Clearing through the chaos

Every August, students come back to school with renewed energy, a positive mentality, and a promise that “this year is going to be different”. We swear to ourselves that we’ll keep up with all our readings, devote hours to disciplined studying, and lead balanced lives that will result in extraordinary marks. Then school starts… And reality spanks us hard in the butt. Within the first two weeks, we start to struggle with failing attention spans, deteriorating positive attitudes, cases of anxiety and emotional trauma. School becomes chaos as we suffer through hundreds of course reading pages a week to read, part-time jobs, social activities and classes. As a first year student, I could have used some advice. I'm here to share with you some personal tips and tricks that have helped me improve my school experience. 1. Start Early. Once you fall behind, you really fall behind. The trick is to come with a positive attitude, and actually want to study. You have to get yourself into the study mentality. 2. Practice Makes Perfect. Let’s face it - good study habits don’t come easy. In fact, they take forever. Begin with a dose of distraction-free environment. Put yourself in an environment where you are sure to succeed. Check out Lucy’s My U of T Library Saga - Part I, you will find amazing information on library spaces conducive to studying. 3. Take Good Notes. Notes are always a great way to prep for studying. This site has excellent tips on how to write good notes. Written by Dr. Margaret Procter, U of T’s Writing Support Coordinator, this site keeps it simple and straight – making it easier to grasp course concepts, retain them, and being able to revert back to good notes for late night exam cram sessions. I know from personal experience - good notes can really come in handy when you want to review important course concepts, and skip the nitty-gritty details. 4. Get Help When You Need It. Succeeding in school is hard work, but you can get help on your papers and tests. Use the campus services to the best you possibly can! Every college and most faculties offer a writing centre where you can drop in or set up an appointment and get help on your paper. This website connects you to every writing centre at U of T. You can book an appointment, and get your paper critiqued! And this year, I learnt about the Counselling and Learning Skills Service, which offers professional counselling for relationship problems, depression, anxiety and more. They also offer individual consulting services for exams, textbook reading, and time management. 5. Stay Healthy. Getting back on your feet before the midterm storm rolls in can be tough work, and it’s even tougher to continue to stay on top of everything after midterms. Making sure you keep up with your reading is just as important as studying in advance for a midterm. Get enough sleep, eat healthy, exercise three times a week at least and try to be well-rounded. Check out the Athletic Centre website for information on personal and fitness services, how to join, and hours. And remember, since you paid for your membership with your student fees, you can use it right now. School doesn’t have to be tough and there is a way to catch up when you fall behind, and to deal with the anxiety and stress that all students so patiently endure. The best choice is try to stay on top of everything and keep a tough skin. But if you need a bit of help, don't be afraid. Your university campus is here for you, and there is help every step of the way. Good luck through midterms!

- Fariya