacing is when you study for something continuously every day and you space it all out. There is so much evidence out there that can support this theory. When you cram, the chances are that you will forget a good amount of the information you just learned, and it will waste your time. When you space, you are training your brain to actually store information in your memory and use it every day. It is so much easier to study in small increments than trying to prepare your body for an all-night studying abuse session.
2. Set a timer
Next up, our old friend time. The biggest thing I also face is distractions. While I study, it’s easy for my eyes to drift off to the kitchen and see a stack of dishes that need to be done and then I no longer am concentrated on studying. I like to set studying timers for myself on my phone. Whatever amount of time I have that day to devote to studying I set a timer on my phone. For example, 60 minutes is something that is obtainable because I know I can commit to and focus. I also set my phone on airplane mode so I am less distracted to pick it up every time I hear a buzz or beep. I try to increase my studying the next time by about 5 minutes to train my brain to sit for longer spacing sessions.
3. Create a study space
Again, I am a distracted individual and it can be hard not to think of all the house chores I should and would rather be doing than studying. I study in the same place every time so I have a designated studying space. I like to put happy things in this space. Little notes, my favorite pens, a good comfort item such as a blanket, and something that has good lighting. I have found that if you designate a space just for studying you are more likely to actually study there. It’s a space that you should look forward to being in and a space that is distraction free.
4. Break time is a must
I still fall victim to old cramming habits. It’s important to have a timer so you can remember to take a break as well. Give yourself at least 10 minutes. Get up and stretch and move your body. Get a new beverage and clear your head. You can also start with a new subject when you are back from your break (if you feel that you were getting stuck on the last subject). When you move your body you are also waking yourself back up and recharging your battery just a little bit.
Study. Go ahead, go take that exam
I really do believe in these techniques. These small steps seem so simple, yet we can forget to do them. It’s called a recommended study technique for a reason. I do challenge you to try these steps whenever you find yourself needing to focus, study or get through that long business call next time. I would love to know if any of these steps work for you over on our Instagram!