27 Sep Excelling as a student
Exams are round the corner (some may be already in it). Many say that student life is the best time in one’s life – a life with hardly any responsibility, with lots of leisure time, time to learn skills and opportunities to choose a vocation.
However, most students face constant struggle in their studies. Some consider studies as an unspiritual activity with no relevance for future and develop a wrong notion that spiritual life is all that matters. Some others worry about their studies to such an extent that they spend all their time in studies even to the extent of ruining their health. It is very important to have the right attitude towards studies.
Why should We Excel in Our Studies?
Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian church “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” 1 Cor 10:31. For a Christian whatever he undertakes is for the glory of God. His goal in life is to please God through all that he does. Excelling in studies is one of the ways of glorifying God. King Solomon’s wise advice to all of us is “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might..” Eccl 9:10a.
Our God is a God of excellence and immense wisdom. Look at His creation – the solar system, animal kingdom, plants, etc. We are marveled at our Creator’s infinite wisdom and thought in all the details. So when I study my subject – be it arts, science, commerce, engineering or medicine, I am learning and discovering more of the deep truths about His creation. Psalmist exclaimed “The heavens declaresthe glory of God, the skies proclaim the work of his hands” Ps.19:1. So next time you are tempted to take your studies lightly, remind yourself of the joy and the thrill of discovering deep truths of knowledge – be it scientific, social, or economic. What a privilege it is to be a student! The other day I met a Christian Professor, an expert on Nanotechnology. When I was admiring the yellow Chrysanthemum flowers in his flower plot, he told me that the nano structure of a flower like Chrysanthemum is so detailed and fantastic. One is marveled at the immense thought that has gone into its creation. So when I study Botany I can appreciate better the wonders of plant life and the immense wisdom of God in all these. Today material scientists are interested in analyzing the structures found in many plants and flowers to fabricate materials with useful properties.
Bible narrates many real life stories of people such as Joseph, David, Solomon, Nehemiah, Daniel, Apostle Paul, Luke, and many others who excelled. Their lives brought glory to God and attracted many from other faiths to God.
How to Excel? A Few Practical Tips
A student of mine at IIT Kanpur, who is a Christian and from a very humble background, was not so great compared to his friends. But he trusted God for his success, and at the same time was hardworking, diligent and disciplined. He took his studies very seriously. Initially he was not performing well, but in a few semesters his performance improved steadily to such an extent that he was a source of inspiration to many of his friends who were better than him in terms of their mental abilities. Last year when this boy finally graduated with flying colours, the District Collector of his home district in Andhra Pradesh arranged a special function to honour him. He became a model for many from his village. What a witness to God’s faithfulness!
Let us examine a few principles of excellence which are relevant to any field of study.
Disciplined life: Without discipline no one can progress in life. As a disciple of Christ we need to discipline ourselves. Pro. 5:12,13
talk about the dangers of hating discipline and spurning correction. If you discipline your life as a student, you will soon see improvement in your learning and other skills, which in turn would boost your self-esteem and motivate you to excel more. Let us see a few specific areas as a student.
Prioritizing your time: Prioritizing is all about assigning due importance to all your activities. Remember that you do not have the luxury of time. So make it a point not to waste time. Some activities such as gossips, unwanted smses, internet etc, may be popular among friends, but you need to decide on their importance and priority. As Indians we are notorious for too much talking (and less doing). Next time remember to restrain your talk. Plan your day and allot time for all the important activities that takes more than 15 minutes. It would be good to evaluate later in the day how well you were able to keep your plan – which will help you to be more realistic in your planning. This is a discipline which will be very handy throughout your life. I carry a small pocket diary (costing Rs 5/-) to write my plans and other important activities. It has more than 80 pages and hence takes care of my planning needs for almost two months. Many mobile phones have facility for keying-in notes. Use it if you must, but I would strongly recommend good old paper notes/diary for planning.
Regular Devotional Life: Have a regular Quiet Time and prayer for at least 20 to 30 minutes every day. A disciple’s life is built on his/her relationship with the Lord. As you spend time every day in reading and meditating on God’s word, you could seek God’s help and wisdom in your difficult areas. With God’s help you would grow in your precious faith and also excel in your studies. Remember the example of Daniel who was extremely busy in the King’s business but still had time to pray 3 times a day (Read Daniel 6:3-5, 10).
Regularity in studies: Regularity is a very important discipline without which a student cannot progress much. Remember the story of the ‘Hare and the Tortoise’. It is very common among students to postpone studies and assignments till the last minute. Instead, if they spend time regularly on these, many subjects will not be so burdensome. Often students complain about uninteresting and unimportant subjects they are forced to study. My advice to them would be to give equal attention to these subjects as given to the so called ‘interesting’ subjects. It might appear later that these were also important after all. Another common complaint for not studying is that a subject though interesting is taught in a very boring way. You may have to take some extra effort in such subjects. Whatever be the circumstances we are expected as God’s children to be faithful in all that is entrusted to us. Later in life too as part of our work we may have to perform duties which may not be pleasant – also may have to work under people who are rude and non-cooperative. For a Christian nothing comes by chance or accident. We are always assured of God’s sovereignty in all our situations. Without His knowledge and permission even one of the hairs of our head will not fall to the ground (Read Matthew 10:29-31).
Importance of taking one’s own notes in lectures: This is a dying habit among students. If you are taking notes try to improve/supplement it using text/reference books and make again your own notes. If you do this regularly it would make a dramatic improvement in your understanding of the subjects. Again this is a skill often required throughout your life.
Perseverance, Diligence, Patience: These are three words which are very important for a student. Our Christian life is compared to a long-distance race which needs perseverance, diligence and patience (Heb 12:1-3). Take a dictionary and understand the meaning of these words. Also try to look for verses in the Bible which list these words and apply them to your life.
It is my prayer that the thoughts shared in this article will motive you to excel and do your very best in your studies. “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize” 1 Cor 9:24.
About the Author
Dr Joseph John is currently working as a Professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering at IIT Bombay. He has been a teaching faculty for nearly 20 years. He is an active member of the Bombay EGF and at present serving as the President of UESI.