A Study in Studying

Time is precious for everyone, but for child actors and other non-traditional students, it’s a commodity like no other. Any given day calls for juggling auditions, rehearsals, photo shoots, and meetings, but unlike their adult counterparts, young performers and other students on the go have to find a way to squeeze schooling into their busy schedules. Try these tips to make the most of your study time.

1. Listen Up! Homework Starts While Class Is In Session. 
Simply put, you can’t study what you haven’t first learned during instruction. That means paying attention and taking notes. And while you may not be learning in a traditional classroom setting, you still have to sit up straight, pay attention, and take notes—handwritten notes. Research suggests that students who take notes by hand gain a deeper conceptual understanding of material than those who use laptops (Source: Scientific American). And while there’s no such thing as too much when it comes to your notes, clutter can kill the whole process. Keep your notes, quizzes, and other study materials organized by subject for hand reference.

2. Pick Your Spot
In real estate, the mantra is location, location, location; so too with studying. Doing homework at a desk in a quiet room at home is widely considered the best option, but for child actors or other far-flung students, this isn’t always possible. Plus, what works for you is almost certain to be different from what works for a fellow student. While a nice piece of furniture can’t hurt, the key is to find an out of the way place that’s free of distractions, whether it’s at a fancy desk or on the floor of an unused living room set. And for some students, changing up the location actually helps break up the monotony (Source: WebMD Fit). It just takes time to find what works.

 3. Just Do It
It’s easy to get caught up in the preparation process, but in the end you’ve got to roll up your sleeves and do the work. For some, this might simply mean reviewing those amazing, carefully organized notes you took earlier. Others take reviewing to the next level by organizing or even rewriting notes, handouts, important terms, or any relevant material (remember that Scientific American research?). One way or another, you’ve got to commit things to memory, and as an actor, you might have what some would consider an unfair advantage. According to Helga Noice, professor of psychology at Elmhurst College in Illinois, actors learn their parts through “deep processing, physical movement and emotional associations.” (Source: Time). Applied correctly, these same techniques can be powerful aids for studying.

According to SAG-AFTRA, “all of the tools upon which an actor draws for a successful career are firmly rooted in a well-rounded background in many areas of study.” And though your quantity of study time may be limited, these strategies can help improve the quality.