Friend: OMG it’s fall, sweater weather and pumpkin spice lattes and the LEAVES!!!!
Me: *thinking about the 800 midterms and papers I have due in the next few weeks* Yeah, totally…
This is an accurate picture of all of us in October.
While I’d love to spend the entirety of this post commiserating with you all about academic stress, that’s not my job here. My job as an Ear is to be there for you and help you out in the best way I can, not to put all my problems on you. So let’s talk about studying help!
In terms of studying for midterms and not exploding, this post will give you 6 tips I’ve learned from Time Management and Study Strategies (TMSS) consultants, who are the actual lifesavers of so many disorganized/procrastinating/unmotivated students. I highly suggest emailing them and applying to get a consultant, because no matter how big or small your problem with work is, they can help you start to fix it.
Trick #1: Tackle the stress first, then the assignment.
It turns out that many people (maybe including you) use procrastination to deal with academic-related stress, which then creates more stress because the assignment isn’t done, which then leads to more procrastination…and before you know it you’re drowning in a sea of assignments and have watched all 10 seasons of Friends in a month because you’re so stressed out. Therefore, instead of initially trying to figure out the best way to tackle an assignment when all you want to do is procrastinate, figure out why you’re procrastinating, and go from there. Check out this article to figure out how to overcome your version of procrastination, and then continue reading (as long as it’s not a form of procrastination).
Trick #2: Study how you study, not how your BFF Brenda does it.
When studying for midterm exams, study in a way that works for you. You don’t have to use beautiful hand-written notes just because your favorite bullet journal Instagram account does–do whatever it takes, no matter how ugly it looks, to get the information in your brain. There are seven different types of basic learning styles, and it’s important to find the one that works for you. For example, I know someone who tried so hard to silently read their notes repeatedly and memorize them that way, but they could never remember anything. Then, they tried reading their notes aloud or having someone else read the notes to them, and they immediately started remembering the concepts. In this case, the student kept trying to be a visual learner when it turned out that verbal learning worked better for them. If you aren’t sure which style of learning most fits you, try out different things and see what fits!
Trick #3: Take. A. Mother. Fucking. Break.
I cannot count how many times I have had the following conversation:
Friend: I spent 8 hours in Tisch and barely got anything done.
Me: Did you take any breaks?
Friend: No, I don’t have time for breaks.
Me internally: But you had 8 hours to stare at the page and do nothing…
Breaks help you reset your brain and give it time to breathe, effectively. There’s tons of research which proves taking breaks periodically–say, using the Pomodoro technique–is more productive than working straight through with no breaks. I don’t think any of us are marathon runners at studying, and there’s no way we should be expected to go on for hours without stopping. We all need time to breathe, and there is no shame in scheduling in those breaks for when you study.
Trick #4: If you’re stuck, try simplifying it.
Sometimes we get stuck. And often when we’re stuck, the answer is so close to us but we just can’t see it. Take, for example, this lil pup stuck in the fence. He got stuck because he tried to go through the middle of the fence, but if he had looked more to the outside, he would have seen that he could just go around it! TBH, we’re all this pupper, except he’s way cuter than any human can be. 11/10 would cuddle forever instead of doing the project I’m stuck on.
If you’re stuck, it’s most likely because you’re overthinking it. When I’m stuck, I’ve learned that if I take a step back, breathe, and then come back to the problem when my head is clearer, it helps so much. If you try that and it still doesn’t work, and you want to curl up in a ball, go back to trick #1 of this article and see why you’re procrastinating, then start again. If you’re stuck because you don’t know how to move forward with it, try out some of these reading and studying strategies, some of which I used to get myself un-stuck from the middle section of this article.
Trick #5: Plan it out.
I know you’re probably tired of hearing this, but writing everything out and managing your time by planning it out is one of the most useful strategies for beating the beast that is college. Even if you’re bad at planning, you can do it. Try writing out a complete schedule for yourself, sort of like this:
1:30-2:45pm: class in Anderson
2:45-3: walk to Tisch
3-6: work on paper in Tisch, 5 min break for every 25 min of work
6-7: go to Dewick for dinner
Writing out your schedule helps you to visualize what your plans are and helps hold you accountable for them. Make sure you’re specific in what you’re going to do during certain periods of time. Use the acronym SMART–specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-oriented–to set goals for what you’re going to do during your time. This method can help you accomplish more things in smaller periods of time.
Trick #6: Reach out for help!
*shameless self promo*
If you’re having trouble with school, it’s perfectly okay to reach out to a friend, a professor, a counselor, or anyone else you feel comfortable with to ask for help. If you have something going on in your personal life and don’t think you can get an assignment finished in time, there’s nothing wrong with asking for an extension. Most professors are incredibly understanding and want you to be okay. They should know that your personal well-being comes far before their class. If you need professional counseling for academic-related stress, contact CMHS or make an appointment with a TMSS consultant. You don’t have to figure out how to do these big, scary things all by yourself. You have so many resources available to you, so go use them!
And as always, if you need to talk about academic-related stress or anything else in the world, call us at 617-627-3888, text us at 617-394-1954, or IM us at tuftse4p. We are confidential (!!!) and are here for you every single night from 7pm-7am.