Some people thrive in a structured learning environment, yet run into obstacles when trying to learn on their own time. The straightforwardness, and the ability of academics to push you to succeed near your peak, causes the transition to a solo-learning environment to be a bit daunting for the first timer. Let’s focus in on this phenomena:
When it comes to studying something on your own time, you give up certain things, which may seem sort of obvious until you really think about it:
- You aren’t told what to learn to get a result you want.
- You aren’t given automatically good information.
- You don’t have any “clear” reason to keep studying, like a grade.
In other words, in a traditional classroom in college, you will typically be given a clear-cut path to get a result you want. If you take “Introduction to Partial Differential Equations,” you can expect that the instructor is well-versed, and has a good idea of what would be most useful for you to know.
Also, in a classroom, you’re going to be given mostly verifiable information. With the exception of certain abstract concepts which are hard to get perfectly right, like economics, facts that you are taught are going to be facts. A numerical solution to the heat equation is going to be true, and accurate. Your concern need not be with questioning the validity of the information they give you.
When you study on your own, you have to try and reduce #1 and #2 as much as possible, and give yourself good reasons to continue:
- You have to question the information that you are given sometimes, and you have to find contrary opinions on certain subjects.
- You have to stay focused on reading well-regarded books, and get off of the internet.
- You have to tie together different subjects, and ideas, and try to piece together new things to get your brain working.
- You have to find ways to keep yourself motivated to learn (being interested in it is usually pretty good). After all, there’s no grade carrot at the end of this stick.
- You have to be consistent. One hour a day is way better than 10 hours on a Saturday. Your brain needs repetition.
Above all, keep going. Change subjects, maybe, but learning is going to make you so much better than everyone else when you inevitably get older. Truly, the best investment you can ever make towards your future is learning, and simultaneously improving the way that you learn.