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Handling academic stress

By Caleigh Treissman, 3rd-year Psychology major

Academic anxiety is something that all students face to varying degrees; it’s a regular part of being a university student. Sometimes stress is a good thing – would you really have stayed in to finished that assignment instead of going out with your friends if you weren’t a little anxious about it? But when stress starts to have a negative impact on both your social and academic life, it no longer serves its purpose.

There are some great ways to shrink your stress and the Peer Learning Assistants are here to help you figure them out!

 Take breaks

  • When academic anxiety is limiting your focus and concentration, take a break.
  • Go for a walk, talk with a friend, or hit the gym
  • When you return you will be more equipped to deal with your work.

Plan ahead

  • Use a term calendar so that you know when big assignments are coming up
  • This will help you study in advance so that you are not stressed right before the deadline.

Sleep on it

  • Getting a good night’s sleep prepares your brain to tackle any upcoming challenges and to solidify the information you studied.
  • It is recommended you get 7-9hrs of sleep a night for optimal brain functioning.

Talk to someone who can help

Managing your stress is all about balance, and may take some practice at first, but keep in mind that stress is a normal part of student life and that there are people here to help!

Visit Stress and Coping Strategies for more information.

Photo courtesy of Angie Gerrett under Flickr Creative Commons Attribution license 2.0.

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Listening to music can help with concentration

By Jenna Goldberg, 4th-year Sociology major

For some people, working in a quiet environment helps them focus. For others, like myself, it is usually impossible. Picking a playlist for me is what sets me on track to start reading, writing, or studying. Research suggests that listening to certain kinds of music in the background can help in calming a person down. Being calm helps productivity.

The type of music you choose, though, is very important. It is useful to have a pre-made playlist ready to go when it comes time to hit the books! Try to make a playlist that is 50 minutes in length, as the end of the playlist can serve as your reminder to take your ten-minute break from work (50/10 rule)! My top suggestions of music to listen to while doing work are

  • classical music, specifically Mozart
  • ambient instrumental music
  • instrumental covers of pop songs
  • instrumental movie soundtracks

Instead of listening to music in the background, some people like to listen to recurring or repetitive sounds. The use of this also creates a calming effect for the listener. Some sound suggestions that can be found online are

  • rain
  • waves
  • jungle
  • fireplace crackling

If you choose to listen to music when you do work consider the volume at which you have the music set. The volume should be low and the sounds should simply provide a blanket over the other noises that are occurring in one’s environment.

Now it’s time to get into the nitty-gritty of things — how do you know what to focus on?

Start by making a To Do List.

When making a To Do List, one should start by writing everything down that one has to do on a scrap piece of paper. Then everything that is of most importance, whether it is the biggest assignment or the one that is due the soonest, should be marked with an “A”. Then everything that is next important should be marked with a “B”. Then, everything else is marked with a “C”. This helps one to see what tasks have to get done first.

Once this is done, the next step is to create the To Do List. By listing everything that has an “A” next to it first, then “B”, then “C”. Then start with the first thing on the To Do List and work your way down until they all get done!

Set SMART goals.

SMART goals are

  • specific
  • measurable
  • action-oriented
  • realistic
  • time sensitive

This should be applied to each “A” task that you have written on your To Do List. It will help keep you on task and will help one plan in a way that will reduce stress!

Be positive.

It is a choice, a habit, that one can develop and it is important to stay positive for yourself! Work can get overwhelming, but you need to stay positive. You will feel happier even if it takes that little bit of extra effort.

Be disciplined.

If you know you have a lot of work to do and that you could get a lot done if you don’t go out on Thursday night or on the weekend – make a study date with a friend! Choose to use the time you have in a way that will reduce your stress later on. You don’t have to give up your social time, as it is easy to pair studying with friends. Be honest with yourself when choosing a friend to make your study buddy. Make sure they are as serious about getting work done as you are!

Be patient.

