Rock Valley College


One of the most common problems reported by college students is "I can't concentrate."

But concentration means different things to different people. Some students mean that they are unable to stick with a subject or assignment long enough to master it, while others mean that they think of first one thing the another, but rarely the content of the subject. They do not comprehend the material despite persistence and the prevention of mind wandering. Therefore, it is important to discover just what causes a student's "lack of concentration" before attempting to decrease the difficulty.

More frequently than not, lack of concentration represents some form of conflict between other desires and academic goals. One may wish to hear a favorite radio program and at the some time complete an assignment in chemistry, or one may be worried about family problems while trying to learn vocabulary for a foreign language. If such a conflict exist, the are two suggested ways of remedying the situation: (1) resolve the conflict by solving one problem at a time, or (2) defer the solution of one problem until a more opportune time.

Basically, much of a student's success in concentrating is due to (1) the development of work-study skills, (2) the development of habits of efficient time use, (3) the setting up of better study conditions, and (4) motivation. Following are some suggestions in each of these four problems.

I. Development of good work-study skills

A. Make studying an active process: do something with what you are reading. Make notes, underline, work sample problems, record complex sentences, make diagrams, etc.

B. Follow suggestion given for "studying various subjects."

II. Develop habits of efficient time use

A. Develop a time schedule.

1. Study an assignment just after the class in which it is given if the class is a lecture or just before the class if emphasis is on recitation or discussion.

2. In studying for long periods of time, stop for a few minutes between chapters or between change of subjects.

3. Make use of vacant hours between classes.

B. Make habitual use of time schedule.

1. This is a matter of habit development and will take practice.

2. A schedule should be flexible but should be followed during the normal course of events.

C. Apply work rules.

1. Try to finish all your work within the time limits set; do not rob yourself of recreation time.

2. Don't worry about all the work to be accomplished.

3. Get right to work -- postpone other activities until later or finish them before trying to study.

4. Check yourself whenever you start to daydream.

III. Study conditions which aid in concentrating may be gained from the proper control of study conditions.

Ideal study conditions cannot always be obtained but they can be approximated. In considering study environment, lighting, ventilation, study materials, and the possibility of distractions must be considered. Following are some suggestions for establishing desirable study conditions:

A. Work in a place where distractions are at a minimum.

B. Study the same subject in the same place at the same time.

C. Study in a well lighted and well ventilated room.

D. Have all the necessary equipment within easy reach.

IV. Motivation is one of the most important determiners of the ability to concentrate.

Students who are not interested in their work find it difficult to concentrate. There are many possible reasons why college work isn't interesting to some students.

Following are some of the primary explanations of why some students can't get interested enough to study while other students in the same courses are interested. Check yourself and see if any of these reasons apply to you.

A. Poor health may keep a person form being interested in anything.

B. Personal problems may seem of such importance that worry about them dispels interest in college work. Such threats to personal security must be eliminated before continued interest in study can return.

C. For some people, college attendance may not represent the best step toward attainment of success. They might like business or trade schools better.

D. Some students are not yet vitally interested in preparations for adult living and a vocation; they are, therefore, little interested in the work of college classes. Some students go to college apparently because their friends are going or they can think of nothing better to do.

E. Some students have not reached a mature level of motives. To them, immediate goals may be much stronger than delayed vocational goals. They may value other characteristics more than scholarship and intellectual development.