At the beginning of the semester, everyone's excited to be back on campus, to see all their friends, and to be back in Austin (if you left for the summer). I remember being excited to be in a whole new set of classes that offered the chance to learn new things and break the monotony of last semester's schedule. Of course, I was also apprehensive because I knew OS wasn't going to be easy, but I was energized and ready to take on the challenge. I went to class each day with my homework and reading completed, and I made sure to pay attention to lectures attentively and take organized notes. I had my life together for a solid week, and then all my classes got harder all at once, and I quickly wore down, as most people do through the course of the semester.
By the middle of the semester, I, like most students, am tired and ready for the semester to come to an end. My so-called "honeymoon period" with my classes is over. I'm either uninterested in what I'm learning, dissatisfied with the structure of my classes, or simultaneously interested and wishing that the class would give me a small break so I had time to get my bearings. The end of the semester feels so far away, and it feels like it's impossible to make it to the end. At times like these, it's important to keep on working hard until the semester is over, which is of course easier said than done. Here are my tips for powering through the second half of the semester:
- Take a break. Sometimes it's good to just step back from the homework for a while and do something you love. You'll come back to your work feeling more refreshed and ready to think, and you'll also just feel better in general. Of course, don't take too much of a break. You still need to leave yourself enough time to get all your homework done. As I've said before, I like taking short, 1-2 hour breaks in between longer, 3-4 hour periods of work. That way, I give myself enough time to get a substantial amount of work done, but I make sure I'm not working on something for too long in a row. This practice tends to go out the window when I have an 11:59pm deadline that night because it would be foolish of me to work on anything else other than the project that is due in mere hours.
- Change your frame of mind. In my 314 class, my professor emphasized keeping a growth mindset. Growth mindset revolves around the idea that your skills are constantly changing, whereas a fixed mindset defines skills as a set of abilities that come from innate talent. Keep in mind that you're constantly growing and getting better, and the classes you're taking right now are just another step on that journey to make you a better person. Even if you aren't getting the best outcomes right now, you can learn from your mistakes to do better next time. And maybe you don't do super well in a class at all-- but you still learned something from that class, and you can still use that knowledge going forward. The things you learn in a class can be applied beyond just the final exam. Sometimes, it's easy to forget that.
- Focus on yourself and not your peers. I talk about that a lot in this post, so I'm not going to say anything more about it here.
- Sleep. Life looks a lot better after you've had a good night's rest. Your body will also function better. Along those lines, make sure you're feeding yourself well. Don't skip meals just to get more work done; in the long run, you'll run out of energy if you keep that up.
- Study with friends. It feels much less like a failure if you and your friends fail together (or, you know, succeed). I know I always study better when I have friends to motivate me to actually sit down and work. There's always a small chance that a three hour study session might turn into a three hour complaining session, but there's something nice about that in and of itself. It's also nice to have friends who will guilt you into doing your work instead of watching Netflix for four hours and who will motivate you to not fall asleep in class by making fun of you every time you do.
Whatever your strategies are for getting through the school year, I wish you the best of luck. You can do it!