When will I need to know this?

students in a university classroomAs students, it can be difficult not to ask these two cliches during class…

  1. Will this material be on the test?
  2. When will I need to know this?

The first question is practical, after all, any student would be in their right mind to know what they need to study for.

I probably email “question one” to my professors several times in a given month. However, the second question is tougher…more complex, it demands further attention.

Knowing exam material front and back is one thing, but figuring out when we could use it in our lives is quite another. In high school, I often thought that my academic learning was simply preparation for university. The big leagues.

When I came to UVic as a freshman, I couldn’t help but feel the same way, that the majority of my courses were designed to prepare me for graduate school, or in my case, medical school. The bigger leagues.

www.bvwphoto.com © Brian Van Wyk

Throughout most of my undergrad, I kept this reasoning in the back of my head.

The purpose of my learning was to support my growth in future academic bodies, and perhaps my actual career.

I was trying to solve that same question that most of us hear or directly ask in school…

When will I need to know this?

I realize now that my answer and logic is off. I wasn’t wrong exactly, but I felt like I was short-changing myself. There had to be more to my academic learning than simply a means for further academic learning.

I lost sight of the meaning that the question was really trying to uncover. To understand this meaning, we have to replace one word from the question, just one word…

Why will I need to know this?

In truth, both forms of the question can have similar responses. However, the “Why” makes us consider something abstract, almost foreign to everyday life. It makes us approach our studying material with skepticism. Eventually, this critical attitude will force us to find out why it’s important. To seek the significance not just for a test, but also in our individual lives.

In my opinion, one of the best ways to work through our demanding studies, through the stress-filled nights, is by reflecting upon how our studies relate to our core beliefs, our greatest passions. If you, like me, ever feel swamped or flustered by exams on the horizon, try starting with these two questions…

  1. Why will I need to know this?
  2. Will this material be on the test?

It’s easy to think that most of what we learn won’t apply in our lives, but I urge you all to find your own unique reasons. If you think about the “why” question long enough, who knows, the solution might just surprise you.

It did for me.

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