The spring semester is in full swing. By now you have probably begun to feel the overwhelming weight of what must be accomplished over the next four months. You may be wondering, “Why did I take so many classes?” or “How am I ever going to finish reading 125 pages by next Tuesday?” Fret not, fellow classmates. I, as a seasoned senior who will graduate this May, (dust my shoulders off, and whatnot) have compiled a list of seven important tips for a successful semester. These tips are not all-encompassing for every college student’s experiences. But they have helped me, and I hope in turn, they may help you.
1. Do not procrastinate. This may seem like old news, but it is relevant. Procrastination is a major reason why students do not receive the grades they want. I have struggled with procrastination in the past, always wanting to improve but was never sure where to start. I began by writing out every assignment and their due date when I received a class syllabus. I color coded, so I knew which course was which and organized by due date. Here is an example.
Now, you certainly do not have to follow this example. However, I found that by organizing my assignments gave me a visual to utilize. The earlier you begin and complete an assignment the easier it will be for you to succeed.
2. Read. I am not talking about textbooks or assigned novels from class. I am talking about that book you have always wanted to read but never did because you were too busy with homework. If you allow yourself to read even one page a day from a book you actually want to read, you will find that your vocabulary will expand and your mind will process information more efficiently. The more you exercise your brain, the more useful it is to you.
3. Be timely in your studying. Trying to cram the night before an exam ruins your sleep cycle and does not help you retain information. Set aside time every day to study by creating a system for yourself. As an example, try to study for 30 minutes straight, then take a five minute break. If you have set out a block of two hours for a specific day, remember to take those short breaks. This will help your mind process what you have read, making it easier to remember.
4. Seek out a mentor. Ideally, the mentor you associate with will be an academic; a favorite professor, an advisor or dean for example. Mentors can help you on your degree path, offer career guidance and if you are lucky, a letter of recommendation as you graduate. Mentors share valuable advice and offer constructive criticism and feedback. Many professors have worked in the career fields you are interested in. Seek their help and follow their advice. You will be much more successful with a mentor than without one.
5. Remember why you started. This phrase has led me to keep going, keep striving and keep improving as I work toward a bachelor’s degree. One of my favorite quotes is from Muhammad Ali, the former boxer. He said, “Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.” It may seem like an easier option to drop out or perform the bare minimum requirements to pass a class. This is your time to shine. Remember the dream you have of completing a college education. Keep that dream close to your heart as difficult times arise, it will help you. Be the champion you have always wanted to be.
6. Relax. Looking back, I wish I would have paid more attention to this tip. During the course of a semester it is too easy to stress yourself out. Granted, college is not meant to be an easy experience, but it is important to take care of your physical and mental health. When I find myself tightening up into a ball of anxiety I know I need to take a break and wind down. Personally, practicing yoga and meditating always renew my focus. Even if it is just for 10 minutes, my energy improves and I can continue my tasks. If yoga is not your ideal relaxation exercise, you could go for a walk or even take a five minute power nap. Take time to relax and renew your concentration; it will benefit you more than just suffering through that 30 page essay.
7. Pursue what you love. Ask yourself, “What career do I truly want?” Think about what brings you joy, what makes you happy or what you excel at. Bring those ideas with you as you attend school. If you enter a university intent on working toward a four-year degree, that time should be used wisely. If you are still unsure of what you want to do, work with an academic advisor. They will help direct you to the degree you can succeed in. Do not settle for what you do not want. Be proactive and forge your own path. You will be much happier.
Use these tips to help you through the semester. Remember, your college experience is what you make it. You are enjoying an educational opportunity afforded to few people in the world. I wish you the best of luck, and hope you succeed in your educational objectives.