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Does Being a Visual Learner Help in College?

by Dr. Mary Dowd

Visual learners prefer using their eyes over their ears to receive and retain new information. A visual learning style can work to your advantage in college, especially when it comes to reading homework assignments and writing papers. Many instructors recognize that students process knowledge differently, and they are replacing lectures with multimedia presentations to better hold the attention of visual learners. Even in the traditional classroom, knowing that you're a visual learner will help you devise ways of staying focused. Adopting study skill strategies specifically for visual learners can further help you in college.

Classes

To support your academic success, take classes from instructors who have a reputation for engaging students in active learning. Before enrolling in a a class, ask the department office for a copy of the course syllabus to determine if the class is interactive or lecture-based. You will have an easier time paying attention if the professor incorporates power point slides, movies and online videos. Lehigh University suggests that visual learners will benefit from sitting near the front of class where they can read the instructor’s body language. During lectures, take notes and jot down symbols and pictures to help you remember. Visualize what the instructor is saying. Carefully review handouts.

Studying

Your preferred learning style can help you absorb material more efficiently and save time. Start by locating a place to study where you will not be distracted by sound. Visual learners excel at understanding charts, maps and graphs, so look at illustrations before reading the text. The University of Utah School of Medicine advises visual learners to use the computer as a study aid to graph and organize data. The Bepko Learning Center indicates that retention of information may be enhanced when visual learners highlight their notes in different colors. You may also find flashcards effective when you're attempting to memorize vocabulary words and formulas.

Majors

Many majors are a good fit for a visual learner. For example, your spatial abilities and sense of color would be well suited for a major in architecture or interior design. Your active imagination and visualization skills would relate to a major in art, theater or film studies. Being able to think logically and analyze graphs would be applicable to a major in marketing, business or economics. By contrast, majoring in a subject like music could be challenging because much depends on aural listening skills.

Tips

Because of your excellent reading comprehension, you are able to compensate for information that was communicated verbally in the classroom by reading anything you missed. However, listening skills are important in human relations. For example, in an employment setting, a boss often gives verbal instructions. Being able to carry out tasks without seeking clarification is expected in a job. College is an excellent time to work on developing your auditory learning style while enjoying the perks of being a visual learner.

About the Author

Mary Dowd holds a doctorate in educational leadership and a master's degree in counseling and student personnel from Minnesota State University, Mankato. In her 20 years of higher education experience, she has taught classes, served as interim dean of students, and worked in many areas of student affairs, including student discipline, career advising, orientation and violence prevention.

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