Students Have Suspect Study Habits

This year’s freshmen class studied less in high school than any class in at least 37 years, a new UCLA study says. According to a survey conducted by the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA’s Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, a record-high number of students spent fewer than six hours doing homework their senior year of high school, with 15.9 percent of students reporting they studied less than one hour per week. Despite not studying as much, over 45 percent of entering freshmen at four-year colleges and universities in 2002 reported earning an “A” average in high school. “What we’re finding is students are able to get better grades than ever before and put less time into studying,” said Linda Sax, a UCLA education professor, who directed the survey. Students are more informed about what it takes to get an A, said Sax, which sometimes means contesting grades with teachers or having parents speak with teachers about students’ grades in high school. There is an increase in focus on actual grades, paired with a decrease in focus on good study habits to earn those grades, Sax said. “It’s just not as hard to get an A as it used to be in high school,” Sax said. These dwindling rigors of high school may leave many lacking readiness for college. “In high school, it was more mechanical work, but (in college) you have to read and learn material,” said Kay Lee, a first-year aerospace engineering student.during his high school years. Sax offered another possible explanation for a decrease in the amount of time students studied, citing survey results indicating an increase in computer use among students. An all-time high of 89.3 percent of respondents said they used the computer frequently, with 78.4 saying they used the Internet for homework and research. Cheung said the computer was a useful tool for him in high school, especially for research purposes. Following a four-year trend, entering freshmen are also partying, drinking, and smoking less. Only 46.5 percent reported drinking beer frequently or occasionally in the past year — an all-time low since the survey began 37 years ago. “I think I was a little more softcore in high school,” Cheung said. “I’d go to some parties. I don’t drink as much as I expected to (at UCLA) … it just became kind of played out.” A possible explanation for the continued decline in partying and drinking is that students who responded to the survey grew up in a time marked with vigorous anti-drug campaigns. “These students grew up in an age where the anti-drug campaigns were incredibly vocal in their high schools and communities,” Sax said. “It goes against the popular notion of this being a drug culture among the youth.” Lee said she worked hard in high school and continues to work hard now that she is in college. Lee said the reason she does not party is because she is short on time. “It’s hard to get good grades now,” she said. “I don’t have a chance to party. I work and go to school.” Additional survey results indicate a rising interest in political affairs in the first class to enter college after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. 32.9 percent of freshmen reported keeping up with politics as a “very important” or “essential” part of life. The attention to politics, Sax said, was important because it was part of a two-year trend indicating increased interest, following a long and steady decline in political interest among students. She said the increase in interest could be attributed to two events, the presidential election in 2000 and Sept. 11, 2001. Third-year student Daniel Serquina said his freshman year was focused on living in the dorms and adjusting to college life. He said students may have become more involved in politics and in keeping up with the news due to recent events, among them the hotly-contested presidential election of 2000. “There was so much controversy because it was such a close race,” Serquina said. “When it’s in the news all the time, it catches your attention.”