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How to Finish Strong After an Overwhelming Semester

I’ve heard that every semester of college is overwhelming—you’re surrounded by high-achieving hustlers, professors that ensure their classes live up to the full definition of academic rigor, major end-of-year events for your clubs/extracurriculars, and (in many cases) a less-compromising-than-ideal work schedule.

For me, it’s psych classes that suddenly got hard (how did I go from a 99% on my first exam to a 71% on the second?), an English class with way more reading and writing than I signed up for (I’m mostly just salty that I don’t get the writing-intensive Hub unit), campaigning for CAS Student Government e-board, keeping up with all my extracurricular commitments, and working more hours than usual. It’s only my freshman year, and I already have senioritis.

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For the entire year, I’ve been conflicted with two warring ideals: Elaine Welteroth, on one side, telling me that the best advice she’s ever received is to bite off more than you can chew and chew as fast as you can, and the more chill, almost nihilistic voice in my head telling me to take it easy. This dilemma isn’t personal; it’s everywhere now. We laud the hustling, go-getting attitude while also warning against burnout and stressing the importance of saying no sometimes.

At this point in the semester, you’re already committed to the workload. Your options are limited, but practically speaking, there is only one option— to succeed. Start strong, finish strong. Here are six ways to reassess your situation and help you end on a good note.

Find inspiration.

I run an active studyblr, so I know how inspiring it is to see all these students from all across the world getting to it and giving their education all its money’s worth. While it’s nice to admire the beautiful layouts and to-die-for handwriting, I can’t scroll on my feed more than two minutes without thinking oh my god, what am I doing? I should be studying! Check out the #studyblr tags on Tumblr and #studygram tags on Insta. It works. If it doesn’t though...

Rely on discipline

They always say motivation is fleeting and that at the end of the day, you have to lean on only yourself. There’s a number of ways to exercise your discipline. Don’t go back to your dorm until the end of the day, for example. My days are roughly 9-5, and I’ve been most productive when I head to the library/law tower/any other nice study spot after my classes end to crank out the work I need to do. Other methods include turning off your phone (scary, I know), resisting the siren call of studying in bed (I’ve tried to read for English while in bed a million times and I’ve fallen asleep a million times with the book still open), and just embracing the Nike slogan.

Plan, plan, plan!

I write everything I do in three places: my Google Calendar, my physical wall calendar, and my planner. Excessive? Maybe. Effective? Absolutely. The element of surprise is huge, as we know, but if you plan well enough, nothing will sneak up on you. Heavy workloads are heavy workloads, but it makes a huge difference if they’re predictable and accounted for.

Reward yourself for a job well done

This doesn’t mean an entire day of lounging in bed watching Netflix (this is an exception if you really need a mental health day, but I try to ensure I have no zero-days), but giving yourself small rewards when you complete your tasks. A piece of chocolate after reading a chapter, for example, or 10 minutes of social media after finishing that practice test. Psychologically proven.

Don't overwork yourself

I try to go out 1-2 times a week, usually once on the weekends and one weeknight. It’s not a lot, but it’s also just often enough to keep you sane and remind you that there’s a bigger world out there, and that’s the world you’re working so hard to change and improve.

Think of the future

I am the only person I know who likes having classes on Friday. I don’t mean having class until 6 p.m., of course, but right now I have four classes on Friday (more than I have on any other day) and I kinda really dig it. For me, I like having to put in extra time and effort on Fridays because it makes me feel deserving of the weekend. Same way with the end of the semester. It’s crunch time, but it’s okay that it’s crunch time, because I have vacation and relaxation to look forward to. I earned my summer away with my long nights at the library, and I feel good about that.

Best of luck to everyone who just has to survive two more weeks of classes before three months of wonderful off-time!


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Carina is a senior studying Economics + Psychology at Boston University. She is passionate about marketing, Sally Rooney, and caramel lattes.
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