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What’s Your Learning Style? Personalized Study Tips for College Success

College and University Blog - Resources, help, and insight for your college experience

There’s a whole lot riding on your ability to make the grade in college. Landing top internships, earning or maintaining grants and merit scholarships, and, most importantly, scoring your dream job after graduation – all of these depend on how well you’ll be able to keep up with readings, take effective class notes, research and write polished essays, and perform well on tests. No pressure, right?

Wrong. Academically speaking, college is in a different universe than high school. While your K-12 teachers were paid to seek out and play to each student’s individual strengths and talents, college instructors work on a model that’s much more impersonal. They stride up to the podium in packed lecture halls, “profess” for 45 minutes, perhaps answer a few questions, and then exit stage left. The days of being coddled and spoon-fed by your high school teachers are gone for good.

Basically, the responsibility of finding a study system that works for you rests squarely on your own two shoulders. But here’s the catch: not everyone learns in exactly the same way. If you’re counting on your ability to make straight A’s just by taking notes and studying like mad the night before each exam, you might be setting yourself up for a big failure. To really make the grade in college, you’ve got to know – and make the most of – your unique learning style. Here are a few helpful tips from top learning experts.

*Learn with your eyes. If you’re a visual learner, you probably respond well to PowerPoint presentations, overhead projectors, slide shows, graphics, and charts. In your class notes, make use of flow charts, diagrams, and other visual representations that help you gain a deeper understanding of the material. Highlighter markers can be a big help, as well. You might want to look into online mind-mapping applications to get the most from your college experience.

*Learn with your ears. If you’re an auditory learner, you’re in luck – the traditional college lecture format is tailor-made for you. Using a digital recorder to capture class notes might be helpful, as will study sessions that make copious use of verbal drills. Supplementing your study sessions with books-on-tape can also be helpful.

*Learn with your hands. If you’re what the learning style experts refer to as a kinesthetic or tactile learner, you tend to figure things out through hands-on activities. Unless you’re a science major whose coursework involves a lot of labs, it may be difficult for you to adapt your learning style to the traditional college format. Because you’re probably the fidgety type who gets restless when forced to sit still for too long at a time, schedule short, intense study sessions, rather than trying to study quietly for hours on end.

Many students find that their learning styles actually combine elements from two or more of the major categories. After you’ve figured out what works right for you, develop a personalized method that plays to your unique strengths. Don’t fall into the trap of trying to fight against your learning quirks – if you waste time trying to conform, you’ll just be hurting your chances for academic success in college.

What kind of learner are you? Have you developed any special tricks or techniques to succeed based on your learning style? Tell us all about it in the comments.


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