It won’t help to rush through readings just to say you got them done. In the long run the only person you are hurting is yourself. Take the time. Sit down with your textbook, lecture notes, or assignments and give it your full attention. You will learn something if you approach university in this way.

Our Online Resources contain loads more information on focus and concentration as well as motivation and procrastination. Good luck! Remember to visit Study Skills Coaching if you have further questions.

Photo courtesy of Mark Welsh under Flickr Creative Commons Attribution license 2.0.

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Learning to be more resilient at university

By Kelli Cole, 3rd-year Life Sciences student

Resilience. Many of us have heard this term before, yet if asked to define “resilience”, we may struggle to put our finger on exactly what it really is! What is it? How do we know when we have it? Why do some people have more of it than others? In an attempt to encompass multiple definitions, for this blog I’ll define resilience as “the capacity to maintain or regain psychological well being in the face of challenges.”

We’ve all been there. Reflect on a rough week. You know, one of those times where nothing seemed to be going right. Either you received bad news, didn’t do as well on a test as you expected, maybe you were frustrated with housemates and couldn’t seem to resolve your issues. How did you manage to pick yourself up again and get through those bumps in the road? Resilience. Resilience is not a rare ability! It is found in the average person and can also be learned and developed by virtually anyone. In university, there is no doubt that challenges are being thrown our way constantly… in every possible direction. As a student, being resilient is what will ultimately allow us to walk across that stage when we graduate!

Here are my top three tips that I believe are key in order to improve your resiliency:

 1. A positive view of yourself and confidence in your strengths and abilities – You are here for a reason. Something has gotten you this far already! Reflect back on those successful moments in your life and remind yourself how awesome you are! Everyone has their strengths and weakness, and we must use our strengths as our secret weapons in order to conquer difficult situations in our lives!

2. Seeking help and resources – never be ashamed of reaching out for help! Queen’s University has a vast number of resources, with wonderful volunteers that are just looking to provide support to all those in need of assistance. Whether you just need to talk or have questions in order to improve a specific aspect of your academics, there is a resource at Queen’s! We have all been there, and I believe that it takes true character to recognize that something isn’t working for you, and have the courage to do something about it! Take the initiative!

3. Take care of yourself – Pay attention to your own needs and feelings. Engage in activities that you enjoy and find relaxing. Exercise regularly. For more information regarding this important topic, be sure to check out our resources for coping with academic stress. Taking care of yourself helps to keep your mind and body primed to deal with situations that require resilience.

So my take home message is: resilience is what allows us to come back stronger than ever after being knocked down by life. Rather than letting failure overcome us and drain us of all motivation, we must hold our heads high with confidence, seek help and resources when needed, and take care of ourselves. Those rough times are teaching us to be more resilient.

Photo courtesy of US Army Africa under Flickr Creative Commons Attribution license 2.0.

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Don’t let November’s workload get you down!

By Sarah-Louise Ruder, 2nd-year Philosophy/Physics student

As I turned to the next page of my calendar this past weekend, I was shocked by the amount labs, culminating projects, and tests which are coming up in the next few week, not to mention the regular, weekly workload for my courses. It seems that we have just survived mid-terms season of October and yet the to-do list is just as intimidating!

The good news is that planning ahead and a positive mental attitude can make the upcoming weeks quite manageable. Take advantage of this week to make a plan of attack for the rest of the year.

1. Take time to reflect. At this point, most midterm and assignment results have been released and you should have a pretty good idea of where you stand in your courses. Take recognition of where your hard work has paid off. One of the most important parts of maintaining a positive mental attitude is taking time to celebrate your accomplishments. Did you notice that your new note-taking strategy really paid off when it was time to write the mid-term? Awesome! Did you make a study group to prepare for the test which helped you understand the concepts? Great!

