For some, the thought of going back to study for a degree after time out to raise a family, work, or some other reason, can be quite daunting. You may be asking yourself Will I be able to study again? Take a breath and remember that you have many skills that you have developed throughout your life, which you can adapt to studying, and you’re smart enough to learn a few more!
Will I be able to study again?
This is a very common concern, so let’s take a look at it. What will you do when you go back and study for your degree?
- Lectures, lessons, and workshops
- Complete assignments
- Take exams
Each of these has a core set of skills, which you probably already have, and if you don’t, you can learn.
Whether you are on-campus in a lecture hall, on zoom, or learning asynchronously, attending lectures requires listening skills, note-taking skills, and understanding skills. If you need to brush up on any of these, there are countless resources on the internet, and your academic adviser is there to help you too. Remember, your lecturers are there to answer questions during and after their presentations – if you don’t understand – ask them to explain again. There may also be study and review groups in which you can ask your peers for help – and you’ll be able to quickly see that you’re not alone, everyone needs help sometimes.
Think back through your life and you’ll find plenty of things that you’ve done that are far more difficult than an assignment or paper. Remember those big and overwhelming problems and challenges you’ve dealt with? You broke them down into manageable chunks, and you chipped away at them until they were done. Maybe you’ll book in and get some advice from your academic adviser, or perhaps a colleague or friend that’s been through a degree, about how to plan, divide up and complete your work. You’ve asked for advice about home and work, now you’ll ask for advice about school. Also, there are courses and resources within your program, and if not then on the internet, to help improve your skills.
When you think about academia, you think about research. It would be surprising to find a degree that doesn’t have a research component. Researching is a skill that is learned, not one you are born with. If you’ve ever looked for a solution to a problem online, then you’ve done the research. If you’ve searched for the best price on a new flat-screen TV, then you’ve done the research. So your next research might be about sociology or politics, but the basics are the same. Again, for learning to tweak the skills you already have, you can ask your academic advisor, friends that have been through a degree, and your fellow students.
If you haven’t taken an exam for a while, the thought of remembering all your coursework and answering so many questions can appear an enormous task. There are many ways to approach coursework review. A favorite is looking back at old exam papers. Old papers can give you four great insights: First you can see what subject matter is being tested; next, you can see what types of questions are being asked; thirdly, you can see what question types and topics come up more frequently; and finally, from your work on questions, you can build up a set of short study notes that you will read and read and read as part of your pre-exam study routine. Another favorite is to turn your study notes into structured lists. First, you’ll break your notes into major sections. Each section may then contain a number of sub-sections, and each of these sub-sections may contain a number of facts. Organizing the subject matter into this structure will enable you to create a set of highly structured short notes that you can review over and over again. You may remember the sections using pneumonics or other memory aid so that you can recall important parts of your subject.