Many of us leave high school with the impression that college will be the best four years of our lives, but what we fail to realize is it’s not a walk in the park.
Freshman year was by far the most enjoyable year for me, because it was the year of exploration. During that time, I got a chance to really think about which career path I wanted to pursue. I eventually decided on majoring in psychology during my sophomore year, with plans to become a psychiatrist specializing in child/adolescent psychiatry.
Fast-forward two years later and here I am nearing the end of my college journey. With less than two months left of spring semester, the pressure to finish strong is definitely on. The last thing anyone wants to do is get burned-out. Below, I’ve shared some methods that I use to cope with stress during my final semester as an undergrad.
1. If you have a term paper to complete, finish it as soon as you can.
We all take a deep sigh the minute we see that dreaded term paper assignment on the syllabus during the first day of class. Some of us take note of its due date, and some immediately push the thought of writing the paper to the back of their mind. If you’re someone who lives by the motto “out of sight, out of mind,” then you’re setting yourself up for failure. Seeing a due date that is two months away makes us feel as though we have enough time to work on the assignment, but by the time you realize you have to start working on it it's already too late. You soon find yourself being bombarded with papers in all of your other classes and become overwhelmed. The stress you accumulate will lower the quality of your work, and will without a doubt affect your grade.
The only way to avoid complete and utter chaos is to use your time wisely. I have a dry-erase board in my bedroom, so I list out every exam, quiz, and paper that is due for each course in chronological order. The whiteboard acts as a visual aid that constantly reminds me of what I need to do, and keeps me organized. Organization is the key to success, and with organization comes a lot less stress.
2. Get to know your professors.
I can’t stress this enough. A lot of students go through college without getting to know any of their professors on a personal level. This can be problematic, especially if you plan on attending graduate school. Most graduate schools require three letters of recommendation from your professors, or people you’ve worked with who are not related to you. Most college classes are made up of lecture halls that can fit 100-200 students. This makes it almost impossible for professors to learn their students' names, which is why most of the time we are identified by our student number.
The only way you can get to really know your professor is if you attend their office hours. You have to remember that you are the one paying for your education, so utilizing office hours regardless of whether you need help with a certain topic or not is crucial. When you show interest in the course you are studying, you leave your professor with the impression that you are a serious student. When they see that you are a serious student, they are more likely to agree to write your letter of recommendation. Knowing that you don’t have to worry about getting your letters of recommendation for graduate school also aids in decreasing stress during the application process.
3. Form study groups.
Forming study groups can be very helpful when preparing for an exam. People tend to get anxiety while studying for an exam, with the main cause being a lack of confidence in their own abilities. Sometimes you think you know the material well enough, but then you start second-guessing yourself the minute you mess up on a question from a practice test.
Working in a group allows you to listen to how other students have interpreted the subject. When you already have a general understanding of the material and you listen to feedback or thoughts from your peers, you gain a comprehensive understanding of the material. Having a more complete understanding of the subject at hand builds confidence in yourself, and you enter the exam room with a positive mindset. This decreases anxiety and usually yields positive results.
4. If you have a group assignment, always be the leader.
Working on a group assignment is something that is inevitable in college, but it isn’t always favored by students. Group assignments can be fun, but sometimes you are assigned to a group in which the members don’t pull their own weight. When this happens, you have to take the leadership role, because everyone in the group will be given the same grade. I’ve been placed into groups where I did all the work so that my grade wouldn’t have to suffer, while everyone else just sat back and enjoyed a grade they didn't earn. If you feel that that you were cheated in any way by the members in your group, let the professor know and let it go. You’ve done your part by earning the grade you want by working for it and not stressing or chasing down your group members to participate.
Seems obvious, right? Exercise is a great way to relieve stress, and it also helps improve brain functionality. We’ve all heard of the Freshman 15 (which is very real, by the way), but with so much going on in your life during your senior year working out can be difficult to fit into your schedule. Whenever I find myself not being able to make it to the gym, I turn my environment into my own personal gym. I find running up and down stairs around campus or brisk walking are easy ways to incorporate some exercise into my daily routine. In the end, there’s really no excuse to not work out.
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