The Most Important Academic Habit: Study Habit

All you lucky students out there who can listen in class and pick up everything needed to maintain an A average, beware. Members of your gifted group tend to struggle in college. It is usually that freshman year when the flow of information exceeds your ability to make sense of everything you hear. When that happens, you need to do something you have never had to do before – study.

Studying academic material in order to internalize it is not a skill that can be developed overnight. Many students come to this conclusion about the same time as the college they attend asks them to leave because of their substandard GPA. The sad thing about students struggling at any academic level is that it need never happen. When proper instruction is given and followed by homework to strengthen understanding, the student returns to class the next day to get clarification on anything that is unclear and the concept is mastered. I know, I know, it works better in theory than in practice. But, the system does work most of the time when executed in the described fashion. The system breaks down when a gifted student bypasses the “strengthening” part because they are secure in their knowledge of the subject. What they don’t understand is that if this important step is not practiced, they will never develop the skill or master the habit of studying.

James Clear reported that, “on average, it takes more than 2 months before a new behavior becomes automatic – 66 days to be exact… In (Phillippa) Lally’s study, it took anywhere from 18 days to 254 days for people to form a new habit.” A student in college that is struggling at midterm does not have the luxury of taking 66 days to develop good study habits. This is where parents come in. I encourage parents to set aside daily study time for their children even before they can read. It can start out that the parent reads something to the child every afternoon until the child can read to them. This time can also be used for projects of all kinds until time to start school. At this point, the activity becomes study time. Even when there is no homework, the designated time should be spent reading or otherwise learning something. Helping a child form a habit like this will make them a better student at every level and assure that they become a lifelong learner.

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