It is a fundamental part of college education: the idea that young people don’t just learn from lectures, but on their own, holed up in the library with books and, perhaps, a trusty yellow highlighter. But new research, conducted by two California economics professors, shows that over the past five decades, the number of hours that the average college student studies each week has been steadily dropping.
In a 2008 survey of more than 160,000 undergraduates enrolled in the University of California system, students were asked to list what interferes most with their academic success. Some blamed family responsibilities, some blamed jobs. The second most common obstacle to success, according to the students, was that they were depressed, stressed, or upset. And then came the number one reason, agreed upon by 33 percent of students, who said they struggled with one particular problem “frequently” or “all the time”: They simply did not know how to sit down and study.
You can’t help but appreciate the honesty here. And it is remarkably true. Lectures flew over my head, and there were very few courses I really loved. ‘Reading assignments’ are generally vague with no clear goal. But at the heart of this, I suppose it’s important to find a reason as to why we do what we do. When the subject material speaks to you, you will sit down and study. The ‘how’ will follow once we get that figured out.