How to take an Active Approach to Learning in College

Learning needs to be intentional in order for it to be effective. You can’t just show up to a college class and assume that you will soak up the knowledge being presented by osmosis. An active approach to learning means that a student is willingly participating on his or her end to make the most out of each and every class. The following tips will help you take charge of your own education, bringing more success and satisfaction to your college experience.


All too often students think that classroom learning is a spectator sport. They put the focus on the professor, making the teacher the responsible party in the acquisition of knowledge. The truth of the matter is that it’s not the professors job to force you to learn the material. They are only there to present the subject, facilitate discussion, answer questions, and generally direct the class. It is the responsibility of the student to take what has been presented, process it, digest it, memorize it, ponder it or question it. You can be proactive in the classroom by sitting up close to the front, taking notes, asking questions, participating in discussions, and engaging with the professor and other students in the class. Actively keep tabs on class schedules, deadlines, revisions to assignments, or just the general happenings of each course. Exchange e-mails with other students in case you have to miss class so you can contact them and stay on top of things. The active approach to the classroom means getting there early, staying awake, and staying after to share a few comments or verify any uncertainties you may have with students or professors. Once you determine that learning is the role of the student, take your role very seriously. In college, as in life, what you get out of any experience directly correlates to what you put into it.. It is up to you to actively participate in all aspects of every class in spite of mean professors or boring subject matter.


For every hour in class a student should study 2-3 hours outside of class. This can really add up when you are taking four classes that meet three times a week. Don’t expect to pick up everything you need to know in the classroom. The majority of your work load, including reading, papers, and projects must be accomplished on your own time. This requires some serious study habits. Take action in this area by coming up with a study strategy. Chart out what you need to study for each class, when to do it, and where. Create a haven for study complete with a comfortable place where you can read attentively, a desk where you can plug in a laptop, and many drawers or a file cabinet for giving each class a place to keep materials organized. Come up with ways to help yourself really retain and understand what you read. Employ the Socratic method of asking questions until you have dissected a confusing topic and can answer your own questions about it. Keeping a study journal specifically with areas to write out the highlights of your studies along with any confusing questions you need to have help answering can come in handy for some people. Talk about your classes when you are out with friends, going over again what you’re learning and listening to what they have to say about their own studies. Sometimes actually experiencing something is the best way to learn about it. If you’re in a poetry class, go to a local poetry reading. Go to a science museum or natural history museum when you have those subjects. Be open to study and make it a way of life. You will never cease to be a student. Even after you graduate, you will still be learning things for the rest of your life.


The most crucial aspect of being an active student is to acknowledge that you alone are responsible for your destiny. Coming to this conclusion early on will keep you from making excuses, blaming people or circumstances, or just giving up. Every day in college is a new adventure. You should be working harder than you have ever worked before. You should learn something new every day. You should know that your decisions about what you eat, how much sleep you get, whether or not to have a part time job, or what you do in your free time will all reflect how responsible you were come end of semester. If you see a bunch of A’s on your transcript, congratulations. You earned those by being an active learner. If the grades are not as favorable, the onus is still on you. Perhaps you were passive in one of these areas and need to be more involved come next semester. Recognizing yourself as the prime authority in your own education is a crucial lesson every student who desires to accomplish great things in college needs to learn.