Next, look at where things have not turned out the way you wanted them to. Be kind to yourself. I often find that I am my own worst critic. Ask yourself why things have turned out the way the did. Was it simply a problem with the amount of preparation? Or, maybe it was your approach for the assignment? Often it will become clear to you what has led to those results, but if you are having trouble understanding, try booking a meeting with your professor to discuss how to refine your approach to the course. Professors are a great resource for your success and will usually appreciate your proactive approach. Try not to dwell on what what went wrong, but focus on what you would like to work towards.

2. Set goals. A great way to stay motivated is to set goals. The SMART acronym helps to make sure that your planing is effective. Set goals that are SPECIFIC, rather than vague, because you’re more likely to accomplish them (e.g., ‘go to the ARC three times a week’ instead of ‘get in shape’). Your goals should also be MEASURABLE so that you know when you have accomplished them. By focusing on what it is you need to accomplish, your goals can be ACTION-ORIENTED. However, it is also important to make sure that your goals are REALISTIC and TIMELY — what’s the deadline for accomplishing your goal?

Remember to revisit the goals you set yourself at the beginning of the year. Don’t be afraid to change your goals based on how things have gone thus far. Take advantage of this time to revaluate your academics and set goals which will motivate you in your studies.

3. Maximize your productivity! As university students, we often have very busy and diverse schedules, which makes it easy to lose track of time. Try giving yourself a regular routine of wake-up and bed times. A regular sleep schedule will help your physical and mental health, allowing you to be at your best during the busy weeks ahead. But there is another benefit to this strategy! When you choose to wake up at the same time, even when you don’t have an 8:30 class, you can get a lot of work done before your classes.

Also, take advantage of found time. This can be a one-hour break between classes or while you’re waiting for your pasta to finish cooking at dinner. As you’re standing in line at CoGro, whip out the cue-cards for a quick review. You would be surprised at how much more you can accomplish in a day by using time more efficiently!

Over the next few weeks, focus on getting back on top of your good study habits and setting a good foundation for your future tests and exams. I like to think of each month as a blank slate to keep up the good work in some aspects and change the things that have not been going so well. Don’t let the November workload ahead get you down! Staying motivated and productive now will help you be the best student you can be.

Photo courtesy of Richard Fisher under Flickr Creative Commons Attribution license 2.0.

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Time management is a skill you can learn and practice

By Chelsea Hall, 2nd-year Life Sciences student

Time is of the essence for every student.  Between managing a full course load, being involved in the school community through extra-curriculars, trying to maintain a social life, and desperately needing to sleep, it can easily seem as if there is not enough time to get everything you want to (or even need to) get done. I speak from experience when I say that it is all too easy to become overwhelmed!

Time management is one of the biggest determinants of academic success and it can be incredibly difficult to successfully manage one’s time in a university setting!

The good news is time management is a skill that can be learned and practiced. The following is a list of some useful strategies that can help any student plan more effectively.

1. Consider school to be your full time job. For each course you take, plan on spending 10 hours a week on homework, lectures and tutorials, review, etc. University is demanding and, on top of lectures, students have assignments, labs and readings to complete in any given week! A great strategy is to work (including class time) from 9am-5pm throughout the week. Having set hours helps maintain consistency and will help you better manage your time! Although designating eight hours a day may not always be manageable, it is a good goal to strive for. Studying for exams and tests may be additional time allocated to your fifty hours.

2. Reduce distractions. In today’s age of social media, it is all too easy to get distracted. Between watching that TV show on Netflix, texting your friends about weekend plans, casually checking Facebook, Instagram, Twitter… one can waste countless hours procrastinating or sit through an entire lecture without paying attention. Work away from distractions and turn off technology when you are not using it for your studies! The time you save will add up in the long run! A useful tip to help with limiting distractions is to follow the 50:10 rule: consistently work for 50 minutes and then take a 10 minute break where you allow yourself to check your phone, social media, get up for a walk, etc.  Studying in work/break chunks of time will help you maintain focus for longer as well.

