You are just now getting used to the ins and outs of your class schedule, when suddenly it’s almost November and you are behind in every single one of your classes. It happens to the best of us. It’s easy to get overwhelmed, and to give up on the semester as a whole. But, there’s no reason to have a bad semester, just because you feel like you can’t get back in control of it. But how?
Take a deep breath. I know that it can be hard to relax, when all you have on your mind are those readings from class last week that you didn’t get around to, or the paper you turned in that you know isn’t your best work. The first step to getting back on track, is to leave the past behind you. Sure, it’s still going to affect your grade, but the quicker you understand that you can’t change the past, the quicker you can get working on your future. Allow yourself to be disappointed, but move past it. Take some time to relax, and invest in yourself, whatever that means to you. Take a Friday night, watch some netflix, read a good book, paint your nails, take a long bath, whatever helps you feel on-top of your game.
Look for checkpoints. At this stage, you should just reprint all of your syllabi, and start looking over them again. Look at the syllabi, and cross off everything that you have already finished, is already done, or is too far gone to worry about it. (That reading you were supposed to do two months ago, that ship has sailed. The one for Monday’s lecture, you can still skim!). As you do this, you will start to feel your load lighten with a reminder of everything you’ve accomplished. And, you will start to notice checkpoints. Let’s say your history class just had a big exam yesterday, and your final isn’t cumulative. You can turn your focus away from everything that you’ve gone over before, and well… start fresh. There are moments like this built into just about every class, between exams, papers, units, modules, you can find a fresh start. Locate the nearest ones in all of your classes, and give it your best when you get there. It will take a lot of stress off of you.
3) Find a place that is you feel your most productive. If going to the library makes you miserable, then don’t go. You won’t work as hard as you can. You won’t be happy. And you won’t work as often as you should, because you dread going to your study place. Find a place that makes you feel your best. Whether that is the Student Union instead of the the library, or whether going off-campus is your best bet at nearby coffee shops. Maybe it’s your best friend’s house with a steady study group. Or maybe, you just need to clean and organize your desk. It hurts me immensely to say this, but you won’t be your best self studying in your bed. Find a place to study, and make it a habit.
4) Find a planner system that works for you. This is usually my job in my study groups, finding a system that works for each individual, because there is no one-size-fits-all model. There’s the google calendar approach, which works if you need all the information in the palm of your hand. I find this really helpful at the beginning of the semester, but there’s no reason to not try it now. I put all my classes, org meetings, and doctor’s appointments on it, with the homework or reading for each day as the comment. Plus, you can pull it up on your phone. Or, you can hand-write it all out. If you need to be the architect of your day, and plan everything out. Blue Sky’s Day Designer is a great option! But it can be overwhelming. What I’ve found works best at this stage though, is every Sunday writing out a day by day of what’s due, or what I have to do, so that I can cross it off as I go. (Use your syllabi from earlier!)
5) Give your supplies some attention. You probably need to start carrying more than one pencil. Buy all the bluebooks and scantrons you need for the year. Do you ever need highlighters, or staples? Take your backpack, and actually wash it in the washing machine. Fill it with the supplies you need to be successful, some snacks, fill your water bottle. Put all those syllabi in a folder or a binder with some loose leaf paper for occasional quizzes. You will have a whole new lease on your academic life.
It’s hard to get back on track. It takes planning, dedication, and hard work. It takes realizing that all this work is necessary. It’s hard, but it’s not impossible. By conscientiously deciding to get back on track, you plug all the holes in this sinking ship, and make it to shore before finals. No semester is worth throwing away, just because you got a bit behind.