So I’ve been comparing high school and college and trying to figure out why my academic successes in high school haven’t necessarily translated over to my work in college. In terms of how I approach studying and learning material, not much has changed. I’ve made minor tweaks as I saw necessary, and still I don’t get the results that I want. Why is this?
Ignoring obvious factors like increased difficulty of classes, competition, etc, what I’ve come to realize is a couple of things.
1. As concepts become more abstract, more time is required. This wasn’t fully realized until early sophomore year, but it’s come to a point where the math is more abstract, and the material is more abstract. In the past it was simple, it was generally one or the other (generally material being more abstract). Now with more abstract mathematical concepts coming into play, the abstraction requires more time that I simply haven’t put in. This has to and will change.
2. Harder material requires more time to sit and think. I think the biggest change is that harder material requires more time, and in college, I feel like I have less free time than I used to. This compounds the problem and brings us to what I believe is the biggest challenge that I have to overcome if I want to succeed. I need to once again go back to going “above and beyond.”
In high school, it’s easy and generally possible to go “above and beyond.” The material is easier, and that leaves more time to be naturally curious, where reading about one concept can lead to a couple hours on Wikipedia and Google Scholar as I attempted to learn more about how a certain thing worked and other ideas related to it.
In college, I feel that too often I just don’t have the ability nor the time to go above and beyond. Wikipedia and other sources are painfully inadequate, and so to go above and beyond means find textbooks or other forms of material that explain and present the high level concepts that are considered going above and beyond. I think at the same time, I have to blame myself in the sense that I feel that the classes themselves are such a step up, that in taking them, I’ve already gone above and beyond. What I have to realize is that the classes themselves are nothing more than an introduction. To go truly above and beyond is to delve into what begins to push the boundaries of the known and unknown. To push there seems a little unnecessary, but I don’t think I have to necessarily get that far. I think in arriving at a region near that boundary, I will have already encountered many things that go “beyond the scope” of this class. In order for me to understand what goes beyond the scope in the class, I need a solid foundation, and in my attempts to pursue further knowledge, I will be solidifying my foundation for the classes I’m currently taking.
So here’s my promise, to myself — to take those words “beyond the scope of this class” back to how I originally understood them, not as a reason to relax and forget, but as a challenge.