Similar to the mentality of the ever-popular New Year's Resolutions, a new school year starts out strong, with lots of fanfare and gusto. However, after the first few weeks, the homework, projects, and tests slowly chips away at the semester's initial luster, and by mid-terms you've probably begun to count the days until the weekend, your next break, or the holiday.The struggle is REAL (or so they say), so keep this list in mind. Unlike the often forsaken New Year's Resolutions, your academic performance holds a lot more weight and consequences if you just give up. To help you stay on track, here's a list of ways to make the most of your school year, and maintain a steady pace that will (most likely) get you to the finish line in one piece:
1. Get Out of your Comfort Zone
Push your boundaries and make an effort to try new things. Here's a list of a few ways to get started:
- Try out for a sports team.
- Join a club, or start your own.
- Audition for a part in a musical or play.
- Volunteer for something you're passionate about.
- Go to events where you don't know anyone and network..
School is not just about the textbooks and tests; the things you learn when you go outside your comfort zone and try new experiences can be applied later in life. A study done by the Director Jing Wang of the Institutional Research Center at California State University of Sacramento, titled The Impact of Extracurricular Activity on Student Academic Performance, revealed that "...students achieved much higher rates of retention and graduation, maintained better GPAs, and had higher good standing rates" when they were a part of an extracurricular in school, compared to those that weren't. I know going outside of my comfort zone has always given me success or a new lesson learned, so there's not much to can lose by trying!
The Takeaway: Go outside of your comfort zone, and become part of something meaningful to you at your school! It could benefit you academically and even professionally in the future.
2. Stay Organized
To successfully juggle all the things that school throws at you, you'll need to stay organized. It's easy to start out that way with the best of intentions, but it's hard to maintain it unless you setup a method and a schedule. The key: Consistency. To get started, get a planner, or use one on your phone! There are a myriad of affordable to free options out there, such as myHomework Student Planner, TimeTune Schedule Planner, or even Google Calendar. Are you a list-making person instead? I highly recommend the app Swipes, as it allows you to organize your to-do checklist(s) by time, day, importance, re-occurrences, and much more, to stay productive in all your schoolwork and responsibilities without it becoming overwhelming. Finally, to help you develop the habit of consistency I recommend the apps HabitBull or 7 Weeks, which gives you a calendar and color coding options to track your progress.
The Takeaway: Staying organized and consistent will help you make the most of your time and maximize productivity, and yes there's an app for all of the above!
3. Find a Mentor
Finding a mentor can be a great way to get a head start on your future, especially if they specialize in the same sector that you're interested in. Some schools might have a way to match you up with certain faculty members who can mentor you, or with alumni that'll allow you to job-shadow with them and get 'real-world' experience in the career path you're interested in. However, if these options are not available, don't worry! You can find a mentor by following the steps below:
- Find someone you admire and respect: I recommend this being someone you know, rather than a stranger. If you want to be mentored by someone you've yet to get acquainted with, you'll need to work hard to get on their radar.
- Find things in common: For example, volunteering or participating in things that they do, or talking about their favorite sports team or book.
- Clarify what you want to learn from each other: Mentors often transfer their knowledge to mentees, but it can work the other way around as well so that it's mutually beneficial.
- Setup meetings: Organization and consistency allows for more productivity.
- Be punctual: When meeting with your mentor, arrive at least 10 minutes early.
- Be thankful: Always follow-up with a thank you email or a note to show your appreciation.
The Takeaway: Finding a mentor could be a great asset for your career, so if you don't know how to find one, review steps listed above.
4. Form a Study Group
Find a study buddy, or form a study group; When you work with others that are in the same boat as you, the journey can become a lot easier and more enjoyable. Pick people that excel in the areas that is your weakness. A great place to find study groups are in the library, coffee shops, or outside the classrooms when early students may gather to go over any questions they had on assignments, or review everything before a test. Maintaining good communication with your study group is important, so I'd highly recommend GroupMe of Google Hangouts to converse with each other, but muted when it's not needed.
The Takeaway: Forming study groups is a great way to learn the material and review things thoroughly with the help of your peers.
5. Maintain Balance
Many college students experience burnout at one point or another, which is often caused by an excessive amount of stress. It's hard to maintain a good work-life balance, nevertheless, work-life-school balance, something more and more college students appear to be doing these days. To stay centered, find a support group, and check-in with to get feedback on whether they think you are biting off more than you can chew or if you can take on more. Therefore, remind yourself, or even make it a habit, to take breaks, get enough sleep, and eat right. Exercise is a great way to manage stress as well, as it releases endorphins, a positive 'feel-good' chemical in the brain. If hitting the gym is not your thing though, that's okay! Yoga and meditation are also widely known to be great at eliciting a calming state of mind, which can be done from anywhere. Leaving on the weekends for friends and family or having a day to yourself may be all it takes, but try out different methods and see which would work best for you. Finally, learn the power of 'no'. When you are spread thin, you won't be able to do anything you're committed to as well, and will have less time for yourself to enjoy college experience; prioritizing opportunities and tasks and saying 'no' more often can help you maintain a better balance.
The Takeaway: Maintain balance in your life by checking-in with others, setting reasonable and attainable roles, exercising, and utilizing the power of 'no'.
Hope you have a great start to your new school year! Do you do all of the above, plan to, or have other suggestions? Let me know what you think!