Social Studying

Many young students treading on a university campus probably acknowledge that there is a tremendous amount of self-learning to be gained through interactions with their peers: after all, diversity breeds different perspectives and on a campus like Tulane, students are bound to be curious to get to know other people, talk, chit-chat, exchange ideas, hang out, and form enriching experiences. Reflecting back to when we had boasted about our ambitions about our collegiate plans post-high school and determined to explore the limits of our intellectual expanse, as it turns out, that often isn't the case. Even though the desire is still there, oftentimes our other intentions and curiosities take precedence like spending time dissecting “Walking Dead” episodes with friends or have hour-long talks in the library about he’s-not-interested-in-that-girl-anymore-oh-no-he-didn’t: after all we are social creatures.

I recently went to a discussion group hosted by the Newcomb Institute where several graduate students spoke about their undergraduate experiences and offered advice to us current students. One grad student was on track for an Anthropology PhD and is an Adjunct Professor teaching a class at Tulane and one of the most surprising comments she offered was that she had expected a much more enthusiastic group of students, or at least in some way more engaged. She had no students come ask her questions during her office hours, though she would've been more than happy to see a familiar face! Another graduate student eagerly offered, "don't wait until you have a probing question to go," she suggested popping up at your professor's door during office hours and simply say, "I find this interesting". By making these small efforts we can start to collect valuable information about what truly impassions us from extremely well-qualified people who are most likely happy to share it. And not to mention it can complement or sometimes even jumpstart our learning.

According to a recent New York Times study, only half of students in American universities talk to students or professors about how to study for their classes, and only 30 percent ask for help when they don't understand something. Us Tulane students could start by making our learning experience a more social one: take a less fearful approach to professor office hours or study in groups and get information from your peers by asking "so can you explain to me how this works?" It may lessen the tedium and add a bit more life and dimensionality to our academic experience and it might connect the dots for you way before you attempt to course through a heavy textbook. I think students have largely ignored the great sources that our professors and peers can be and some choose to make their academic experience a solitary one. (Our professors, especially, they have multiple degrees!) As for working with other students, discouragement of cooperation from increasing amount of stress over who has a better grade is understandable and there is an uncomfortable sense of competition. But either way I think there is more to it than lighting the midnight candle on your own and commanding your brain to steer through a whole mission solo.