By: Parker Nann, 4th year commerce student
School can be tough. As assignments, midterms, and papers begin to stack up, the drive to lock ourselves away in a productive frenzy can seem like an attractive solution to burgeoning to-do lists. As appealing as this ‘grind’ can be, it leaves us vulnerable to isolation, and isolation is a threat to academic success, health, and happiness. While we do need some solo time to study, it is vital to seek help when we become stuck or frustrated. I can think of many times when I was sitting by myself, in my room or in the library, stuck on a problem which easily could have been solved with some basic clarification. Even more often, my frustration could have been eased with some kindness and encouragement. What I (and many of us on campus) struggle with is actually seeking the many avenues of help that are available to us. Here are three sources of help that I feel are most important:
Friends and Classmates:
Last year, I wrote about the so-called ‘Happiness Advantage’ which posits a link between happiness and success, both academically and professionally. One pillar of the theory suggests that during times of stress we should reach out to our social networks for support and encouragement, rather than withdrawing from these networks under the guise of ‘being too busy.’ While it may seem illogical to recommend spending time with your friends when you have a lot of work to do, taking breaks to engage in meaningful social interactions will keep you happy, and therefore primed to be more productive (and successful) upon resuming your work.
Of course, moderation is suggested here. Don’t spend three hours with your friends the night before an unfinished paper is due. What I do suggest is taking small breaks to refresh and reach out to your friends for encouragement – you’ll be surprised by how much better you’ll feel while working. Resist the temptation of the all-day grind. Take some time to see your friends and other people who make you feel happy.
Although they are responsible for the difficult assignments and exams that you endure, professors really do want you to succeed. Your professors and teaching assistants are your best source of help for your coursework, and they are willing to help you if you make the effort to ask. Still, I understand how difficult it can be to determine where, when, and how to approach your professors. I use these strategies:
- At the beginning of the semester, I always write down my professors’ email addresses and office hours in my weekly schedule, so that this information is easily accessible. Since half the battle is finding out when your professors are available, this is helpful.
- As I go through readings, problems, or lecture notes, I have a pad of sticky-notes beside me. Whenever I come across something that doesn’t quite make sense or needs clarification, I mark the page or problem with a sticky note, and write a brief note to myself which will help me remember what I was confused about. This system saves you time when you see your professors, and allows you to focus on your readings and notes, confident that you will not forget what material you need to revisit.
Sometimes your professors and friends may not be able to give you the support you need. If you reach out to your professors and friends, but still feel down, frustrated, or overwhelmed, consider seeing some of the professional resources on campus. You won’t be able to concentrate or succeed at school if you’re not feeling well!
- Professional Learning Strategists: Student Academic Success Services provides many resources, including the Peer Learning Assistants (like me!) and professional Learning Strategists. If you are having trouble managing your time, learning new information, or if you feel like you need help with school in general, book an appointment for a 1-on-1 consultation at https://sass.queensu.ca/programs/appointments/
- Student Wellness Services: If you feel like you need some help with your mental or physical health, schedule an appointment with Student Wellness Services. A healthy mind and body will help you succeed in school! http://www.queensu.ca/studentwellness/home
Isolating yourself during ‘the grind’ can work for a short period of time, but eventually leads to frustration, stasis and unhappiness. When the schoolwork begins to pile up, reach out to your friends to keep you happy, your professors to keep you on track, and professional resources to keep you healthy. These resources will go far in helping you become a more successful—and happy—student.
Photo courtesy of Queen’s University under Flickr Creative Commons Attribution license 2.0