Ten tips for end of term survival
Ah the end of term. The frenetic nervous energy around the college is so thick you can cut it with a knife. It's the time of year that can make or break in college. So, here are some of my tips for surviving the end of term at college.
Take care of yourself physically
Get enough rest: My students tell me they are sleeping 3 hours a night and sometimes surviving on energy drinks (in our day it was caffeine). This might seem like a time saver, but you will shoot your nervous, and will y not work as efficiently as you think. When you don't get enough rest, your critical thinking skills, something you need to write essays and exams, will not be at their best. If you insist on getting less sleep, try going to bed at a reasonable hour and get up earlier. You'll work more effectively in the earlier hours of the day anyhow.
Pay attention to what you eat: Junk food and end of term seem to go hand-in-hand. Granted that thinking about preparing meals if you are spending all your days at the school might seem challenging and vending machine and snack bar samosas might seem more cheaper and convenient. At the very least try buying a lot of pre-packaged nutritious items from your local grocery store and stock pile it in the fridge. That worked for me in graduate school. Chips and chocolate don't do much to enhance your cognitive abilities.
Schedule some exercise time: A half hour of vigorous walking, running, or a brief visit to the fitness center of your local college will do wonders for you. You will release some of the stress and pressure, regroup and recharge and increase your capacity for long hours in the chair studying and doing those assignments. Much of the success in school has to do with just sitting there and getting the work done.
Schedule a bit of fun time: Sure you might be working 18 hours a day, but balancing it with some recreation and partying paced at just the right time will help you clear your head, process all the information you have input and recharge your batteries. Just don't get too drunk or hung over.
Take care of yourself emotionally
One of the most common problems on campus for many students especially in their first year is isolation. Try to seek out peer tutoring, or form study groups with others. If you are feeling especially overwhelmed then consult with college counselling services. I've seen more than my share of stressed out students in class during the last two weeks who freeze up and the prospect of either doing a stack of assignments or failing. Often, there are other things going (a break up or family issue, for example). The instructor or tutor isn't always available to talk at length, so don't be afraid to book a session with a college counselor. They are very experienced with helping students with end of term stress.
Surviving end of term: take care of yourself academically
Don't skip class. This might sound like a no-brainer, but all too often, I see students skip out to get their assignments done their other courses. As a course winds down, remember that this is the time when the professor starts giving concluding thoughts that wrap up the course, and hints study tips for the final. It's the time to watch for that phrase, "now this is important".
Talk to your professor or tutor. Do this especially if you have any problems. This is your last chance. If you are stuck on some points of the course, or even have questions about a past assignment, You never know, that place where you you are stuck just might show up on the exam.
Understand, htough that you may not be able to cram the whole course in a week and get an A (or even a B). But if you get clarifications on main areas and themes of the course then you will will better use your time and anticipate the exam questions and not fry your brain circuits out form too much stress.
Go to the library. If you live in the student residence, chances are it is probably hard to get much done when you are in. The residence is great for socializing, but sometimes not so conducive to studying. The library might also be ideal if you live off campus and find yourself isolated, or if you live at home and find yourself needed to escape the clutches of the parents.
End of term crunch: time management
Shut off your cell phone and avoid the Internet:. My students, many of whom have hundreds of Facebook friends, have told me that Facebook was one of the single biggest distractions in the end of term crunch. How available do you really have to be for all those friends? If you can't restrain yourself, then check in once a day. That's it.
Then keep it shut down. Studies have shown that multi-tasking is a myth, and that in reality, if you study with other electronic distractions(music playing, several browser screens open with messaging and FB) you will less effective. While you're at it, stay off of Twitter, stay away from YouTube and shut of your cellphone (so you don't check all those texts and get enmeshed in the 'back and forth' instead of working).
Use a timer: You may find you can only study in short bites. I find it helpful to use a timer. say you set it for 30 minutes, then for that 30 minutes all I do is focus on the one thing (a chapter in a book or writing a few paragraphs in a paper). You would be surprised how productive you can be when you put your whole attention on something. Then give yourself permission to take a short break (OK, now you can look at your texts).
Tip 11 - watch your self talk
Yes, I said there would be ten tips for end of term survival but here is the eleventh, one that just occurred to me. Watch your self talk. Your thoughts will send you down the rabbit hole to hell, or a paralyzing anxiety that can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you tell yourself you will fail enough times, you might just do that. If you tell yourself, "you can't do this" sure enough that will be the case. Now people have written for centuries about this stuff, and there's all kinds of techniques such as affirmation and positive thinking, but the easiest thing to do is just to catch yourself--oops I just had a negative thought. That's the thought that will make you get up, get junk food, turn on your phone, or browse the net. When that happens do one of two things:
Flag it -say to yourself oops, I had a negative thought/self talk. Then get back to what you are doing quickly (before 3 seconds)
Second: ask yourself how is this going to help me. If you have drifted to something else, you're on the road to sabotage and anxiety. Ask yourself how your thoughts and actions will support your goals of doing well or even passing. Chances are, they won't. Then gently shift back to what you are doing.
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