An economics survival guide

academics economics
By Maya C.

For those who are not naturally math inclined, the first exposure to economics can be daunting. With a little extra work, those of us with a math aversion can grow fond of the subject. I employed some of the following strategies to get the most out of my economics courses and share them with the hope that they will help you too.

Take handwritten notes

Take your own handwritten notes, integrating material from lectures and your textbook. While old-fashioned notes may seem like a chore, this method will strengthen your memory, provide an opportunity to review course material, and identify areas of improvement. As you review the information, flag any questions or gaps in your understanding of the material. Bring questions to office hours, review sessions, and tutoring.

Combine learning styles

Economics can be expressed visually, mathematically, and conceptually. While you may absorb knowledge more easily in one form than another, bringing all these elements together will enhance your understanding. When faced with a new topic, draw the associated graphs, aim to understand the equations, and look for real-world examples. Each of these activities will complement your knowledge and bolster your ability to recall the topic on test day.

Make it practical and make it fun

Though economics may seem theoretical, the concepts become most interesting when applied. Explore course-related material outside of class to ground your understanding. Hundreds of current events can serve as examples to support your learning. If you’re studying microeconomics, consider looking into antitrust regulation or researching how rising student loan balances affect the economy. If you’re studying macroeconomics, you might look at historical examples of severe hyperinflation around the world. Check out podcasts like Freakonomics or Planet Money. You can also exasperate all your friends by making jokes about diminishing marginal returns or sharing economics memes. The more you make economics relevant to your own life, the more tangible the subject will seem.

Maya graduated summa cum laude with a BA in Religious Studies and Political Science and minors in French and Conflict Studies from DePauw University. As a Fulbright grantee, Maya taught English to over 200 students in Morocco. She's currently an MPP Candidate at the Harvard Kennedy School.


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