The last semester of your undergrad degree: You've just wrapped up your graduate school application, been to a few great New Year's Eve parties and the first week of classes is one week away. The desire to care is present, but the motivation is lagging behind a bit. Your dog and the comfort of your layers of blankets in your bed in the arctic weather are making that all seem a bit insignificant, and far away.
"5 days is a long time", you tell yourself.
But you know this is a clever lie. Just one month ago you were telling yourself there was merely one week left before break, now you're telling yourself the reverse. So, invariably, you fling the sheets off yourself and start off your day. RxR is important, but what's more important is remembering your goals, and ultimately why you started off this undergraduate degree to begin with, and why it is incredibly important to not underestimate this last semester even if you are taking a few required lower level courses you stashed away for your last semester (like me). One year from this point, you will likely be employed or taking graduate level courses and remembering fondly the long, luxurious breaks you used to get in your undergraduate time. Another thought that justifies a lax approach in your last semester. But also a fair point.
In this article, I understand that many students face different battles their last semester: Some are trying to stave off complete apathy for one reason or another, others have one more semester to get their ducks in a row and finish strong. In either case, you're likely not in the group that has decided to take the philosophy of "D for Diploma" their last semester, nor the group that isn't even concerned with lack of motivation (you know the type). So with that being said, here are some surefire ways to keep your motivation solid your last semester!
1. Keep a countdown to the last day of graduation.
This is a great approach because it is continuously reinforcing and a constant reminder of how close you are to being done and onto the next step in your life. If you feel complacency setting in, looking at a countdown chart can be just the boost you need. You can create mini countdowns that make time periods into manageable chunks that can be easily conquered, such as one to midterms, and then one to finals. For most effective use, place somewhere that you see frequently on a daily basis and keep it updated! The pros of this approach are that is works great for people who know their next step or are highly motivated to graduate and move on from the undergrad period of their life. It's also instantly reinforcing and combats distracting or negative thoughts fairly well. Use time to your advantage.
The cons of this approach are that it can feel like a slog sometimes, where some days feel longer than others. Also if you aren't sure about next steps in life it can be anxiety inducing. So if you have high anxiety about where you're going or what you're going to do next, this may be a double edged sword.
2. Eliminating Bad Habits & Creating/Maintaining Good Habits
Originally, this item was just "keep a checklist" but I realized how this tied in with pretty much every facet of one's daily habits. If you've maintained good habits throughout college, it's important to keep goal setting and maintaining those habits. Making new good habits and eliminating poor habits that can self-sabotage is imperative to staving off the senioritis that settles in. Whether drifting into poor habits is intentional or unintentional, being self aware that it's happening and taking action to fight it is what's important. Every minor thing ties into your overall level of focus and determination, from sleep habits to checklists. Checklists are great because they enable you to focus on a series of steps within larger tasks and create focus. Night time sleep routines are another good habit to form because they signal to your brain that it's time to begin winding down and physiologically your body responds to this and ultimately you'll feel well rested which is a huge portion of maintaining a fighting spirit. Although this point is a bit general, journaling and reflecting on how you can make little changes to create a general snowball effect of good is important in creating/maintaining positive momentum for your last semester. Finish strong!
Some pros to this point are that it makes you reflect on your life and behavior which feeds into action that can give you the motivation you want to have to finish your last semester around at least a 7-8 on the Care Scale. It's an effective approach and helps one see the details that feed into the bigger picture and ultimately feeds into your confidence when telling others you feel "pretty good" about this last semester. The biggest con to this point is that it's a bit vague. In response to this con, I suggest that you focus on finding one good habit you want to maintain that you feel helped you in a previous semester, and to find one bad habit to root out and eliminate.
3. Write Down 3 of Your Proudest Accomplishments
Focusing on what you've accomplished can help shape your expectations for future endeavors. By reminding yourself daily about your self-worth, studies seem to suggest that your brain actually becomes more effective at catching when you make mistakes. Keeping your chin up and being prosocial also has an immense ripple effect not only on yourself but on your closest relationships and ultimately on your community. This tactic serves to strengthen your positive outlook and ultimately makes you less likely to succumb to the apathy of senioritis that encroaches in your final semester.
The pros of this method are that it helps you maintain positivity and self-worth. The cons of this approach are that it doesn't exactly shape any specific direct focus on any "What" throughout your day, but focuses on the "How" you go about your daily activities. For some, finding 3 proud accomplishments in your college career may be difficult, and to this I say that no matter how small, an accomplishment is still an accomplishment. Even something as small as getting out of bed in the morning.