Congratulations, you’ve made it more than halfway through the semester! It’s October, which means it’s time for Halloween parties, pumpkin spice lattes and doing everything we can to raise our grades by December. If you’re like me, this is that point in the semester where it’s easy to fall behind in your classes due to exhaustion and lack of motivation. As big assignments and tests approach, here is some advice on how to push through, work hard and finish strong.
We hear it everywhere: plan ahead. As students, we’ve been encouraged for years to avidly use a planner, look ahead in our classes, and not wait until the last minute. While it’s a cliché sentiment, planning ahead really is imperative for success, especially around midterm time. I don’t think everyone necessarily has to use a planner (although I encourage you to), but even writing to-do lists is a simple way to plan ahead. If you sit down and write a to-do list for each day the night before, it makes it easier to tackle all of the tasks for the day when they’re laid out in front of you.
Actually follow your plans.
This is the part where many of us (myself included) fall short. We look ahead, we plan our weeks and days thoroughly and then we find ourselves saying “I can do that tomorrow.” We do this too much, and our plan gets thrown to the wind and we do everything at the last minute. Now more than ever, it matters that we really make planning worth our while and follow the plans we lay out for ourselves. Doing this will prevent a lot of unnecessary stress.
Get some sleep.
College students are notorious for staying up way too late in the name of grades. This is often due to procrastination, which hopefully the previous two tips help prevent. However, even if you find yourself completing things at the last minute, get some rest. It’s okay to stay up a little late to accomplish some tasks and study, but if you stay up all night studying and working, you will be less focused and alert the next day, which ruins the point of staying up all night studying. According to the Mayo Clinic, adults need 7-9 hours of sleep to feel rested and function well. Getting as close to this as possible will benefit both your health and your academic performance.
In all the hustle and bustle of the middle of the semester, some people find themselves forgetting to do something very important: eat. Please remember: food is energy, and without it, you won’t function as well as you can. If you don’t think you have the time, buy some good snacks to eat throughout the day. I recommend peanut butter crackers, fruit, vegetables and hummus, or yogurt. Snacks are great because good ones can make you feel full while taking little time to prepare or eat.
While sleep is a key to feeling rested, it is also important that you rest in other ways. It’s not good for you to just work and sleep. It’s helpful to take breaks, whether that means watching an episode of a TV show that relaxes you, meditating or hanging out with friends. Breaks help us not face burnout. When you really feel like you have no time for a break that isn’t sleep, my recommendation is getting lunch or dinner with a friend. You need to eat regardless, so doing so with a friend helps you fit socializing in too.
This sounds too simple, doesn’t it? But it’s important to remember. Sometimes the motivation simply isn’t there, no matter how hard you try. However, sometimes we can do new and creative things to motivate ourselves. For example, I put sticky notes on my bathroom mirror that say “you’ve got this,” “one day at a time,” and other phrases that I know motivate me, so that I start my day in a positive way. I also set reminders on my phone to remind myself to breathe and that I can handle anything. Another good idea is to make a motivation playlist. I personally can’t listen to music while I do my work, but I put on my motivation mix to start my day and before I start a difficult task, and it helps me get into the right mindset.
These are just my examples of how to motivate yourself--but you can get really creative with it. Do whatever works for you!
This is another form of motivation, and it can mean different things for different people. This can be as small as rewarding yourself with a snack after studying for two hours straight, or it could mean rewarding yourself with your favorite food after acing an exam. Rewarding yourself for victories like getting an assignment done, studying and even getting through a busy day is important to maintain motivation. For me, I have a sweet tooth, so I like to reward myself with candy after finishing a difficult task. However you see fit, it’s important to recognize your hard work.
Ask for help.
This is possibly the most important tip. If you find that you worked hard, planned ahead and tried your best, but you still find yourself overwhelmed or even behind, ask for help. This could mean asking your professor for an extension, for further explanation or even asking peers for notes, tutoring or additional study sessions. Oftentimes, professors appreciate transparency and are willing to work with you if you’re honest, and if not, the worst they can say is “no.” Peers are often more than willing to help you; they understand wanting to pass. Learning from them could be the difference between a mental breakdown and a successful end to the semester.
While I know a few tips won’t solve everyone’s midterm funks, I hope you see a tip that may help you push through the fall semester successfully. With hard work, good prioritization and focus, we will get through this semester. Good luck!