Essential Vision Skills for College Students

Dr. Russel Lazarus, April 19, 2020

Strong visual skills are essential for academic success in college.

College students have significantly high demands on their visual systems— and the integrity of their visual skills are critical for their success in their studies.

Colleges and universities are known for their large lecture halls and seemingly endless amount of requirements. The great amount of studies that are involved in fulfilling these requirements lead to many hours of reading textbooks, studying, and using computers.

Students spend up to 70 percent of their school day focused on their papers and computers, or taking notes from the board.

Strong visual skills will facilitate a college student’s success in the many years of their college education. Students with reduced visual skills may experience headaches, eye strain and fatigue.

Well developed visual skills are also essential for college athletics.

Essential visual skills for reading

  • Binocular coordination allows the student to use both eyes at the same time, in coordination, for clear and comfortable vision. Poor binocular vision can result in fatigue and can make reading and studying a challenge. In some cases poor binocular vision can result in blurry or even double vision.
  • Saccades allows the student to read sentences in a fluid manner, with the two eyes moving smoothly across the line, in coordination.  Without well developed saccades, words may be omitted from a sentence, making it difficult to understand the text.
  • Pursuits allow the student to read a word, one letter at a time, with slow, smooth binocular movements.  Pursuits enable your eyes to scan across a word in order to read it accurately, sounding out each letter in the word.  Without this visual skill, the word ‘through’ may be read as ‘though’— causing confusion of text as it is read.
  • Focusing skills allow the student to see the textbook and computer screen clearly and comfortably. Just as a camera needs to be in focus to capture a clear picture of an image, the same is true with your eyes when it comes to seeing a word with absolute clarity.

Essential visual skills for comprehension

  • Visual memory allows the student to visualize, or imagine what was read. If this skill is reduced, a student might struggle to analyze the scene of a historical event, or the anatomy of a cell as it is read about it in biology. Visualization enables increased comprehension and recall of information.

If you are finding it challenging to meet the demands of college – you may have reduced visual skills.

Contact an eye doctor near you, who can discuss the many successful options to help you.

SEE RELATED: Are School Vision Screenings Reliable?

Find an eye doctor near you

Essential visual skills for computer use

  • Convergence allows the student to focus both of the eyes inward, in order to see a single image of what is being looked at. This skill is essential for reading or looking at a computer screen or tablet for an extended period of time. Poor convergence can result in eye strain or double vision.
  • Accommodation endurance allows the student to maintain focus for all near vision tasks. Without this skill, a student might experience blurry vision and fatigue after a few hours of computer use— resulting in reduced focus for completion of a term paper or assignment.

 Essential visual skills for concentration

  • Peripheral vision allows you to see what is going on around you, without having to turn your head. This skill enables students to concentrate and participate in class, without being easily distracted by noises or movement in their environment.
  • Gross visual motor allows the student to sit in a lecture hall chair or behind a desk, with correct upright posture —enabling increased attention to the lecture. A student with reduced gross visual motor skills will typically slouch in his chair, or lean over his desk— resulting in reduced ability to concentrate properly.

Essential visual skills for class performance

  • Central vision acuity allows you to see distant images with clarity.  This skill is needed in lecture halls where many of the students are sitting far away from the lecturer.
  • Accommodation flexibility allows the student to switch focus from distant to near images, continually, and with ease. This skill is necessary for maintaining clear focus throughout the entire lecture— continually changing focus from the lecturer to a notebook or laptop, and then back to the lecturer.

Essential visual skills for examinations

  • Fine visual motor skills allows you to write easily and comfortably for long periods of time. Reduced fine visual motor skills can cause students to have messy or even illegible writing, and can lead to muscle fatigue in the hand and wrist.
  • Visual perception allows you to accurately organize, analyze, and interpret information that is seen— in order to make sense of it. Poor visual perception can affect a student’s performance on exams, as well as their overall understanding of the material.

It is important to note that while many college students prefer to take notes on a laptop, legible handwriting for taking notes on paper is still important.  There are times when you may not be able to bring your laptop, and in most cases, tests or exams are still handwritten.

Essential visual skills for visual arts 

  • Visual thinking or processing allows you to analyze and form a mental image in your mind. Visual thinking is essential for painting, drawing, and all forms of visual arts— enabling the student to visualize the artwork they plan to create, before beginning the project.
  • Color perception allows you to distinguish between different colors. This skill is necessary for appreciating the detail, depth and complexity of what is seen.

It is important that all college students receive regular eye examinations and have well developed visual skills.

The college years place significant demands on the student’s eyes and visual system, the earlier a vision problem is detected and treated, the higher the chances for optimal results.

In most cases, treatment for reduced visual skills include eyeglasses, contact lenses or vision therapy to correct any vision problems.

LEARN MORE: Vision for School

If you are heading off to college, or are already a college student, contact an eye doctor near you to make an appointment for a comprehensive evaluation of your vision, visual skills, and ocular health.