Robert Aleksanyan, executive director and expert of the IT Resume interview preparation platform, will share with RB Young readers advice on what a student should do to get the most out of boring and incomprehensible lectures.
Four tips how a student can get the most out of lectures at the institute
Tip 1. Choose your path
Do you know what is the absurdity of sighing about the lack of practical benefit from lectures on the part of students? The fact is that the overwhelming majority cannot clearly answer the question of where to go to work after graduation. People spend four to ten years of their lives without understanding where they want to work and what to do.
If a person does not know where his knowledge can be applied, no lectures will help him: even nuclear physics, even statistics, even the history of high arts.
Decide on a direction, outline a list of companies, choose an interesting industry, familiarize yourself with the requirements for candidates in the labor market. Naturally, it makes sense to do this with an eye to your background in education – if you are a physicist, you should not dream of an acting career.
Important: the sooner you do this, the better. Firstly, there will be more time for pumping skills – while your peers wake up, you will be a ready-made specialist. Secondly, it will allow you to consciously go through the entire university and squeeze the maximum out of all subjects.
Let’s give a small example
Let’s say you study in applied mathematics. You have at least four polar directions: science, data science and analytics, finance and economics. Let’s say you choose Data Science. Next, we choose an industry – trade, oil and gas, banking, and so on. For example, banking seems to you the most promising direction. Great, then it remains to estimate the list of potential employers, internships and requirements for candidates. Based on this, you will already know exactly what is expected of you on leaving the institute.
Tip 2.7 measure, cut 1 time
The premise for this advice is this: all of us, due to our youth, ardor and sometimes stupidity, make harsh and rash judgments. The same applies to the attitude to the subjects at the institute, to the topics of lectures and to the tasks at the seminars. However, can our judgments be wrong?
I’ll give you a simple example, again from the field of mathematics
The teacher in a low voice talks about linear regression, proves theorems, pours out incomprehensible terms. You are furious – why put up with all this, if you have already been told everything in the online course: linear regression is when you take X, take Y, take a Python function, blunder and you’re done. Then come to the interview with your head held high, and the interviewer asks: what are the limitations of linear regression, when the model cannot be applied and why? And why exactly the least squares method is used, let’s try another method? And it is here that you remember that this boring teacher was talking about three lectures in a row.
Don’t jump to conclusions about the need or uselessness of teaching materials. First, try to find the area of application of the topic being studied – in 90% of cases it will be found.
I note right away that not all the knowledge gained can be directly used in practice. There are subjects that are very fundamental and academic. However, there are at least three reasons to learn them:
They are very widely used in science. If you aim there, then for you it is a must have.
Everything else is based on fundamental subjects. Including practice-oriented subjects.
It develops the brain. Seriously, nothing is scary after that. If you’ve learned Funkan or Matan, that’s just a matter of pride.
Of course, learning dry theory is not a pleasant experience, but take it philosophically. Most of your competitors in the job market will know the subject area from YouTube videos and blog articles. And you will understand how everything is arranged there from the foundation to the roof.
Tip 3. Come up with a job
Seriously, without any preamble, look for a job. Perform the teacher’s assignment not just to pass it, but so that it will bring real practical benefits.
We all know that there is not enough practice in institutes – often tasks have nothing to do with reality, and labs are more like flashbacks of a teacher in the distant 1960s.
But we can transform the tasks received into useful cases that will pump skills and develop us as specialists. It’s enough just to come up with extra work for yourself.
Still not sure what this means? Here are some examples:
Have you been asked to program some kind of abstract service that has not been used for 30 years? Well, it doesn’t matter – you still need to do the task, but we’ll change it a little. So, in the industry you want to work in, use VS Code to write code? Great, download VS Code, customize it, load linters, extensions for the desired language and learn to use it like an adult. You can also learn how to work with Git and upload the code to Github. Or learn some framework for writing tests, this skill is needed for any programmer. The list goes on, but I think you get the point.
Have you been asked to manually process some healthy time series? I agree that doing it manually is stupid. Write a Python program or learn about time series analysis in R – these skills are in demand in the data science industry, so why not combine business with pleasure?
The teacher gave a set of numbers and said to solve the problem using the simplex method? Hmm, do you know, in general, what it is used for? Do you just think to drive numbers back and forth? No, this is a purely practical tool – for example, to optimize production or inventory. So transfer naked numbers to a real problem, vary the input, and homework turns from a useless task into a useful exercise.
Tip 4: Stop being prejudiced
The big mistake of a student is that he a priori thinks that everything that is given to him at the institute is rubbish and unsuitable for real life.
I agree that there is some truth in this: many teachers are theoreticians and can tell little from the point of view of practice. But they provide good training, we just have to transform it into practical skills.
It makes no sense to try to change the system from a student’s bench, it is much smarter to adapt to the system and use it for your own purposes, while the others around you just whine and sit back.
It makes no sense to wait for graduation from the institute, spend a lot of time and money, then take paid courses for several more years and work as a junior assistant to a junior assistant. It will be much more far-sighted to attend to the practice of junior courses – this will provide a break from other applicants, a place in a prestigious company and a pleasant salary.
These four tips are not just words, but the sublimated thoughts and stuffed bumps of many specialists. I assure you that thousands of seasoned and eminent professionals would gladly repeat these tips, so that at least you avoid running around on a rake in your college years.
Be clear about your career goal and the set of required knowledge and skills.
Do not jump to conclusions about the uselessness of the subject or topic – find its practical use.
Make up a job for yourself – make useful tasks out of useless ones.
Do not treat college as a duty, make the most of this process.
This is a comprehensive guide on how to make your studies effective. We and many of our friends have already tested this scheme on ourselves, and it has borne fruit. Try and you, and all your competitors will be left far behind.
Cover photo: Unsplash