University and college can be overwhelming. Understatement of the year. And since the end of the term is coming, students everywhere are shrieking, “OMG, I’m going to fail!” Take a deep breath. No, you’re probably not. There are a few things that a person figures out along the way that makes school a whole lot easier. Don’t flunk out of first year (or any year) because you didn’t prioritize properly.
As a third-year student, here’s what I’ve learned so far in keeping my head above the waters of passing:
Don’t Let Anyone Pry Your Syllabus From Your Cold, Dead Fingers
You know that piece of paper that’s crumbled up at the bottom of your backpack somewhere? It’s important. Really important. In case you missed it, your professor told you exactly how they are going to determine your grade. Write down important dates and put reminders on your phone to keep you on track. If an assignment is worth 25% of your grade, prioritize it over, say, Walking Dead for that night. OK, fine, just after Walking Dead then.
The 4 D’s
When you have a raging pile of work and a limited number of hours in the day, prioritization is your key to the golden temple of passing. One method for prioritizing, outlined by Queen’s University, is the 4 D’s: Do it, Delegate it, Defer it, and Dump it (no, you can’t just dump all your readings). By assigning each ‘to-do’ item a value, an overwhelming pile of stuff quickly shrinks into manageable tasks.
Incentivizing your to-do list with a brief treat can help motivate you to complete tasks, like, I don’t know, studying. Rewarding small milestones with something like, “When I finish this chapter, I can go get a coffee” can break up long study sessions. I have even brought Smarties into exams and rewarded myself every couple questions, like a smartie.
Don’t Take on Too Much, Too Soon
It is temping to join every single club on campus your first semester, but you might not regret easing in to things. Clubs and extracurricular activities will help build your resume and are a great way to get involved, but you should add them in once you’ve got the academic side of things figured out. You’ll be surprised at how many things are suddenly vying for your time.
Plan Your Schedule Around Your Life
While it seems like the norm to take five classes per semester for four years, that doesn’t have to be the case.
Talk to upper year students in your program about difficult classes, and arrange your course load so that you won’t be too overwhelmed. Depending on your program, there are usually a few courses offered in the spring and summer term that can lighten your load during the year.
Make (the Right) Friends
Cue High School Musical’s “We’re All In This Together” and start swaying back and forth with your friends—it’s time to team up for success. Making friends with the right people can do you some serious favors. Our friends down under at Adelaide University suggest that studying with friends can keep us from feeling lonely and bored and can be the extra kick in the hiney we need to keep going. But please, I beg of you, don’t be the person the never shows up to class and then asks for notes from someone they’ve never seen before. That’s rude. Swapping notes with a friend now and then is perfectly acceptable.
Take Care of Yourself
Ever wonder why there is an outbreak of the common cold every exam season? Perhaps it has something to do with staying up all night staring at our computers and living off coffee. University of British Columbia recommends planning healthy meals ahead and seeking out foods that require minimal prep time. Packing a decent lunch, get enough sleep and stay hydrated might be the difference between sniffling your way through finals or not.
Work Smarter, Not Longer
It’s easy to measure our studiousness by the hours we spend rather than the information we learn. You can spend days reading a textbook and still fail an exam. If you take notes or highlight the first time you read your textbook, you’ll be reading about 1/3 as much come exam time and absorbing a lot more. The same goes for assignments: spend 15 minutes reading the outline and grading rubric before you get started so that the time you spend will really pay off.
Most importantly, post-secondary is all about balance. You’re trying to keep about a million balls in the air and stay sane at the same time. Stay organized, write down deadlines, and don’t make extra work for yourself and you will do just fine. Seriously, you’re going to be just fine. See how much a deep breath and some good reading can make a difference?
Ok, now go get ’em!
*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Student Life Network or their partners.