Advise for Students interested in Psychology

 Dr. Macalister, Professor of Life-Span Developmental Psychologist

The fact that you are reading this in the first place is a good indication that you are conscientious and interested in succeeding.  You are probably already doing a lot of the things you need to be successful in college.

Here are a few pointers from the field of Psychology to add to your bag of tricks:

Stress Management: According to top neuroscientists, the biggest factor in academic achievement is sleep!  Studies have shown that sufficient sleep enhances performance from one day to the next (this is called consolidation); and that inadequate sleep is related to much smaller increases in learning, and even deficits in performance.

Time Management: Consolidation happens over a period of three nights.  So, to make the most of your studying, study three days before your test.  Continue studying for the next three days, to be sure, but most importantly, get a good night’s sleep for the three nights before the test.  Your performance will be much better than if you pull an all-nighter cramming.

Test Taking: Research from Psychology in the field of memory shows that we remember information better if we recall it under the same conditions under which it was encoded.  So, if you have an option, take your test in the same location (same classroom, same seat) where you learned the material.  There also seems to be some evidence reported in cognitive science that the scent of peppermint boosts memory and motivation.  So, why not combine these findings and suck a peppermint candy or use peppermint-scented hand lotion during lecture (encoding); then use peppermint again during testing (recall).

Stress Management: Research reported in the 2011 volume, Academically Adrift, indicates that students who see their professors outside of class are more successful in college. We can’t claim a causal relationship here, but visiting your professors during office hours certainly can’t hurt!  You might even invite a professor for coffee or to have lunch with you, or get really nuts and organize a monthly “tea” or “coffee” at the Spencer Center for faculty in your major department and a few students.

Here is an article with a couple study dos and don’ts from Psychology.

Here’s an excerpt: “Which learning techniques made the grade? According to the authors, some commonly used techniques, such as underlining, rereading material, and using mnemonic devices, were found to be of surprisingly low utility. These techniques were difficult to implement properly and often resulted in inconsistent gains in student performance. Other learning techniques such as taking practice tests and spreading study sessions out over time — known as distributed practice — were found to be of high utility because they benefited students of many different ages and ability levels and enhanced performance in many different areas.