How to Succeed During an Overscheduled Semester

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Kayleigh Parish
A calendar notebook and several pens.

At my university, counselors emphasize the importance of “thinking fifteen”, meaning taking fifteen credit hours a semester to graduate in four years. While this doesn’t seem too difficult, as a biomedical sciences student this often means that the fifteen credits I’m taking are all STEM-based classes, which typically come with a heavy work load. This can make planning my weekly schedule overwhelming, especially since I’m also scheduling in work and events with student organizations I’m involved with on campus. Here are some tips I use when going about my semester.

Register Wisely

Setting yourself up for success happens at class registration. Choose classes during the time of day when you will be most active and more likely to pay attention. Whether it be morning, afternoon, or night, keeping to the part of the day that is best for you will help you to get the most out of your day. Also, give yourself enough time between classes to process your notes and assignments. This will help you understand the information given and might even decrease the total amount of study time needed.

Be Flexible

One of the biggest things to realize when scheduling yourself throughout the semester is that there is a difference between concrete plans and plans that can be flexible. Concrete plans are your exams and classes. They will not change no matter what. Even if one class session is cancelled or an exam moved around, for the most part the days and times won’t change. Plans you make with your friends can also be concrete. You all choose a time and an activity and because multiple people agree, it’s more likely to not be changed. Flexible plans are things that could be moved around your day if they need to be. You may not have a decision when other people or organizations plan events you wish to participate in, but you can decide to push your afternoon studying to later or earlier in the day. Being flexible is super important in college. It allows you to do what you need to do and what you want to do at the same time.

Build Sustainable Habits

It’s better to build daily habits in your day rather than try to adhere to a strict schedule. If you create a daily schedule, it may not work every day. Instead, make a list of what needs to be done in the day and complete each task when you can. If you know you need to study for three hours, go day-by-day and decide where studying will fit in that day. When I know I have an event at night, I try my hardest to finish everything I need to get done that day before the event. On a day with no extra events scheduled, I space my tasks out a bit more so as to not overwhelm myself. Being able to do this will help you not only succeed in classes and have fun, but it will also relieve some stress from your day.

Finally, understand that while deadlines are important, you shouldn’t fully live by them. Give yourself enough time to study for exams or properly complete assignments but allow yourself to take breaks and have fun throughout the week as well. Taking thirty-minute coffee breaks can help you reset. Having dinner with your friends can help you destress before or after exams. Studying is important to succeeding in many classes, but you can have fun and succeed at the same time.

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