3. Get organized. Organize yourself through the use of calendars, agendas, to-do lists or some personal means of organization. This will enable you to keep track of all due dates, upcoming assignments and better prepare for exams so that last minute cramming can be avoided. A great tip is to generate both a weekly schedule and a four month calendar that will give you an overview of the entire term!

Time management is never an easy task, but with different strategies it can be made a lot easier!  Everyone is unique and the most important thing is to remember that what works for someone else may not work for you. Check our online time management resources for more information on strategies, schedule templates and tools to try out!

Photo courtesy of Fabiola Medeiros under Flickr Creative Commons Attribution license 2.0.


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The importance of having “me time”

By Ann Choi, 2nd-year Concurrent Education student

At university, it is sometimes difficult to find “me time” because of busy schedules and social lives. This was especially true for me in my first year at university. Although I met a lot of wonderful new friends, learned a great deal from my studies, and experienced great growth through living independently, I realized I neglected to have “me time”.

“Me” time can mean having fun or relaxing with friends, but for me, “me time” is often something different. As an introvert, I cannot recharge my inner battery by being with friends (even when they are very close to me). By “me time”, I mean time spent on reflecting on myself and recharging my inner battery. This is important, as I found especially this year: when I feel frustrated, my stress and low coping skills come from not knowing myself enough. If I do not recharge my battery, I forget my inner values and only place importance on superficial, material things. This year, I realized how crucial it is to reflect upon my day. Even when the day went badly, I now take time to think through and understand myself. This has helped me to cope with stress and take a more optimistic stance towards even stressful events.

What would “me time” look like to you? It can be anything! If you are more of an extroverted person, perhaps it is time you spend with your closest friend, drinking tea in peace in a small, snug café with a large, white mug firmly nestled in your hands and talking about everything that stressed you out for the past few days. Listening to your friend may be part of your “me time” — listening and offering advice, and through this gaining better understanding of your friend, your relationships with others in general, and yourself. After the tea, you may feel a lot more reinvigorated after a tiring day and ready to start another day afresh.

If you are more of an introverted person like me, your “me time” may look more like this: you are worried about school, and you think that you should probably finish your readings. Everything else except extra-curricular or readings feel like a waste of your time, but you feel so stressed and upset that you can’t focus. Your alarm rings. Some time ago you promised yourself some “me time” every day. You start writing. You become increasingly immersed in your own creative world, and when 30 minutes pass by, you sigh and reluctantly put down your pencil and paper. Creative writing has recharged you. It is what you wanted to do, and it helped you to sharpen your focus and feel more fulfilled in life.

But… What if you really do not have time to recharge yourself? For example, at the most busy period, you may have one midterm, one essay, and two small quizzes due tomorrow with other extracurricular activities. You feel stressed, and feel your productivity ebbing away, but there is really no time to recharge. At this time, there seems to be little that you can do. Such feelings often confront university students, and the best way to avoid this is to prepare ahead. Create a term-calendar, and plan your day days and weeks in advance. If you spot those days when there are multiple essays, midterms, quizzes, and presentations, start your work in advance, and schedule in at least thirty minutes of recharge time per day. Follow the 50-10 rule: work fifty minutes and take ten minutes to recharge, reflect, write, talk to your friend, or even do yoga! It is amazing how much you can do in a short amount of time, and how much “me time” you can find when you plan ahead.

Remembering your values is important, especially at times when you feel most stressed from all the work that seems to pile on your shoulders. Knowing yourself will help to sharpen your focus and relax even during the most stressful times, and as November approaches with all its projects, midterms, essays, and upcoming finals, you know YOU CAN DO IT!

Photo courtesy of Ian Sane under Flickr Creative Commons Attribution license 2.0.

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Getting rid of groupwork’s bad rap: How to make an effective study group

By Cristina Valeri, 4th-year English major

It seems to me that, perhaps because of high school experiences, group work has acquired a somewhat unsavoury reputation. I’m sure there are lots of Queen’s students who can relate to those feelings of awkwardness and embarrassment, of dismay and mortification when placed in a group with people you don’t know. Even more problems can arise if the group doesn’t work together as a cohesive unit or if one or two members end up doing all the work.

