Once, long ago, I was a good student.
After a gap year spent working in the hellscape that is retail, I returned to university with a newfound sense of purpose and drive. Diligent and methodical in my approach, I attended every lecture, read every reading, climbed every mountain, and completed every assignment on time. Coincidentally, my grades looked pretty good throughout the entire process. Who knew?
I like to refer to this time as the golden period of my academic career. In the years that followed — the dark ages, if you will — I admittedly fell out of touch with my good habits. As my motivation diminished, so did my GPA and my mental and physical health.
Thankfully, it’s a new semester, a new year, and a new decade. In the spirit of new beginnings, I’ve consulted with fellow students and reflected on some of my old habits in order to compile a list of six tips to help me (and maybe you) get back on track this semester. So, without further ado, let my academic renaissance begin!
Start while you’re ahead
When your professors provide assignment instructions weeks in advance, it’s usually because they want you to use that time to your benefit. This is something I tend to forget (or maybe the better word is ignore). When someone does make use of this time, however, they tend to be considerably less stressed and produce higher quality work, so get cracking!
This approach might not work for everyone, but it certainly does for me. It’s in my nature to be scatterbrained and impulsive, so by setting a clear schedule for myself, I’m less likely to lose my focus. For me, this means being really specific about what I study and when. Blocking off my Saturday afternoon for general schoolwork is too vague — I need to block off Saturday 12:00-2:30 for working on my paper and 2:30-4:00 for reading and review. This schedule is subject to change, of course, but it helps me hold myself accountable.
Knowing at least one person in each of your classes can be extremely helpful. Whether you need a fresh perspective on some tricky material or to copy someone’s notes when you’ve missed a class, it’s never a bad idea to introduce yourself to a classmate. The same goes for your professors and TAs — the more recognizable you are, the more likely they are to help you when you’re in a tough spot. Get to know your professors by participating in class discussions and using their office hours, if possible.
Know your limits and make them known
As I sat down to outline this portion of the article, for some reason all I could think about was an episode of Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide. Ned discovers he doesn’t know how to say ‘no’ to people, and he becomes so overwhelmed with responsibilities that he descends into a state of what can only be described as all-consuming madness. (This memory is lodged deep within the recesses of my brain, so I could be exaggerating some of the details here).
Save yourself the stress and know when enough is enough. Even if it means turning down a social event or a special project, there is no shame in being open and transparent about your boundaries! Despite the lame quotes business majors may share on Facebook, overworking and pushing yourself to extremes can be harmful to you in the long run (don’t @ me!).
Take care of yourself, goddammit
I know, I know, this one gets thrown around all the time, but it’s true. Getting adequate sleep, nourishing and moving your body, and not binge drinking wine coolers every other night is extremely important. Taking care of yourself also means taking care of your environment — so do your laundry and your dishes, folks.
These are added stressors that are easily dealt with, so you might as well just get them out of the way. I hate to say it, but this is the step I and many others struggle with the most, and it’s arguably the most crucial of all. Baby steps, everybody.
Use the resources available My last tip is to take advantage of the many services Concordia offers. The Student Success Centre, for example, can hook you up with tutoring, study groups, and workshops. If you struggle with writing, make an appointment for writing assistance or attend a drop-in time. Go to office hours, take a breather in one of the many Zen Dens on campus, and consult a librarian to help you with your research. There are so many systems in place that can help make your semester run more smoothly. Remember, you’re paying the big bucks to be here, so milk it!
Graphic by @sundaeghost