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 Making Study Habits Work

UMD Students Choose Individual Learning Styles

Ron Archer and Cole Erikson
“I’d like it if finals week never existed,” said Cole Erikson, a UMD senior and Spanish major. “Finals week is the most stressful part of the semester — and my life, for that matter. But in the end, you need to do what you have to do in order to earn a good grade.”

Graphic design major Yer Moua wants to start on projects earlier, but can't. "For me it's hard to get started on my design projects. Usually, in about the middle of the time I have to work on it, I get an idea. Then I get really excited and work on the project non-stop."

Pressure isn’t rare to students during November and December. It’s a stressful time. UMD students have to endure freezing temperatures, blizzards, and, most importantly, end of the semester projects and final exams.

UMD students follow the national trend. This fall, the textbook publisher, Houghton Mifflin Company, conducted a survey of 896 currently enrolled college students to examine study habits. They were asked what time of day they studied, what their biggest distractions were, how they avoided distractions, and if they crammed for tests.

Houghton Mifflin found that the majority (65 percent) of students said they use “discipline, focus and a lock on their door for privacy during exam week.” In the study, students reported common distractions of music, entertainment, the computer, and breaks for caffeine, sugar, and food.

A sample of UMD students revealed patterns similar to the Houghton Mifflin research. “My roommates distract me the most, especially when they want me to go out with them at night,” said senior political science major, Nels Schnobrich. “I study at school so I can focus on schoolwork only.”

Ben Berg and Brittney Sillewski agree. Berg, a senior Communication major said, “I go to the library and rent a room, and then lock the door.” Sillewski, a senior Communication major, uses the library as well, “I close myself off from society and technology by going to the library,” she said. It’s not easy to get away. “Sometimes I close my door and wait to see how long it takes for one of my roommates to interrupt me," said Ron Archer, a senior biology major. “Most of the time, it’s not very long.”

"I do my design projects on a laptop, and UMD has wireless connections everywhere," said Moua. "When I work at school, I get distracted by the computer. I chat and surf. I work better at home. I play music. I grew up in a big family so I like noises. I like to walk around and grab a snack whenever I want to."

The Houghton Mifflin study looked at the behavior of last-minute cramming. They found that 55 percent of students report studying throughout the semester; 18 percent called themselves crammers; while six percent said they don’t study at all. The majority (49 percent) of students said mid-day is their favorite study time, followed by 35 percent who prefer the late night and early morning hours.

Night-time study hours seem popular at UMD. “Night is the only time that isn’t occupied by class or work,” said Schnobrich.” Berg’s optimal study time is morning. “I get the most done then. Too much goes on at night,” he said.

Elementary education major, Alyssa Clayton said she'd rather wake up early to study. "Five a.m. is better for me than studying late at night," she said. "I like it 100 percent quiet." Clayton maps out an elaborate study plan for her final exams. "Two or three weeks before finals, I type up a study schedule on the computer for each of my classes," she said. "I break out all the readings into separate days. Then, the day before the final, I look over everything again."

Some students feel that cramming before finals is easier. Others insist that studying continuously throughout the semester is a better strategy. “I am just a huge procrastinator,” said Archer. “But when I need to study, I study hard, and I get good grades.”

Berg also does most of his studying for big tests at the end of semester, rather than small assignments. He said, “The overall college experience hinders my ability to focus on smaller tasks.”

Dan Erickson, a senior communication major, primarily studies for major exams, “I study one or two days before each test so everything is fresh in my head.” Schnobrich has the opposite experience. He said, “I don’t like cramming everything into three days. Procrastination is a bad habit to get in to. I’m more organized than that.”

The prevailing sentiment among UMD students is clear: final exams and end-of the semester projects are exhausting. As senior communication major Jeanine Cascino says, “Whenever finals week creeps up, I want to hide in my room.” Whether UMD students lock the door on their roommates or stay up all night before a test, they do what’s necessary to succeed.


— by Thomas Gadbois

UMD Homepage 2007

UMD home page editor, Cheryl Reitan, creitan@d.umn.edu
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