We’re in university now and have therefore developed infinite wisdom and maturity (right?). I know for me, group work is a lot less scary but it can still pose some problems.

I finally started to think better of group work when, in April of second year, we realized that our reduced December exam schedule came with a price—an exam in April covering everything we’d done since September. Having to remember stuff we did way back when, in those first few hazy weeks of September seemed cruel and unusual. So we did what most seriously-freaking-out people in similar situations do—banded together. We figured that maybe six of us versus one exam stood a better chance.

This was our salvation. Not only did it make studying a lot more fun but it definitely helped us all effectively learn that huge amount of material in a short time. It was a relief talking to people who felt just as overwhelmed as I did–and just as confused about the meaning of 90% of Ezra Pound’s poetry.

We all aced the exam too, in case you were wondering.

Learning strategists also say that at least 25% of studying should be done in a group, so here are some tips on how to choose a good study group and how to effectively study in them.

How to find good study group members

1. People with a wide breadth of knowledge—It’s probably good to consider including classmates in your study group who aren’t necessarily your closest friends. Keep an eye out for someone who seems to really understand the salient points about a topic that you yourself or your friends are shaky on. That way, each member of the group is making a different contribution.

2. People who sit at the front of the class—They may have good notes since they’re sitting closer to the prof; it’s harder to casually doze off or surf Facebook! That also means they’ve shown the dedication to get to class early and nab those good seats.

3. People with similar study habits/values as you—You’re more likely to work well with people who share your study goals. If everyone in the group makes it their goal to succeed on the exam, you can all help motivate and encourage each other.

4. People you can have fun with—Studying doesn’t always have to be boring! Group studies can liven up even the most boring subjects! (But maybe not too much fun … You and your BFF can form separate groups if the two of you have trouble focusing on school together.)

How to study in a group

1. Make molehills out of mountains—If you’re dealing with a lot of material, split it up among the group. Each person take a few weeks of the course and summarize it, become an expert in it. Then you can all compile your study notes into one big, condensed review that is much easier to study from than dozens of pages of notes.

2. Teach your subject to the group—You really understand material when you teach it to others. It also forces you to phrase it in your own words which means you’ll remember it a lot easier.

3. Quiz/Test each other—Make up practice questions or cue cards (try online options like Quizlet!) and test each other.

4. Compare notes—When listening to lecture, students pick up on very different things and some group members might have jotted something down that you missed. Or perhaps you missed a lecture or two. Either way, putting everyone’s notes together like a puzzle can give a clearer picture of the course.

5. Discuss— Even just talking about the course material can familiarize you with the language the professor has been using all semester and that will likely crop up on the exam. Discussion will help you understand connections between ideas on a deeper level, instead of just memorizing it. Other group members might also have helpful explanations, comparisons or acronyms that could help you too.

Studying in a group is a great way of making exam time a little more bearable but it’s important to remember that you also have to study on your own. The rest of your studying should be done outside the group, preparing for it so that you’re not lost when the group meets. Just remember: exam time does end eventually so don’t get too stressed out and try to make it fun if possible!

And maybe we can give group work a better rap!

Photo courtesy of Audio-luci-store under Flickr Creative Commons Attribution license 2.0.

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How to maintain your focus

By Winnie Cheng, 2nd-year Nursing AST student

In the world of smartphones attached to your hand and the use of laptops in all your classes, I was really struggling with my focus while studying and in class. I was constantly distracted by the buzz of a text or the habitual checking of Facebook every 30 seconds. In a 50 minute class, I spent more time checking my notifications and newsfeed than paying attention to what the prof had to say!

So I wanted to share a couple of tips and tools that helped me focus on the task at hand, whatever it was (writing an essay, reviewing notes, studying for that upcoming midterm).

