On Being a Successful Student
Getting down to business and being a great student
I have had many ups and downs during my academic career. The successes have helped me to know what I was doing right, and the failures highlight what needs to be done differently. I am honestly more thankful for the failures than the successes because they taught me the lesson in a way I would not forget. What I have come to find is that one's success as a student directly correlates to a handful of things. These can be broken down into time management, stress management, and support. I hope to shed a little light on this subject to whoever reads this blog. I only wish I knew how to do a few of these things sooner in life.
All three of these aspects of being a better student are difficult to master, and will take a significant amount of discipline to perfect. That being said, time management was a very difficult one for me. It is so easy to fill up your schedule with all the things that others, and obviously you, want to do. Whether it be joining those three intramural teams, going on that date with the cute guy or girl you met at the park, going to that enticing party you were invited to, or simply binge watching a full season of House of Cards on Netflix. There are many ways to decimate your study time into nothing. Here are two effective ways in which I've come to combat poor time management: one is scheduling, the other is something I call "checklisting". At the beginning of each week, look at the things you need to get done and break them down into a schedule for each day. Doing this helps you to avoid procrastinating, fends off some of the stress of having to do too much at once, and prevents you from having to do that four hour assignment at 12:00 am the night before it's due because you forgot about it. It also helps to know what night you are supposed to go on that date, so that you don't end up accepting your friend's invite to go out drinking while your girl/guy is sitting at Olive Garden quietly sobbing into a basket of delicious bread sticks. I mean, you wouldn't want them to ruin all those bread sticks, would you? Don't be afraid to pencil in time for you to unwind or watch one of those House of Cards episodes, just don't watch the whole season. After all, the saying "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" is very true in my experience. Checklisting can be an alternate method, or a supplemental method to scheduling, depending on how you want to use it. Basically, checklisting is the act of forcing yourself to do five or so mundane, yet necessary things before you allow yourself to do something fun. The items on your checklist can be things like doing your laundry, doing a homework assignment, washing the dishes, filling out that application, etc. A really fun way to checklist is to attach an award to each drab thing on the list. For example, if you want to go out drinking on thirsty Thursday, you can award yourself a drink for each item you check off the list. I don't know about you, but I like to consume five or six beers during a night out on the town, so I'd be getting some junk done! These are just a few ways to get a hold on good time management. Bear in mind that the root of all this is to take care of as much as you can, as soon as you can. Procrastination is the enemy, so sit down and get your school work done right when you get in the door.
Stress is the enemy of any momentum you have going towards being a good student. Once you let your stress level get too high to bear, you will lose your motivation and desire to start any work at all. There are a few good ways to avoid this. One would be to make use of efficient scheduling as mentioned in the previous section. Another is to find some hobby that allows you to recharge and shake off some of that stress that is plaguing your productivity. Personally, I like to sketch for an hour or so to clear my mind and get to a point where I don't feel like I'm being smothered by my workload. The key is not to overindulge in this hobby. Don't let it take up too much of your time. It is a hobby after all, and it's not going to get you that paycheck one day like getting a 4.0 will (not that I have a 4.0). Also, if you spend too much time on your hobby, it stops feeling like a reward for your labor, and begins to lose some of the allure it once held. Another good way to fend of stress is to do some kind of physical activity. Whether it be going for a walk, jog, or playing ultimate frisbee for 30 minutes a day, being active will release endorphins and will make you feel a little better. These are a few things that have worked in my experience, but don't be afraid to talk to someone about your stress if need be.
The last thing I will focus on is support. Sometimes you just can't do it all on your own. That's why you have friends, family, and classmates who are there to help you if need be. I am a loner in a lot of ways. I don't like getting help, I don't like talking about my problems, and I don't like the feeling of owing anyone for seeking their assistance. The fact of the matter is, you will learn a lot more if you seek the help of others a little more often. Sometimes your classmate can just explain something better than your genius professor who only knows how to talk like he/she is speaking to a rocket scientist. Sharing your problems with the people around you can help to make the load you bear seem a lot lighter. Something about vocalizing your problems seems to cast them in a much more manageable light. Holding it all in does nothing but overwhelm you and force you deeper into hopelessness. It may seem painful to admit you need help, but it's a lot like jumping into cold water. The initial shock is unpleasant, but you get used to it fairly quickly.
This post will not totally transform you from dunce into brainiac, but it will help you to break a lot of those bad habits that are keeping you from reaching your full potential. Effective time management, stress management, and being open to support will make your academic experience go much more smoothly. That means graduating on time, not having to lie to your parents about your grades, and generally feeling great about a job well done. This all seems daunting at first, but once you slip into the routine, it will feel like second nature. Take it from me, listening to some of this hard earned wisdom may keep you from being that fifth or sixth year senior that nobody takes seriously. But hey, What do I know?