How to Study — Interview With Shashank Singhania, Computer Science Major, Georgia Tech



TUN sits down with Shashank Singhania, a computer science major and STAR student at Georgia Tech, to discuss tips on how to study effectively.

TUN: Shashank, thanks so much for joining us. 

SINGHANIA: It’s my pleasure, Jackson. Thanks for having me here. 

Motivation is key to academic success. Can you explain to me what motivates you to study, and can you provide some tips that might help motivate others as well?

Motivation is the driving force that can push your grades from a C or a B to an A. It is what induces you to learn more, challenge yourself, take more rigorous courses, and maintain a 4.0 GPA. Motivation is important. 

Motivation doesn’t have to be a constant. It can change, and it can be different for different purposes. For example, in high school, for me, it was getting into a top tech school with a computer science program. 

Now, when I’m already in college, it’s about getting a good internship with one of the best tech companies out there. 

In terms of my motivation to pursue computer science, my motivation is to pursue artificial intelligence and machine learning for research and apply it for social good. That’s my personal motivation. It’s why I’ve taken all the computer science courses that I have and excelled in them. 

I feel that everyone has their own unique dreams and goals. So, it’s figuring out what is your goal and why are you studying this, why do you have to excel in this course, or why do you need to maintain that 4.0? 

It’s really about your personal motivation, and it can be different for everyone. I think this strategy not only helps you get good grades but also helps you go out of your way to learn the material in greater depth. 

Oftentimes, I find myself going into my material way deeper than what is required by my course. So, I really recommend trying this out. 

Maybe have some quote or a photo of a college or of your dream job in an accessible area, like around your workspace, so that you can see it. I think that will help. 

Do you have any universal study tips that you abide by that make you a more productive and efficient studier?

Yeah, I do. Let me share a couple of strategies that I follow on a daily basis that have tremendously helped me improve my efficiency, particularly in grasping new material. 

Firstly, before starting my study cycle for the day, I find it really practical to jot down all the topics that I want to cover at large. And then, the important part is breaking them down into smaller, more achievable chunks. 

Let me give you an example. So I’m a computer science student. A topic for today might be data structures and algorithms. So, to tackle this big topic as a whole, I can split it down to smaller topics. For example, I could first read my textbook from pages 10-20, then maybe watch lectures one, two, and three, and then probably get started on my homework. 

By splitting the bigger job into smaller, well-defined jobs, you can fight the procrastination. It really helps you stay motivated and get started. Oftentimes, the hardest part of this is getting started. So, I really recommend this. 

Secondly, there is a technique that is particularly important for learning new material that you are not familiar with. I learned this in my psych class. I tried it out, and it really worked for me. 

So, it’s associating the new stuff you learn with existing stuff. Let me give you a simple example. 

Say you want to remember a date in your AP History class. It’s often a lot easier to learn it if you associate it with something that you already know. So, for example, you could associate it with the first four digits of a cell phone number that you know.

I found this technique really helpful in my deep learning course. It’s really helpful to retain the stuff for a longer period of time. 

Great. Time management is also a key component to academic success. What is your time-management routine? I would assume that you’re not a last-minute crammer? 

In order to gain the most amount of productivity from the time I spend at my desk, it’s crucial to know what part of the day I am most productive. 

It might be different for different people. For me, I find that I am most productive later, towards the evening, so I plan my day according to my most productive time. So, my study time is reserved for roughly 4 p.m to 2 a.m. I know it’s late. It’s perhaps later than other students’ schedules. But, this time works best for me, so I would recommend others determine which time you’re most efficient and then schedule the rest of your day around it. 

Because I go to sleep late, I wake up at around 9 or 9:30 a.m. Then, I have my lunch and I take my classes. After that, I get to my desk at 4 p.m. and then leave at 2 a.m. So, this is really what my schedule and my time management works like. 

I’m against cramming last minute. That may sometimes work for people. I used to cram in junior school and it used to work for me for some exams. But let me tell you, it does not work for long-term memory. So, if you want to learn something for your career, for your knowledge, it’s not a good idea to mug up stuff the day before the exam. 

In fact, I try to spend the last few weeks practicing rather than learning new material. I think that is crucial for acing the exam. 

I speak from experience, and I suggest that you take some extra time out of your schedule towards the end of the reading period to take as many mock exams as you can rather than only learning. It boosts your exam scores by a significant number. 

Great. I know that distractions are everywhere. How do you avoid distractions while studying? 

A lot of tips I mentioned earlier kind of serve to limit distractions. For example, making a to-do list, as I mentioned, of what you aim to achieve throughout the day and breaking tasks down into smaller chunks. That helps check procrastination. 

I personally try to stay away from my mobile phone, especially social media. I consider it to be my biggest distraction. I’m sure a lot of students face that too. You might not want to accept it, but it is the truth. 

I think if you are expecting an important call or something, you can have your phone by your side. But, I highly recommend keeping it on silent, keeping a clean workspace, and trying to keep maintaining a to-do list, as I mentioned. 

Something that works for me is, I try to keep most of the stuff I would need in the next couple of hours on my desk so that I don’t have to leave my desk even to get a glass of water. It really increases my efficiency because I don’t have to get up. 

I like to work in a quiet place rather than listening to music. But, do your thing. If you like listening to music while studying, if you think it helps, go ahead and do that. 

Great. I know that it’s easier said than done to make studying a stress-free and anxiety-free process. Do you have any tips to eliminate the stress and anxiety attached to studying? 

Sure. So, we have been talking intensely about what I do while I’m at my desk. Let’s switch some gears and talk a little about some stuff that you might want to do outside of academics. 

This might not sound directly linked to academics or work, but for me, I really need a solid 7-8 hours of sleep at night to make sure I’m fully energetic the next day. Even if I play a sport or work out, I feel really charged and I don’t feel drowsy or lazy and grumpy. So, it really helps me raise my efficiency. 

Secondly, it’s really important to take out time for your hobbies. I like to play squash. I like to work out. So, I make it a point to take out at least a couple of hours each day to spend on stuff I like. 

Apart from these two things, I like having free time, you know, spending time with family. Balancing both parts of your days like studying and having free time for your hobbies is really important. I think this just makes the entire studying process more relaxed and more enjoyable. 

So, it’s important to take out time for yourself for stuff you like to do to make sure you’re recharged and stress-free. 

For more tips on how to manage stress in college, check this TUN’s interview with Dr. Danielle Merolla, associate director of the Center for Prevention and Outreach at Stony Brook University.

Thanks, Shashank, for joining us today. 

Thank you so much for having me with you today.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

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