Stop multitasking!

We often multitask because we think it helps us get more things done faster, but in reality, we aren’t able to focus on many things at once. Our brains can only focus on one task at once, and when we multi-task, we are breaking our focus every few minutes. This means we don’t get much of anything done! So stop trying to get 5 things done at the same time and instead do each thing, one at a time. You might find yourself getting much more done!

Use progressive training to improve your focus

PLAs like to recommend the 50/10 rule, where you work for 50 minutes and then allow yourself to have a 10 minute break, but I find that I have trouble settling down for 50 full minutes. So instead, I like to use a Pomodoro Timer that follows a 25/5 rule. For 25 minutes, my computer blocks all social media sites so that I can check my Instagram, Facebook or watch Youtube videos. After 25 minutes, an alarm goes off that tells me the time is over, and that I have 5 minutes of ‘break time’. I can then click on a 5 minute timer which unblocks my social media sites and rings off at the end of the 5 minutes to remind me to go back to work. If even 25 minutes seems too tedious, you can start even smaller. Commit just 15 minutes to work (no distractions, no cellphones) and slowly work your way up to longer times.

Use RescueTime to help you keep track of how much time you actually waste

If you need more motivation to help you cut down on distracting internet-surfing, try using RescueTime, a Google Chrome extension app that gives you weekly updates about how productive you were with your time. It shows you how many hours a week you spend on social media. When I first started using this extension, I was pretty shocked to see that I was spending almost 16 hours every week on distracting sites. That’s almost a full day (if I were to spend the other 8 hours sleeping)!

Put your phone to silent (turn off vibrate as well!) when you’re in class or studying

We’re all attached to our smartphones these days and we know that when we don’t’ want to listen to the professor in class, we tend to turn to our smartphones to check our Instagram, send a bored Snapchat or reply to texts. Turn your phone to silent and turn off vibrate as well and put it in your bag so you’re not tempted to check it every so often. You may be surprised at how much more information you’ll be able to absorb in class

Turn off wifi when you’re in class

Along the same lines, turning off your wifi on your computer when you’re in class will hopefully make you less likely to check your Facebook newsfeed when you’re in class. Without wifi, you’ll be more likely to pay attention to what the professor is saying and take notes instead. (Added bonus is that turning off your wifi extends your computer’s battery life!) Alternatively, if your professor uploads slides before class, try printing them off and handwriting your notes instead. Research has shown that you remember things better when you handwrite your notes!

See Focus and Concentration for much more info.

Happy midterm studying!

Photo courtesy of Irfan Johanda under Flickr Creative Commons Attribution license 2.0.

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Battling Internet distractions — There’s an app for that!

By Kendall Garton, PhD candidate in History

Let’s face it: the internet can be a magical and majestic place, BUT between Facebook and cute puppy videos it’s also the dangerous beast at the root of many study distractions.

Fear not – there is likely an app for that! Below is a list of some (free) internet resources paired up with some of our favourite PLA tips:

Manage internet distractions

Ideally, we’d all just turn off the internet while working, but with so many academic resources online that’s easier said than done.

To help manage your internet distractions, consider a site-blocker app or browser extension. Simply enter a list of the sites that distract you most alongside what days and times you’d like them blocked and BOOM – gone!

Improve your focus and concentration

One of the best ways to improve your work habits it to embrace the 50/10 rule or the pomodoro technique – study or write for 50 minutes then take a 10 minute break. To help you focus during those 50 minutes, consider one of the following:

  • Strict Workflow: This is the strictest of the bunch as it cuts your internet access until your break times (Chrome App Store)
  • Pomodoro One: (Mac App Store)
  • Pomodroido: This is a personal favourite when I’m studying away from my laptop (GooglePlay)

Mirroring your ideal study space

Everyone has a preferred study space, but especially during busy times of the semester it can be hard to fit everyone into places like Stauffer or coffee shops. Luckily, there might be an online option for you:

  • Are you a fan of coffee shop ambiance? Try Coffitivity which mimics the sounds of a coffee shop without breaking the bank
  • Do you like quiet spaces but not *too* quiet? Try adding some white noise to your study sessions. My current go-to is “oscillating brown noise”: SimplyNoise

Avoid stress: back-up your work!

