University can be overwhelming. There are a bunch of new experiences you want to try, a whole slew of people you want to meet and befriend, and at the same time, a course you have forked out a lot of money to attend. To add to it, the results of your university career could very well affect the rest of your life. That final grade might be the difference between getting into the graduate program of your dream profession and explaining to your friends and family why you can’t hold down a job in this struggling economy.
As a result, it’s easy to let the pressure overwhelm you in one of two ways. Either you become the harried student with notes and laptop spilling out of your backpack. You never have time to hang out and can always be found in the library with stacks of books lined around the borders of your desk like a Do Not Disturb sign. Or, you decide not to let the stress touch you at all and you’re out with friends all the time because you’re desperate not to miss out on the university experience. You have the best party stories, usually with improbable ending like, “And I woke up in a tree,” and sometimes you wander into the lecture hall still smelling like sour wine. These are two extremes of the student life. The former focuses on an impeccable university transcript, while the latter is keen on making friends and unforgettable memories. But there is no reason you cannot have both.
Source: Life at UofT
The most common myth bandied about the student life is that you have to choose two out of these three: good grades, a social life and sleep. There simply isn’t enough time in a day for all of them. But unless you are Mark Zuckerberg, leading a global tech company, Eddie Izzard, running a marathon a day at the same time, the myth of not having enough time is just that: a myth. As the popular Internet quote says, ‘You have the same amount of hours in a day as Beyonce.’
So if you’re interested in making a success of your student life and still be able to write home about your excellent grades, follow these commandments:
You heard that right. I said, make. friends. It’s not enough to isolate yourself in the library with your lecture notes. And it’s not enough to just stick with the group of friends who has followed you to the same university from your pre-u days. If you want a memorable university career with new and exciting experiences, it’s time to break out of that bubble. University is that time when you discover more about yourself and new friends will help plenty with that.
Freshers events are an excellent place to meet new people. Universities often host them along the stretch of days in the first week of semester. Feel free to attend all of them. Workload in the first week will be the lightest so take this opportunity to scout the social scene at your university. If you’re not a fan of parties, invite the student sitting next to you in class for a coffee. Ask them if they would be interested in forming a study group. Study groups will make those exam-cramming session much more bearable and the post-exam celebrations sensational.
If you feel up to it, explore different social groups until you find one that suits you. The saying that friendships you make in university will last a lifetime is a truism. You don’t necessarily meet your next best friend in the first week of class, and you don’t have to stick to the first group of friends you meet. Determine what kind of social life you would like and befriend those who have the same ideals.
Figure Out Your Social Life
A good way of ensuring your social life doesn’t overwhelm your academic one is to avoid spreading yourself too thin across different activities. It is not advisable, or physically possible, for a person to be active in a sports team, a society, and work a part-time job while studying full-time at university. University sports teams and societies usually schedule their meetings on the same day and often at the same time. So even if you’re incredibly interested, you cannot go for tryouts for the football team and attend the introductory meeting of the Harry Potter society at the same time.
University is commonly the first environment in which you are bombarded with far too many appealing choices and you realise that picking one means foregoing the rest. Thus it is a good place and time to work out what your priorities are. So take out a piece of paper and write them down according to order. It can be anything – studies, hobbies, friends – as long as it’s important to you, and it can be in any order, as long as you know what they are. Because once you do, the rest is easy.
According to Dunbar’s Number, a person is capable in maintaining only five close friendships at any one time and motivational speaker Jim Rohn says that these five people will shape who you are. So design your social life in accordance with the lifestyle you want to have. This way, you won’t have to go out of your way to fulfil social obligations as your friends will most likely be chasing after the same things as you are.
But wait, you say, what about those people who seem to have loads of friends and are involved with everything and still manage to get good grades? If that is what you want, you have to be even more calculative in choosing your extracurricular activities. Pick activities that require very little of your time, like being a student officer, or activities that have deadlines for your commitments, like participating in a play.
Start Strong, or Just Start
Your parents paid good money to make sure you got an education, or at least someone did, and you want good results to show as a return for their investment. But in the midst of this whirlwind of new experiences, where would you even find the space of mind to squeeze in good, effective studying?
It’s good to start early and strong. You will never be as gung-ho about your studies as the first month of a new semester. That’s when everyone is buying new notebooks and highlighters because they’re determined to do well. To use that energy well and keep the momentum, keep good notes.
Everyone has their own way of processing information, whether it’s audio notes, scribbling on paper or typing on the laptop (although research has shown that you retain more information if you write on paper). For tips on note-taking, check out the Cornell Note-Taking System. It’s also a good idea to peruse your course details. Most professors will print this out for you in the first class, or will indicate where you can find it online. Find out what the module requires of you and commit it to your schedule. Get comfortable with your professor and/or your seminar tutor. It’s better to ask stupid questions than to remain confused. After all, you have paid to learn what they know so you might have well ask. As an added bonus, it’s easier to get a good reference from your professors after you graduate if you have a good working relationship with them. And most importantly, schedule time to study. Make it a regular thing and not an I’ll-do-it-tomorrow thing because you will most like I’ll-do-it-tomorrow all the way to your exams.
If you fall behind, ask for help. Ask your friends to lend you their notes. If they’re confident enough, ask them to go over the important points with you. Ask your professor for recommendations on how best to catch up. If you are mid-way through the semester, do not go all the way back to the lecture notes from week one. The time for that has passed. If you start from the beginning, you will most likely be overwhelmed by how much information you have to cover. So unless you are completely lost, start with the topic you have the least confidence with and work your way forward.
If it wasn’t clear before, it is essential to schedule, schedule, schedule. If you want to have time to study, to write your assignments, and have an active social life, it is imperative for you to plan them. To-do lists only work half the time since it’s so easy to procrastinate. The best way to make sure something gets done is to assign a time you are going to do it. So plan your study time, your social commitments, and also plan your sleep. You need seven hours of sleep to function properly. When people talk about having balance in their lives, what they mean is determining what they can afford to do with the time, energy and money they have outside mandatory obligations, whether it be work, or in this case, classes and assignments. It is impossible to achieve balance unless you know what time you have and how to spend it in accordance with your priorities.
There is no one solution for experiencing a fulfilling student life and getting good grades. What constitutes a perfect student life differs from person to person, as does individual academic adroitness. A good place to start, however, is knowing what you want to experience in university, what grades you hope to get, and make a plan to do it.
This post was written by Wei Li from iPrice Group.