How To Survive College: How To Not Freak Out

That’s right, a new series!
As you may or may not know (if you don’t: where have you been all this time?!?): I’m a college student. And because I do take on quite an extra load of work (extra courses, a job, extracurricular activities) and still do manage to get quite good marks (in general, there’s exceptions to every rule), I have been told that I’m pretty good at the whole studying thing.
What’s more, I have been asked how exactly I do it, and seeing how as “no sleep, no life” apparently wasn’t a sufficient answer, I figured I’d write some of my tips down here!
In Belgium, there’s about 4 weeks left in the first term, and, as such: exams are upon us.
Now, even though these exams don’t actually happen until January (that’s right: the whole of January), that does mean that professors are piling up the work – after all, they have to get through their courses. All of them. All at the same time. Preferably within the same week. Or even day.
And that does mean that, to a bigger or lesser extent, people are starting to (ever so slightly) freak out.
Let me just tell you, from a personal place of experience: freaking out? Not the best way to get anything done at all. So here are some of my tips to stay ahead of (or at least en par with) your courses and not freak out!


First of all: making a schedule for your week.

 
This is honestly one of the things that helps me the most, because I constantly tend to lose track of where and when I’m supposed to be for classes – and that’s even though my schedule is the exact same every week!
So at the beginning of each term, I make a schedule where I note down which courses I have at which moment, and in what room. Generally, I hang this up behind my desk so that, whenever I need to, I can just take a quick glance and immediately see what’s going on.
At the beginning of each week, usually on Sunday night, I use my planner and the site from my university to see what I have to do or hand in. I write those down on my cute little post-its (more on those in my Desk Tour!) and that way, I have an easy overview of what I have to do, right in front of me!

Use Your Planner

I’ve mentioned my planner a couple of times before on this blog, but that’s just because I love it so much! I actually made it myself, as I’m a classic sufferer of the “I haven’t used half of my planner, but I am complaining all the time that it has none of the types of pages I need”.

This also allowed to add in a whole section of school-related pages, that have really helped stay on top of everything.

I might do a post just on how my planner works exactly, but just remember this: you want to make sure you know what you’re supposed to do when, and you want your planner to allow you to figure that out within seconds. For example, I have a section for each course where I write down all my reading, deadlines and tests so I can easily what I have to do exactly for any given course. At the same time, I write those things down in my planner: deadlines in green, exams in red, and any other tasks in blue.
That way, as soon as I open my planner to any given page I can easily see what I have to get done immediately, and what I need to get started on.

As you can probably imagine, it does take some work to always have all the correct information at all the right places, which is why, every evening, as soon as all my classes are done and I get back to my dorm, I take 5 minutes to make sure everything is everywhere. 5 minutes really isn’t that much time, and as it does allow me to make sure I’m on top of everything (and as such: eliminate a whole bunch of stress that comes from not being sure whether or not I actually did everything I’m supposed to do!) I really don’t mind at all!

Put everything together

Especially in the last couple of weeks, my professors tend to pile up the presentations, pre-exams, set readings and any other type of deadline you could possible think of.
That’s why, every year at the end of November and at the beginning of April (about a month before my winter- and before my summer-exams), I put all those things down on one single page, so I can see more easily what has to happen by what date.
As you can see here – quite a lot has to happen everyday! Because of this easy overview, however, I’m less likely to lose control of everything!

I mentioned this for my planner as well, but I do like to colour code – I find it really helps me to get a quicker view of what goes where, etc. On this list, red stands for exams and presentations (i.e. the things that will give me major stress), green is for set reading (still stressy, because set reading tends to equal papers here, and writing two papers for the same day you also have a presentation is no fun at all). Purple is other things, for example when I’m meeting up with others for a group assignment, etc.

Of course, in order to keep on not freaking out, all these things are only useful if you then actually get to studying, but as this post is already pretty long, I’m going to talk about that in a next post.

Until then: what did you think? Are there any other tricks you use in order to keep track of everything? Do you also do some of these things? Are you going to try any of these? Be sure to let me know below!

-Saar