This isn’t a traditional PLA tip but it’s important to mention since I learned the hard way: I once dropped my brand new laptop on my way to back-up my work. I kid you not. It was horrifying. Use any ICloud, GoogleCloud, Dropbox, email, or USB stick you can get your hands on.

Learning Strategies!

Do you have any questions about study skills or learning strategies? The PLA team has got you covered! Visit other entries on the PLA Blog, look through the tools on the website Learning Strategies & Tools, and ask the PLAs any questions you might whenever you might have them via our email askaPLA@gmail.com

You can also check out our full online resource on Healthy Technology Habits.

What are some of your favourite apps to help with productivity? Let us know in the comments!

Photo courtesy of Yuri Yu. Samoilov under Flickr Creative Commons Attribution license 2.0.

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It’s year four and I’m graduating … When did this happen?!

By Alex Valeri, 4th-year English major

The past few weeks as I walked around campus, I noticed a lot more fresh faces than usual. Queen’s was abuzz with frosh, it seemed! But then a thought struck me: Are other students getting younger or am I simply getting older? I immediately rushed to the closest mirror—no wrinkles, no bald spots, not even a grey hair. Despite the lack of these outward signs, I was forced to confront a very difficult truth: it’s year four and I’m due to graduate in May. So when exactly did this happen? A lot of my fellow fourth years may be feeling the same way. Here are some signs that you may not have accepted that this is the final year of your undergrad:

  • When people ask, “How do you feel?” you still respond in a high-pitched yell, “I feel so good! Oh! I feel so good, oh!” with the accompanying hip thrusts.
  • You still attempt to use your student card to pay for your coffee runs at Tim’s.
  • You still wear your tam so it covers your ears—it gets cold during the winter!

Fourth year means a lot more pressure on you to do well in your classes, to get involved with your favourite club or activity, and spend time with your friends. Some of us may be on the job hunt, looking to do grad work, or maybe wanting to do some travelling. Regardless of what is on the horizon for you, it can be difficult to balance the work that needs to be done in the present and the work that needs to be done to secure your future. Here are some tips, not just for fourth years, but even for other students—this will be you sooner than you think!

Start Early: Getting started as soon as possible will prevent you from feeling overwhelmed as deadlines approach. Even just skimming through a school’s website or reading up on the application process can help prepare you. It’s definitely a good idea to start studying early for the LSAT and MCAT if you think a career in law or medicine might be in the cards for you.

Access Your Allies: Don’t be afraid to ask for help! Ask a friend or a professor to check over your resume or application statement before submitting it. Visit Career Services for extra information or attend a university fair. Talk to your Teaching Assistants or professors for tips on grad school and don’t be afraid to reach out to these schools themselves! Sending an email or inquiry their way shows you are interested and passionate about their program as well as helping you find the information you need.

Budget Your Time: Put aside an hour one day a week to work on your application, study for your test, or apply to jobs. Book this time off in your weekly schedule or add to your weekly to-do list. That being said, don’t drive yourself crazy if you have a really busy week full of assignments!

And…Don’t freak out! Thinking about the future can be overwhelming. Just before you start hyperventilating, remember that you can do this! When you were in high school, the idea of university was probably terrifying and look, you got through that! Take a deep breath, keep your end goal in mind, and don’t forget to have some fun along the way!

Overall, no matter where you’re heading off to next year and no matter how many grey hairs you may or may not have, you’re never too old to ignore the wisdom of Winnie the Pooh: “You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”

Photo courtesy of Tony Hisgett under Flickr Creative Commons Attribution license 2.0.

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