Getting Through the Semester - An Interview with Tutors Teddy & Gina

Most students agree that Spring Semester is tougher than Fall Semester, likely for various reasons. Because SSS has been hearing this from students, we’ve asked two of our most experienced tutors for their advice on a few subjects related to surviving Spring Semester. Gina is a senior and will soon be graduating with her first Bachelor’s degree. Teddy is pursuing his second Bachelor’s degree and balances family life with school. We believe that they have sound advice, so we asked them about burnout, time management when tired, and work-life balance tips, among other topics.

  1. How can students make good use of their time despite feeling tired or too busy?

Teddy: Try to schedule time in advance as best you can. Making decisions in the moment to do homework or study is difficult, but if you have a planned time slot, following the schedule becomes much easier. For example, it is very difficult to convince yourself when you wake up on a Saturday morning to go to the library for a study session.  A much more effective strategy is to plan it out the day before, so that in the morning on Saturday you wake up with purpose and a clear goal...you can achieve more than you ever thought by planning your time wisely and being disciplined. This will take practice, and is a skill that will always serve you well throughout life.

Gina: Dedicate a small portion of each day to doing whatever homework assignment you would like. Whatever you do, just make sure each day has some time set aside for academic tasks.

  1. How do you maintain balance between school, work, and life?

Teddy: This is perhaps the most difficult aspect of being in school, not least because a student is never “done” with their work. Remember that you are working towards a goal, and there will be struggle and difficulty from many simultaneous commitments. This is normal. Be realistic with your expectations and above all remain grateful for what you have, and draw strength from the fact that others have gone before you in similar circumstances and have succeeded.

  1. What is one piece of advice that has stuck with you throughout your college career?

Teddy: Perhaps the best piece of advice I ever received was with respect to money. If you plan on attending college and earning a degree,..opportunity abounds. This is a great blessing, but do not get caught up in all the glamour and make a poor financial decision. Debt after graduation is a major weight that will hold you back from pursuing your dreams and goals after university. Whatever decision you make, be sure you have thoroughly investigated your options because decisions made now will affect you for many years to come.

Gina: Don’t pull an all-nighter before a big test or presentation. It only hurts your performance. While you may be able to pull off an A, that doesn’t mean it will happen in the future, and you are honestly only hurting your body by depriving it of sleep.

  1. How can students meet their goals for their grades even when they feel burnt out?

Teddy: The best way to approach learning is through finding peers that you can rely on for study groups and homework. Everyone in your class is going through the program. Make sure and participate in activities outside of school work to avoid feeling burnt out. Go to the gym, do a game night, watch a movie with friends – there are many opportunities to get involved on campus and, of course, creating your own activities is fun as well.

Gina: Remember why you are in school. You came here for a reason, therefore it is already a priority in your life. Visualize yourself at graduation, or doing whatever job you want to do after you graduate. Recognize that all the little things that you do now, however cumbersome and tedious they may seem, are moving you closer to those goals. Putting things into perspective really helps when it feels like you are drowning in work. Do as much work as you can, when you can. Focus on big point assignments if time is really an issue. That being said, trying to get as many ‘cushion points’ (that is to say, easy points, such as participation, or small point assignments that take a relatively small amount of time) as possible for when things really do get tough. Be open and honest with your professors about what is going on in your life, because they really do care. If you are missing class due to mental illness, see a counselor at the Health and Counseling Center on campus and get an academic note.

  1. What tips do you have for preparing for finals?

Gina: Start studying a month in advance, especially if your finals are cumulative. The last thing that you want is trying to review a semester’s worth of knowledge for all of your classes during the last week of class...try and integrate this added study time into your regular homework schedule. As finals start approaching, make sure you are getting plenty of sleep, maintaining a well balanced diet, and getting active each day. All of these things are not only good for your body, but aid in cognitive performance. During finals week, make sure to set aside time for yourself between studying. “You” time is just as important as study time. This helps your brain relax from the stress it is being put under throughout the week, and keeps you at top performance.

  1. What do you recommend students do when they no longer are interested in their major or are considering getting a different degree?

Teddy: Find someone you trust to give you advice on this critical decision. Remind yourself why you chose your degree, and what you plan to accomplish or pursue after your education. Ask yourself if you will be able to achieve similar goals with a different degree that interests you more. Consider the increase in school time for a change in major – how will this affect your financial situation with loans and/or out of pocket expenses? There are always tradeoffs to any decision, and in the end no one can tell you what course of action to take. You must weigh the alternatives and make a choice in confidence.

Gina: Don’t pursue a major just because the careers you can pursue after college pay well. Play to your strengths when considering a major, as this will streamline you into a career path that is best suited for you and your success. My dad has told me my whole life “I don’t care if you decide to drop out of college and go dig ditches. As long as you are happy digging those ditches, and are digging the best ditches you can, you’ll live a good life.” This helped me ultimately make the change from Biology to Foreign Language. Once you change your major to something you truly enjoy, you might even find that your grades begin to rise. Know that you are not “stuck”, and talk to an advisor if you are considering changing majors as they will be able to help you in making the smoothest transition between degrees.

  1. What is your perspective on moving off campus?

Teddy: This is an entirely personal choice and will depend on whether you have reliable transportation, how much of the college atmosphere you desire, total cost comparisons of each option, etc. Personally I prefer living on campus for several reasons, including easy access to campus facilities (computer labs, recreation center, library, post office, food courts, etc.), convenient logistics for meetings and group projects, and generally worry free home maintenance and snow removal. However, these conveniences must be weighed against the cost of each option, and the decision is a personal preference for each student or family.

Gina: Choose your roommates wisely. Weigh all the costs and benefits before making the decision.

  1. How do you maintain balance between school, work, and life?

Teddy: This is perhaps the most difficult aspect of being in school, not least because a student is never “done” with their work. Remember that you are working towards a goal, and there will be struggle and difficulty from many simultaneous commitments. This is normal. Be realistic with your expectations and above all remain grateful for what you have, and draw strength from the fact that others have gone before you in similar circumstances and have succeeded.