The Art of Studying

Author: Andy de la Garza

For college students, studying is inevitable. One of the most common ways that overstretched academics gather the motivation to complete the copious amounts of work that weigh down their schedule is through romanticizing the plan for tackling this load. While I have not mastered creating the perfect ambiance to work with both quality and efficiency, there are several factors that I consider necessary to the process.

While some may consider a solitary environment a necessity for tackling homework, I see it differently. Instead, I opt for areas on campus where a handful of other students can be seen working through their coursework. Whether in a small group of friends or a public study room surrounded by strangers, the presence of my peers fills me with a sense of camaraderie. Regardless of our varying course loads, we are all unified by angst and overflowing obligations to our professors.

However, as someone with a mind that wanders like a newborn experiencing life and sensation for the first time, I need something to keep both my mind and eyes from meandering. Music serves as my shield. When I place my headphones over my ears, all surrounding noises are canceled out, silenced, and I can truly focus. However, the type of music that I listen to is just as important as the personal bubble it forms. Particularly when I am reading, I have discovered that lyrical music clouds my mind and mingles with the words from the text. For that reason, I opt for music that omits the human voice, like classical piano tunes or soothing lo-fi hip-hop. I have dedicated much time searching the corners of YouTube to find hour-long compilations of suitable tracks. From sets of acclaimed works produced by famous composers to nostalgic video game setlists, I have compiled a playlist of such videos that empower me to complete any assignment. These sounds create the perfect atmosphere for any reading or problem set.

For much of my academic career, I have underestimated the effect that my appearance and upkeep can have on performance. But recently, I have begun to appreciate the effect that personal care can have on my study habits. While I used to simply throw on the nearest combination of sweatpants and a t-shirt before hitting the books, lately I have altered this practice. By no means do I assemble a professional getup to read a collection of poems or short stories. By donning a casual pair of pants or a sweater before studying, I find that I become more motivated and energized. Some may find getting “dressed” to study to be over the top or unnecessary, but taking pride in my appearance encourages me to take pride in my work. 

Just as it is important to rest and recover after working out, it is necessary to take appropriate breaks in between study sessions. I realize that the most effective strategy for me is to pause briefly between completing assignments for each class. Such breaks have become a necessity when I am studying. The 15 or so minutes I spend decompressing allow me to approach new subjects or classes with a clear, fresh mind. The leisure time ensures that I am not rushing through my tasks and keeps me accountable for putting quality effort into each of my classes. Perhaps it is foolish to spend so much time preparing to study instead of simply diving into the work. After all, the homework must be done one way or another. But as students, we are expected and required to study for much of our “free” time. Should we not take the time to find the methods that work best for us on tasks that take up hours, years of our lives? Sure, the music I listen to and the clothes I wear may not contribute directly to my end-of-semester grades, but for now, I’ll continue to fool myself into thinking that my intricate study strategy is my ticket to academic success.