Studying the Bill Gates Way (Even If You Prefer Steve Jobs)

“We all learn best in our own ways. Some people do better studying one subject at a time, while some do better studying three things at once. Some people do best studying in structured, linear way, while others do best jumping around, ‘surrounding’ a subject rather than traversing it. Some people prefer to learn by manipulating models, and others by reading.” – Bill Gates

Last time I checked, the term “how to study” generated 1.23x10^8 (that’s 123,000,000) hits on Google, and they all tell you different approaches to study. The visual method, auditory method, right-brain, left-brain method, late-night cramming, low-stress, quiet, musical, structured, random…the list goes on and on until you’re more confused than when you began. And your original question still hasn’t been answered – how should I study?

Now here’s where I say something controversial, so hold on to the nearest stable object. NONE OF THOSE METHODS WORK. That’s right; absolutely none of the study approaches you’ll ever encounter will work 100% of the time without fail. There is no magic pill you can swallow that will make you study and ace your tests. That’s because every person is different and we have unique personalities and perspectives; just because I personally operate best in a non-library environment doesn’t mean that you have to avoid the library at all costs. Perhaps you enjoy studying in the nearest cafĂ© enjoying a latte (no whip soy, please), while your roommate must not be distracted by anything. Bill Gates figured that out. He realized that everyone is different and has to study and learn his/her own way, even if it seems crazy to the rest of the world. But if it works for you, then go for it!

So how do we find out the best way to study and learn for us? The most important thing to do is “to thine own self be true” (Shakespeare). Take some time to assess yourself. When you learn, do you prefer the professor’s lectures or reading the textbook? Do you prefer being indoors or outside? Does writing something out help you or do you talk it through? Check out this learning style inventory if you really want to dig deep.

After you’ve completed your self-assessment and have determined your learning style(s), start experimenting. Look at Bill Gates’ quote again – he describes focused, multi-tasking, logical progression, big pictures, kinesthetic, and visual learners and they are all perfectly acceptable approaches! How do you think you’d best learn? Pick out the few that are most appealing, try them out during your next study session, and let me know how it goes!

P.S. I’m not saying that you can’t find any good study approaches on the Internet; there are a lot of good resources out there. Just make it your own, something that works for you, and don’t expect to have a perfect day every day. And look forward to a post about my study habits sometime in the near future!

Image: Salvatore Vuono /


The Ten Commandments of Engineering Students

1. Thou shalt remember to add “+C” to thy indefinite integrals but never to definite integrals; otherwise be forewarned of the inevitable rage and red-pen fury from thy angry professor who has seen this mistake for the hundredth time.

2. Thou shalt care for thy calculator as if thy life is at stake, for verily it is.

3. Thou shalt stay awake in calculus class, even though it is at eight o’clock Monday morning and do not believe the deception of coffee as a sufficient caffeine source, for nothing can defeat the invisible lassos of sleep as the professor lectures on solid shapes and rotations of axes.

4. Thou shalt not audibly laugh when the business major asks for help with their “impossible math,” although thou art allowed to repeatedly state the easiness of the problem and repeat the story to other engineering students, especially when said business major is present or in the vicinity.

5. Thou shalt not discuss World of Warcraft on thy first date, unless he/she first broaches the topic, which is a sign from the deities of Azeroth that thou hath found thy soul mate.

6. Thou shalt not expect to ever have to remember the above commandment, as it is statistically improbable that thou shalt have time/interest/prospects to date.

7. Thou shalt honor the weekend and keep it set apart for math, a jealous and demanding master.

8. Thou shalt respect professors, for they control thy grades this semester and most likely for thy classes next semester.

9. Thou shalt remind thyself that thou will make more money than the liberal arts majors, regardless of the fact that they never do more than read a novel and wonder why thou study all the time and are still stressed.

10. Thou shalt keep all these commandments as if thou art not aware that psychology, English, and mass communications majors exist; to reassure thyself of this truth, refer to non-engineering majors as “the easy stuff” and state this each morning as thou prepareth to face and conquer that malevolent entity which takes the form of statics.

Image: Jennifer Renee /

This is "Engineer My Life" - Welcome to My World

I am a student studying engineering with the eventual goal of being a nuclear engineer; however, I am not the stereotypical whiz student. I grew up wanting to be a veterinarian for the first fourteen years of life, a classical pianist for the next three, and I positively hated math until the tenth grade. Finally I decided to study physics and/or engineering (yes, I know; random). A year later, I landed on nuclear engineering and have never looked back.

So why did I pick engineering? According to the Merriam Webster, it is “the application of science and mathematics by which the properties of matter and the sources of energy in nature are made useful to people; the design and manufacture of complex products.” In plain English, engineering uses what we learn in the classroom to improve everyday life in the real world. Engineering is about making a difference in the lives of people. All it takes is one invention or one improvement; look at electricity, the telephone, or the car. That’s all engineering is – changing the world, one step at a time.

This blog is about my experiences in student engineering, its positives and negatives, its rationals and radicals, its derivatives and integrals...sorry, nerd moment there, moving on. Hopefully, you can relate to my trials of writing lab reports, learning proofs, and studying all weekend with no time for Doctor Who. A beaker containing 20 grams of perseverance, 15 grams of hard work, and a few milligrams of humor mixed with deionized water and heated over a Bunsen burner until the mixture turns purple with green smoke is the best way to survive and thrive in this crazy world of long study nights and complicated projects. Enjoy the journey, love your life, and look forward to the adventure that is engineering! And don’t forget to take a break for apple pi once in a while!

Image: Danilo Rizzuti /