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Original photo by Hannah Cotton

Back to School Prep Doomsday Edition

      The move back to college, after an especially long break, can be difficult. With the first week of classes starting, it’s officially crunch time to get back in gear and ready for the fall semester. I have cried and failed, struggled and learned, and finally succeeded in being organized and prepared for my classes. In the middle of a pandemic, it is especially important to create a game plan for success to remain as stress free, studious, and healthy as possible!

Meals (Already Made) Easy

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    My senior year of high school I decided to start “clean eating”. This doesn't mean you cross off all your favorite foods and begin a journey on a painful diet. This simply means you're taking things filled with preservatives and substituting them for more natural and nutritious items. When I came to Baylor my freshman year, I was overwhelmed with options in the dining hall, and this clean food plan abruptly ended. Of course this way of eating helps maintain a healthy weight, but it also boosts productivity. My freshman year I gained a fatigue that I did not have when I was eating clean. Not only am I picking it up again this year, but I am now in an apartment where grabbing food from the dining hall is no longer an option. Setting aside time every Sunday to prep food for the entire week saves A TON of time and energy. When test week roles around, you won't have time to cook your rice and broccoli while studying for three exams. Although it may seem unrelated, setting aside time to make foods that boost your mental health forms the baseline for success in class!      


Plan, Plan, Plan(ner)!             

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Whenever highschool teachers recommended the use of a planner, I blew it off. How could I not remember the same weekly assignment that was due in a class I had for an entire year? But when college came around, things were a little different. For one, I have had professors who don't remind you of exam/due dates if they are printed in the syllabus. The only way I could remember anything was writing it down. A physical planner is definitely not for everyone, but there are a lot of options. I have friends who use a variety of reminder apps. Some as simple as google calendar and others as complex as having a full blown planner in their phone. Another possibility could be using a spreadsheet, like on excel, to organize all your due dates. This will be easily accessible and you can even color code the spreadsheet depending on the class it is for. This is definitely worth experimenting with at the beginning of the semester, because you need to have a working system of reminders by the time everything picks up.

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Study Code

     One of the biggest mistakes I have made when studying is overestimating how much I actually understand. I always pass off the things that I understand both completely and slightly, to work on the things I really struggle with. This proved to be a huge mistake of mine, because I would go into an exam with a slight grasp on a lot of subjects. Before you begin studying, you should try to find a way to code the things you do not understand, or have a slight grasp on. For me, I like to code in my book in orange (slight grasp) and pink (no idea). This makes finding the information you don't understand, along with its explanation really quickly. This can come in handy when asking questions during SI or office hours (both of which you should attend regularly!). 


Time Allocation

    Before you can allocate time to anything, I recommend making a list of importance on all the things you want to do. For instance my simple list goes: School work, self care time, and then hanging with friends. This is because my studies are the most important to me, but then I like to have time to watch TV and recharge before going out with friends. Your list could be: self care, school work, and then friends, or whatever you feel is most important to you. Once I made this list I was able to allocate my time. School work tends to take up all day Monday through Thursday. Before bed I am able to allocate time to myself, and the weekends I am with friends. This allows me to do everything I want, but also not get stressed out about not having things completed. It is important to stick to the list you craft, because, in my allocation for example, if I start hanging with my friends during the week, I won't finish my school work, which is something important to me, and would create a lot of stress. 


Keep Your Work Space Functional

     I always tried to keep a neat and cute desk. I purchased cute staplers, folders, and really tried to make it almost a decoration more than a functional space. Fixing the mess is a mistake I hope to correct this year. And by that I mean my desk is currently a mess! I have reminders written on sticky notes taped to my wall, pencils hidden under layers of random papers, and chargers for various electronics all over the floor. This is functional (for me)! I don't have time to tidy away papers that I need access to quickly. Since my desk is my own space, I really can keep it any way that works for me. My roommate is extremely organized, and could never learn in a space like mine. However, once I embraced the mess I made I was able to learn so much more effectively. I am not a neat person, and I couldn't learn in an environment that was. If you are struggling to find a space you are comfortable learning in, remember that your desk is a private area, so make it yours!

     Success in college is measured by much more than grades, it is important to find ways to get the most out of your education. Properly balancing your time, organization, education and eating habits will contribute greatly to both your grades and mental health! Although these tips may not work for everyone, I hope they assist in brainstorming ideas for a great semester. This year has thrown a lot at us, but it is important to not let this hinder our college education… even if you are learning from the comfort of your own home!

Hannah Cotton is a sophomore Neuroscience major on the Pre-Medical track at Baylor University. She is from Wentzville, Missouri which is just west of St. Louis. When she is not at the library she can most likely be found out with friends or getting coffee. In her down time she enjoys binging Criminal Minds and reading murder mysteries.
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