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Pumpkin Spice and Finding Your Academic Vice

Oh September, when the morning air begins to smell like autumn and every cafe has something made with pumpkin spice and everything nice. Classes have begun by now, and before you can even take the first sip from that fall drink, you’re sitting in class whispering to yourself, “What in the world is the professor even talking about?” This, in my very known experience, is followed by brief panic and thoughts about dropping the class; but fear not, for the second year in a row, I have five tips and tricks to help you get the most out of the degree you’re paying for!

  1. Make A Schedule AND STICK TO IT

Being 20-something (or younger…or older) and a full time student takes so much energy, patience, and courage. Whether you are juggling jobs, an internship, grad school applications, and the rest of the world’s problems or you simply struggle managing your time, making a solid schedule will solidify your life in ways you didn’t know were possible. Make it a goal to develop a daily routine for yourself, one in which you take the time needed to fully devote to your studies. Personally, I take my life by both week and month. I like to write out, on a monthly basis, when I work, when assignments are due, and any other important dates that I, as a broke college student, cannot afford to miss! Then, on a weekly basis, I write out what small tasks need to be completed on each day. These weekly tasks should include the smaller events such as date nights, assigned readings or lectures that need to be looked at, and any other reminders you need for a productive week!

  1. Highlighters Will Brighten Your Life

Someone please tell me why it has taken me almost 21 whole years to discover the beauty and benefits of using highlighters? I use these bright and sheer colored markers on my planner and notes as a means of organizing my tasks, as well as identifying the most important things to note. For planning purposes, I use highlighter pens to mark off tasks, and of course I color-coordinate. For example, on my monthly calendar, I highlight assignments due for history in pink, assignments due for political science in orange, and the time I work on any given day in green. This way, when I open up to the monthly calendar view, I can see which part of my life is requiring the most attention that month/week/day. I do the same thing to my weekly calendar as far as color-coding, but here is where I will use the highlighter to mark each of the smaller tasks done as I complete them. This little activity fills my busy self with so much joy, so try it! 

I also use highlighters for note taking. I highlight each section header, new concept, definition, and any other note that might appear on an assignment or exam. I highlight after I am done writing the notes for the day, which allows me to look over the information, giving myself the extra time to review concepts.

  1. Self-Care

Baby, nothing is going to be getting done if you are not first and foremost the best version of yourself. You should not (and actually cannot) effectively study, pay attention, or ultimately learn anything if you do not have the mental or emotional capacity to do so. Before you can commit to being a successful student at the beautiful University of Colorado Boulder, you need to align yourself with your most open and receiving self. Get quality sleep every night, especially if you have exams or other big assignments coming up. I don’t care how “slick” you are with schoolwork, the truth is that if you gave yourself the rest to put your very best foot forward, instead of running yourself into the ground, you would be able to do so much better than you are now – and you know that is true too. I think this is one of the harder and more annoying pills to swallow. Myself? I could write essays with my eyes closed and analyze theory standing on my head, but going through higher education with one foot in and the other halfway out the door is like buying a cheeseburger just to scrape off the cheese… a glorious waste of time and money.

  1. Read, Read, Read
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I might have lied, this might be the hardest pill to swallow on this list. The core of most class content is in the readings provided by the professors. It could be a textbook (bonus tip: go on Twitter or TikTok and search for websites that offer thousands of free downloadable textbooks!), article links, or in-class readings – the point I’m trying to make is that you have got to do the reading. Read what is assigned for each date, before the class period starts for that day. This will allow you to ease up on the stress on in-class note taking, as well as allow you to form any questions or comments you may have (another bonus tip: asking any question or contributing to class discussions with your professor will get you a higher participation grade, along with inspiring other students to speak up as well!). Another benefit to doing all of the reading is that you’ll constantly feel more confident in your understanding of the course content, and if you still have a few bad habits like me, missing class or two won’t feel quite as daunting either! 

  1. Get to Know Your Goals

All of these tips are fairly universal, but I am also very busy with working towards a life specifically in law. These suggestions are what work best for my schedule and way of learning, towards my specific goals. Discover what goals of yours are most important to you and how they will impact your college experience. Find out where you envision yourself in five weeks, five months, five years. Then, ask yourself (honestly) what is it going to take to get you there. You can go after your childhood dream or completely reinvent yourself and work towards becoming the person you’ve always seen yourself being. Finally, darling, as Nike would say, you’ve got to just do it.

Have a fabulous fall 2021 semester – whether the child in you is forcing you through seven or more years of college, or the fire in you is filling up your calendar – I pray you find your groove, and soon! Happy schooling!

Gabriela Guevara

CU Boulder '23

Gabriela Guevara is from Thornton, Colorado. In her third year, she is working towards a degree in Political Science and Ethnic Studies. xo
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