Although I’d love to think that I’m some sort of innovatus maximus, when students ask me for advice I’m pretty sure that I just repeat what somebody told me when I was in college. This is particularly true when it comes to study habits. I was emphatically told to study during the day and never study in my dorm. I suppose the reason I think this advice was so good is because when I didn’t follow it my grades tanked. But just because some bits of sage advice have been around for a long time doesn’t necessarily mean that they are still accurate or applicable to everyone. Given the wealth of changes that have impacted undergraduate lives since I was in college (i.e., the late 1980s and early 1990s), it struck me that I’d better test these study habit assumption to see if they still hold.
Now I know that some of you might be chomping at the bit to raise the “correlation doesn’t equal causation” fallacy. Maybe I was dumber than a bag of hammers when I was in college and no amount of studying would have helped. Or maybe students who come to college with a boatload of smarts can study anywhere at anytime without any consequence. In all seriousness, given the vast changes in technology and the availability of library resources online, maybe the “where” isn’t all that important any more.
Luckily, we have exactly the data necessary to test this question. By linking first-year student data collected prior to enrollment, during the first year, and after the spring term, we can look at the relationship between pre-college academic preparation, study habits involving “where” and “when” one studies, and first-year cumulative GPA.
To account for pre-college academic preparation, we used the student’s ACT score and their Academic Habits score from the Student Readiness Survey (a score derived from each student’s self-assessment of their academic habits; things like preparing for exams early instead of cramming the night before the test). To account for studying “where” and “when” we used responses to three questions on the end of the first-year survey:
- Of all the time you spent studying this year, about how much of it was in your dorm room? (1=none, 2=a little, 3=about half, 4=most, 5=all)
- How often did you study – by yourself or in small groups – in the CSL (Tredway Library, 4th floor study spaces, Brew, or Dining Hall)? (1=never, 2=rarely, 3=sometimes, 4=often, 5=very often)
- I made sure to set aside time to study during the day so that I wouldn’t have to do it all at night. (1=never, 2=rarely, 3=sometimes, 4=often, 5=very often)
And to account for cumulative first-year GPA, we used the final cumulative GPA in the college’s dataset that is constructed after all grades from the spring term have been logged.
I’ve inserted the results of the regression equation below, placing the statistically significant results in bold text.
|Studying in Dorm*||-.099||.044||.028|
|Studying in CSL||-.033||.042||.433|
|Studying During the Day*||.096||.038||.014|
Based on these regression results, the old-school studying advice seems to have withstood the test of time. As we would expect, pre-college academic preparation predicts first-year cumulative GPA. But even after accounting for pre-college preparation, “where” one studies (or more specifically, where one does NOT study) and “when” one studies still matters. Studying in one’s dorm room is a significant negative predictor, meaning that the more one studies in his or her dorm room the lower the first-year cumulative GPA. Conversely, studying during the day is a significant positive predictor, meaning that the more one studies during the day the higher the first-year cumulative GPA.
Interestingly, the question about studying in the CSL didn’t produce a statistically significant result. This may be the result of the question’s lack of precision. Because there is such a range of study environments in the CSL, studying the Brew may produce a much different effect than studying on the quiet floors of the library. In the end, the effects of those differences may well cancel each other out. Moreover, this possibility might further support the notion that the problem with studying in one’s dorm room isn’t the location itself, but rather the frequency and availability of distractions from friends, neighbors, TVs, game systems, and whatever else one might have stashed away in their dorm room.
It’s always nice to find that some sage old advice still holds true. But what I find compelling about these findings is the fact that they come directly from Augustana students who were first-year students in 2014-15. With this in mind, we can confidently tell our advisees that Augustana students who study away from their dorm room and study during the day earn better grades than similar students who study at night in their dorm rooms. In my recent experience, it appears that our students tend to respond to guidance supported by data more than they respond to sage old advice from the balding, middle-aged quasi-intellectual. Oh well.
Welcome back from Thanksgiving break, everyone! I’m looking forward to enjoying the holiday season on campus with all of you.
Make it a good day,