By Chelsea Hall, 4th year Life Sciences student
For the past two years I have had the privilege to not only volunteer as a Peer Learning Assistant but also have had the pleasure to work as a Residence Don. Working as a residence don has afforded me a unique perspective and allowed me to witness time and time again the common struggles with academics that countless first year students face in the transition to university while living in residence. University residence is an environment like no other it can be loud, eventful, messy, frustrating, fun and overall incredibly distracting. Drawing from my knowledge of both residence and learning strategies I’ve included some tips and tricks below that can be useful in achieving academic success while living in residence.
1. Get out of Residence
Have you tried to be efficient and study in your room yet? Do you end up getting easily distracted by what’s going on around you or in the hallway? Do you end up lying on your bed only to drift off for a few hours or treat yourself to one too many episodes on NetFlix? If you have no issues in studying in residence then you have successfully mastered an art that few ever will. If you are like the rest of us and consistently struggle with establishing boundaries between social time and academics while in residence then that’s ok too! Getting out of residence and visiting a library (ie. Stauffer, Bracken, Douglas) or another study spot on campus helps make the most of your time and helps avoid distractions. Furthermore, if you need a break from campus then downtown Kingston has plenty of little coffee shops with WIFI where you can work and enjoy a change of scenery.
2. Make a Schedule and respect your boundaries
At University a weekly schedule and a term calendar are a must, but the wonderful thing is that schedules can take whatever format that optimizes your success (ie. online, agenda, fantastic peer learning assistant template etc.). However you choose to make your weekly schedule make sure that it is readily visible on a daily basis so that you are not just making a beautiful schedule but never consulting it. Furthermore, effectively establishing boundaries is one of the most overlooked yet difficult aspects of time management and something I have both witnessed and experienced struggling with myself. It sounds simple but establishing boundaries while following a weekly schedule is truly a fine balance; it’s the balance between committing yourself to your schedule and getting done what you plan to at a given time and being mindful that life happens and things do come up at the last minute. On great tip is to block in a reserve bank of time to finish academic assignments for the week this will ensure that you feel less guilty if something does come and you’re still accountable for your homework time.
3. Friends-they’ll be there for you
One of the most humbling lessons that I have had to learn at University is that no matter how independent or self-sustaining a person may be they will need a support network. The relationships you make are invaluable and residence is one of the best places to make friends from many different backgrounds and programs. Schedule social time into your calendar so that you can spend the time developing relationships without the overarching guilt that there is work that should be getting done instead.
Photo courtesy of Queen’s University under Flickr Creative Commons Attribution license 2.0