The journey of higher education presents participants with a myriad of challenging and rewarding opportunities for intellectual growth. Students need not underestimate the benefits taking a single course can have on their development and future.
These benefits can be broken down into three categories: finding your learning style, cultivating your interests, and developing transferable skills.
Finding Your Learning Style
“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” – Benjamin Franklin
Learning styles will vary from student to student but fall within the following categories:
- Reading and Writing
First, visual learners tend to intake information more efficiently through visual stimuli such as graphs, charts, diagrams, and maps. These learners may best comprehend the relationship between ideas in the form of a flow chart.
Second, auditory learners tend to intake information more efficiently through hearing ideas expressed out loud such as in a lecture or a podcast. These learners may best comprehend the relationship between ideas in the form of a discussion or group activity.
Third, reading and writing learners tend to intake information more efficiently through written text. These learners may best comprehend the relationship between ideas in the form of articles and books that stretch out ideas and thoughts on the page.
Finally, kinesthetic learners tend to intake information more efficiently through hands-on exercises. These learners may best comprehend the relationship between ideas in the form of physical or animated objects that require a “hands-on” approach.
It is important to note that no one learning style is “better” than the other, nor do they fatally lock students into career paths. Rather, identifying one’s preferred learning style will help in finding the most efficient way to learn and process information, which will in turn help one discover their academic strengths while offering insights into their natural interests and talents.
Cultivating Your Interests
“Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.” – Socrates
Academic interests will vary from person to person and be influenced by a combination of ‘nature versus nurture.’ Interests can be cultivated through an endless number of factors such as where and when one grew up, familial guidance, and hobbies and ideas introduced during the formative years of one’s life. Some will have stronger abilities in math and science while others will excel in the liberal arts.
Whether one wishes to continue pursuing their lifelong interests or start anew, students should cast a wide net when exploring formal educational programs and potential career paths. Exploring interesting courses and ideas will help students get a sense of their natural interests, which are often correlated with their natural learning abilities.
It is not uncommon for working adults to change fields and build careers in industries that differ from their formal education. Sometimes the reason for these shifts stem from a lack of access and knowledge of the wide array of academic pursuits available during one’s college years. By casting a wide net during one’s college years, students can maximize their exposure to the wide array of possibilities that await them in the job market.
Developing Transferable Skills
“Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.” – Stephen Hawking
Three examples of tangible, transferable skills that will benefit students throughout any potential career track include critical thinking, time management, and writing.
First, the development of critical thinking is the foundation of problem-solving. Utilized within any course or career field, this skill can help one rationalize and process through challenges to transform oneself into a problem solver—a highly desired character trait by potential employers. Problem solvers inevitably become leaders in their sphere of influence and are highly valued across fields and industries.
Next, the mastery of time management will help structure oneself both academically and personally. Let’s face it, life is complicated! Balancing school, work, family, friends, and hobbies can get cumbersome and challenge even the most organized planners. Building time management skills will extend well beyond the classroom and office walls, helping one not only tackle the challenges before them but also help alleviate the stress and consequences of procrastination and disorganization.
Finally, improving one’s writing serves as one of the best definitive tools in advancing clarity of thought and conveying both process and purpose. The written word is a powerful tool that has the ability to sway emotions and reveal the truth. It is no surprise that the most exceptional orators are also skilled writers, carefully selecting and planning their words well before they are ever heard by an audience. Whether preparing a legal brief or a farm report, the ability to clearly convey thoughts and actions is an indispensable skill every person should develop early in life.
The process of learning new fields and subfields of study offers students the privilege of expanding their domains of thought beyond previously conceived borders.
Whether one is taking a core course of interest for their major, a fun and relevant elective course, or the dreaded required course that one hopes to simply battle through, keep in mind the real benefits that can result despite a course’s perceived importance or perceived relevance to ones future endeavors. Every field of study offers an opportunity to learn, grow, and benefit—even if those benefits are not immediately realized.
So, when taking your next course think outside of the box and ask yourself how the material may stretch your thinking and help you grow and discover the possibilities awaiting your post-graduation future.