Studying; what to do when
By Jessica Hodges
Every student knows the feeling. There’s a big paper or test that’s worth a large chunk of the grade. The term’s wrapping up, and plans are being made for Summer, Christmas, or any other break. The mind is tired from being shoved full of information on a daily basis for the past three to five months. And after this big project, you’re home free and through. But the success of this end of year crunch comes down to how well you’ve absorbed the information from the class itself.
Studying is a very personal experience, and rightly so, for everyone’s brain works in a different way. Collected here, however, are five blind college students’ takes on how to study in college.
Bahzad: You receive various suggestions before going to college, both from teachers and—in my case—staff at the Kalamazoo training center. Having gotten a Victor Stream, I took some of that advice and started to record lectures. Although I did try typing my notes, capturing the lecture in full allowed me to return to it and pay attention to the important parts without fretting about scrambling to write info or not having satisfactory facts to pass a given test. Reviewing those recordings helped every time, enabling me to pass each exam or quiz. It was particularly useful in my case since I studied Spanish. Even though Spanish isn’t my native tongue, I wanted to achieve fluency. The Stream helped me do that, considering I could go back and type any word that had been unfamiliar to me.
Not all courses required tests or exams that needed the use of any recording device. In addition to specializing in Spanish, I made a decided move to minor in English. Given that much of the material came from short stories and novels, recording the lectures of the professors would have meant listening to the analysis of other students and the same content that appeared in the book repeated for clarification. I knew that we needed to form our own opinions and thoughts, which made rereading the stories and taking notes about the plot and scenes my only criteria. In short, I recorded lectures and took notes when necessary. Using a combination of laptop and Stream helped me succeed and graduate with my BA.
Throughout my time in school, I’ve learned one invaluable lesson: Communicate with your instructor whenever you confront a challenge. Professors are reasonable, emailing and having office hours available to students. I’ve never heard of anyone who had neither office hours nor a way of contact. Dedicate at least a few hours a day studying. Slowly review any information and ask questions even if it’s a day beforehand. What’s important is your ability to do well. I had one friend who recorded and took notes at the same time. If that works, great. Any tool that’ll help you is one you should use.
Brian: Do as much in braille as you can.
Emily: I was never a giant studier, but I did for some classes more than others. I’d review my notes, which were most often taken in the PowerPoints converted to Word docs that my professors sent me, and I’d look at the relevant textbook chapters. Sometimes, if I still didn’t get it, I’d Google a concept. This was most often within a day of the test.
Jeff: I like taking my own notes, the way I want them, and I do not record lectures or classroom discussion because that is like doing the class twice if I have to listen to the entire recording. Taking my own notes is efficient and since I created them, I know what they mean. learn to take notes, effectively and efficiently. Your time is precious.
Jessica: When I’m in class, I find that I can’t concentrate if I’m trying to take notes and listen to the instructor at the same time and end up missing things. I also seem to retain memory better when I hear it all. So, I record classes in case I miss something, but I also take notes right after the class is finished. This way, the information is fresh in my head, and it gets reinforced, because I need to interact with it twice in a short period. As for studying for tests, when I know what is going to be on a test, I’ll create a notes sheet specifically for that test. With this, or a study guide if I’ve been provided with one, I will play the first part of a sentence that would contain an answer. A silly example: If I get to a line in a document that says, “the colors of the rainbow are…” I’ll stop my speech, and see if I can say the answer, in this case Roy G Biv. When I’ve said it, or if I can’t remember the answer, I let my speech continue. If I’m right, I move on. The ones I’m wrong on, I put a * next to, and come back to until I can successfully complete the sentence. I do this probably the three or four days leading up to a test, but that time can vary greatly based on the complexity of the situation. I’d also suggest learning to understand fast speech. I don’t read much braille, so do most of my reading with text on the computer. Having my speech rate high allows me to quickly read over texts, notes, and anything else I might need. Start by turning your speech up to where it’s a little uncomfortable, but you can still understand. When it’s easy to understand, repeat the process. There is no set speech rate you should be able to understand, but the faster you can get, the less time you need to spend reading, and the more you can spend watching Netflix with your head under a pillow.
As you can see, these suggestions are incredibly varied. But all of these people are, or have been, successful college students, from community college up through law school. Any of these ways can be combined, and adapted, to fit any type of studying style. And if none of them are for you, that’s totally ok. But hopefully, you can find something in this post to help you through your finals, or your next college year.
By Jessica Hodges, Staff writer.
Thank you for listening!
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