bettering self · college · life · purpose · school · self · signal · voice

How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at College

College is stressful to say the least. You have class, homework, social stuff, parties, friends, sleep, fashion, books, me time, exercise…

A lot of Freshman (and even those Sophmore’s – don’t let them fool you) don’t have this figured out which is why there is such a high drop-out rate in freshman.  My freshman class last year was close to 2000 students.  By the time midterms came around there were only 1300ish still in school.  By finals week, only 900 students of the 2000 were still enrolled.  And it isn’t that the school is bad – far from it!  These kids want to party or hang with friends all the time and it ends up that their grades won’t allow them to stay in school.

And then you have people like me.  My entire first semester revolved around homework, work, netflix, homework, class time, homework.

It got really monotonous.   Very quickly.

But, I got straight As that entire semester.

My second semester was class, homework, friends, class, friends, homework. friends, and then a situation where I was bullied extensively.

I got Bs that semester.

My third semester was class, homework, homework, friends, boyfriend, friends, hobbies, homework, exercising.

I averaged Cs.

See, I’ve been involved in stressful situations before, but college is different.  There are so many things to do and so little time to get that essay for Dr. McCharles-John-something-or-other finished in time to turn it in.  There are so many distractions.

You have probably heard the two arguments about college: one, that it is too easy; and, two, that it is too difficult.

They are both true.

But, how do you deal with these things?

  • Learn your weaknesses.

You know that if you sit down at your computer and start to research your essay that you end up on facebook or pinterest or tumblr you are going to look at the clock suddenly and find that all your time is gone and it is time to go to John’s party…You need to get some LearnSmart finished, but find yourself cleaning your room instead… Or have class, but since attendance isn’t required, you don’t go.

  • Make a schedule.

My grandfather (a quiet man of exceptional brainpower and wisdom) used to say, “Swallow the frog.”

“Swallowing the frog” means that you must get what you have to do that day out of the way first or you are going to worry and stress about it (or forget about it) until it is too late.

So, I cannot stress this enough: make. a. schedule.  Make it, then stick to it.

If you have class at 8:00am you should get up at at least 7:00am. Then, you have time to do your hygiene thing and get breakfast.  You will also find that you will be more awake and more motivated to go to class.  Too many kids think they can wake up at 7:45am and drag their sleepy rear-ends to class and still be able to focus well enough to learn the material – that absolutely will not work (it is also embarrassing for people like me because I like to always look my best and I seem to always be surrounded by people who need a good shot of adrenaline). What will end up happening is that your alarm goes off at 7:45am and you want “five more minutes” or you are so tired you sleep though it – in both situations you end up not making it to class.

Make sure you eat at the same time every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Tuesday-Thursday.  It gives you a routine that become painful to break out of – and, trust me, that is a very, very good thing.

You need to have a set time to do your homework.

For myself, the two hours before and three after my regular dinner hour  are the best because that is the time I focus best.  I make sure to break those sessions up so that I have time to get emails finished and browse pinterest.  The goal is to do homework using the 30-15-20-10-40-20 rule.  For every 30 minutes you study, you get 15 minutes to derp around; then, you do a 20 minute study/homework session, followed by a 10 minute break; then a 40 minute study/homework session with a 20 minute break; just repeat the process until all of your homework is finished.

It is, seriously, that easy.

But, hard to stick to.

If you are going to clean your room in the 20 minute session and suddenly look at the clock to find that an hour has gone by, I would suggest a timer or alarm to help you keep on track.  Don’t worry: all that stuff is still going to be there even after your homework is done.

  • Set a Goal

Nothing is easier or a better motivator than setting realistic goals.

For example, you want to go to Sally’s birthday party on Friday and you know you will be at this party for a while so you probably will not get any homework done that day.  So, your goal probably is to have all your homework for Monday-Thursday finished by Friday morning.  Maybe your GPA isn’t too hot so you want to set the goal of having all Bs on your homework by a certain date.

Goals are very helpful.

  • Set out the uniform

Before you go to bed each night, set out what you are going to wear the next day as well as the items you are going to need as far as your daily routine goes.

For example, Monday and Wednesday and Friday are my SUPER busy days (I have dance class, humanities, business class, and graphic design class one right after the other – I’m not going to have time to run back to my dorm and grab what I need for the next class).  Tuesday-Thursday is just as bad except earlier.  I need to have everything (outfit, notebooks, textbooks, Student ID, pencil, and tablet) either set out or in my bag so that I do not have to worry that I forgot something as soon as I set foot out of my dorm room.

  • Exercise

Exercise is the best (and sometimes the only) thing to motive people and get the brain-juices flowing.

I hate exercising, but something I will do is walking.  I love to walk.  So, instead of getting up at 7:00am, I get up at 6:30am, have my butt out the door at 7:00am walk around campus a bit, eat breakfast, and am in class at 7:50am.  I am more alert, I feel alive, and I am usually glad to be in class (sometimes the opposite is also true).

  • Make time for your friends

The friends you make in college will broaden your mind and be wonderful stress-relievers.  I try to be there for my friends whenever they need me: however, do not spend too much time or the whole schedule thing is shot.

  • Netflix, Pandora, Youtube

I am the most motivated to work, exercise, do homework when I have something that I only do during that time that makes that time very special.  If I know that the only time I get to watch Sleepy Hollow is when I am doing my humanities homework I will be very motivated to do my activity.  What I do is shrink the tab with the movie or minimize the tab with the music and do my homework at the same time.

NOTE: If you choose to do my way instead of 30-15-20-10-40-20 do not take breaks.  The time you spend watching Sherlock leap off a building of Gibbs smack Tony basically counts as your break time. In addition, you must discipline yourself to have a certain amount of the work done by the end of an episode – if you don’t have that work done, the 30-15-20-10-40-20 rule is best for you.

  • Do not snack

Especially if if you are a girl, do not snack.  Because, what will happen is you will have the stress of being overweight or being bloated and not being able to work as quickly and, trust me, that is not fun to deal with.

Make sure you have a meal every 4 hours. 🙂

  • Find a Passion

Find something you enjoy doing and make sure to do it every day.

  • Invest in Yourself

Take a photography class.  Go shopping in a place you’ve never been.  Cook a meal of an ethnicity you’ve never cooked before.  Try Yoga.  Eat Vegan for a day.  Start a blog. Write a book.  Learn a new language (I love learning French).  Make friends with international students.

Make yourself a well-rounded person.

Break free of your comfort zone and take a risk.

It is college, you are here to learn. 90% of what you learn in the classroom will be helpful, but not necessary to your career (except Doctors – you guys need to just study).  Learn and experience stuff that you have never done before.

Take a risk.

  • Find a de-stresser

My last bullet-point is, perhaps, one of the most important.  Finding a way to relieve your stress in a cheap and time-effective way is so crucial your grades depend on it.  Stress compounds exponentially on a student the longer it goes ignored.  Tempers become short, homework doesn’t get done, motivation is at a low…

You need to find what de-stresses you the best way and make sure you do it once every two or three days.


I hope this was helpful!  Good luck with this next year!!

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