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Monday, March 9, 2015

How To Survive The Most Difficult College Majors (15 Minute Study Strategy)

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I’ve received a ton of questions from students asking how to use my study strategies in a “hard” major like Pre-Med or Engineering. I put hard in quotes because there needs to be an important note considered with that. I, generally, agree (not based on anything useful like experience, well one, not the other) that engineering and medical are the most difficult majors to score high in. There have been plenty of studies suggesting that. That being said, hard is a really difficult concept to pin down.

Every subject has its particular challenges. Those challenges shouldn’t be compared based on a single scale because every person has their own skills and weaknesses that ruin the simple scale considered. A person that loves and kicks ass at math might find engineering significantly easier than psychology or something. A person that hates math but is smart as hell can still suck in an engineering major.

Sure, maybe those scales are generally accurate but they mean almost nothing without including the students aptitude to learn certain things.

When you’re looking to use the study strategies suggested in this blog, you may or may not have to adjust them a little. If the classes you’re taking are particularly difficult (TO YOU) then you definitely need to adjust these strategies in certain ways.

Here are the factors you need to work on:

Study VS School Work


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I recommend not spending more than 15 minutes a day studying. As unbelievable as that number may seem, in almost every major it’s appropriate to score good. If you want to learn more about the 15 minutes of studying then be sure to check out the archives of this blog for details. I’ll go into the specific ways to adjust those 15 minutes later in this article.

Those 15 minutes are for studying. They are not for school work.

Schoolwork can dramatically change the amount of time you have to spend. If your teacher is a jerk and gives you two hours of boring school work every night then I can’t help you with that. (Other than possibly suggesting to check the value of completely skipping the homework and taking the loss.) Some teachers don’t provide homework. You can be finished with those teachers work in absolutely no time at all.

Engineering is one of the majors where more time for work is needed. Much of engineering is math. Math is usually best learned by working on it. It can’t be studied well with the traditional strategies. That usually means you have to give it more school work time. Of course, since engineering requires a lot less brute memorization, you may be able to get away with a significantly shorter study session.

Another major that requires a ton of outside school work is education. You may have to put in dozens of extra hours a week to complete all your required assignments. In general, they’re not pull your hair out challenging but I hear they can drive a person nuts.


When To Increase That 15 Minutes


Some majors require a seriously ridiculous amount of memorization. Most of them don’t. While I can’t go through every single major and list which ones need more than 15 minutes and which ones don’t, I can give you some basic guidelines.

To start, assume you don’t need to study more than 15 minutes a night. As before, this may sound ridiculous but you’ll never know unless you try. That is the case with most students in most majors who aren’t already behind. The only exception to the 15 minutes a night studying to start, I would consider, is a student that missed out on significant portions of the basics or doesn’t speak the native language at their college.

If you’ve used this strategy in high school then you’ll know within a week or two if you’re keeping up. If you’ve never used this strategy before, you may need to try it for a month. (Of course, if you’re already thinking “there is no way this will work.” It probably won’t work. You need to be committed to getting it to work.)

There is one major that gets a ton of attention as a difficult major. Some medical major classes you enter are going to be particularly challenging when it comes to studying. Studying for a medical major is like studying in a new language. There are going to be thousands of new words to learn. Then you’re going to have to learn how they interact. I would not be surprised if you need to add more study time. Make sure you do it right though.

Do not add more than 10 minutes to your individual study sessions. You’ll just kill your efficiency past that. Add more short study sessions if you have to. Instead of doing a single 30 minute study session do two 15 minute study sessions. Keep your study sessions closer to 15 minutes than 25 minutes whenever possible. You should not need to add more than two 25 minute sessions unless you’re struggling, approaching finals, or taking an insane course load.

As you increase your study time, you have to count on your efficiency lowering. Remember to control the length carefully. If more study sessions doesn’t work for you. Consider switching to the flash card strategy I discussed a few weeks ago. That strategy is particularly powerful for medical majors.


Adjusting On The Fly


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To some extent, if you’re taking a really difficult major then you’re going to need to learn to adjust as you go along. Every single major in every single college offers wildly different experiences. While you may dominate in one college’s math major, you may completely bomb in another one. That means you need to be observant enough to know when you’re struggling and when you’re thriving.

I’ve found most students (that read this blog) tend to assume they’re struggling even when they’re not. Try to force yourself to be honest about these kinds of things. If you can’t be objective then keep track of all your scores and set goals in advance for them. Then don’t trust the way you feel and only trust the results. Did you meet your goals or not?

As you get deeper and deeper into a particular major, you should be able to find people to help you come up with good study strategies yourself. Remember to look for efficiency. You don’t have to waste your whole day studying just to survive a major. Heck, I can almost guarantee you, there is someone dumber than you, studying less, and still scoring higher than you without cheating. Figure out what that person would do.

Do you want to know how to study in less than 15 minutes a night (well… usually?) Well, that’s what this blog is all about. Be sure to check out the archives and maybe even get an ebook for a crash course in it.


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