Watson, whose character in the Harry Potter movies made it cool to be a studious teacher's pet, says she's "addicted to knowledge" and motivated to keep learning while doing other film projects.
Watson, who has played Hermione for more than half her life, is a sophomore at Brown University in Rhode Island where she is majoring in history. Unlike many of her young Potter co-stars, she chose to continue her education after graduating from high school.
"I love learning. I'm just addicted to knowledge. It just like, makes me happy. It keeps me motivated," she said in a interview while promoting her latest film, the first installment of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows."
Although the Potter films have enabled Watson to travel the globe and work with many critically acclaimed actors, she said she doesn't feel like she has learned enough yet. Education, she said, is a vital part of life.
"I don't think that by doing these movies I know everything. I just feel like that's the point of being alive, to try and understand the world that's around you. And it just keeps me in touch with real life," she said.
Hermione, the frizzy-haired smarty-pants heroine in the Potter series, battles evil witches and wizards with brainpower and magical skill. She makes it cool to love learning - a refreshing role model for young girls bombarded by too-cool-for-school attitudes often seen in TV shows or tween novels.
Back in the Muggle world, Watson must balance life between her acting career and her rigorous studies at an Ivy League school, which she says is "not easy".
"I think I'm going to have to work very hard over Thanksgiving. I've got like three or four days off, and I'll have a lot of reading to catch up on," she said.
Watson acknowledged there has been some "cross-pollination" between herself and Hermione and says she will miss playing the role tremendously - but it's time to enter a new stage.
"I think for now I need to, for my own piece of mind, need to say, 'Okay, this is over, you need to move on,"' she said, "For my own sanity I need to hang up on her."
One aspect of moving on was chopping off her wild, golden-brown Hermione locks for a pixie cut. The "dramatic" trip to the hairdressers was not a random whim, but a personal decision to symbolize the next chapter of her life.
"It was meant to be a statement to myself. It wasn't meant to be a statement to the world. It was just meant to mark entering a new phase," she said.
Watson is also relishing the chance to get to know herself better - something most other 20-year-olds have already had more time to do.
"I wish I knew myself as well as I knew Hermione, because I feel as if like I know that character like the back of my hand, and I haven't got myself figured out quite so well," she said.