Getting through the first few weeks of school without going crazy

Finding a comfortable place in your
classes during the first few weeks of school can be difficult whether you’re a
freshman or senior. Maybe your physical seat in class is just what you wanted-
close enough for you to see the board but not in the front row where it’s too
close to the professor. However, you may quickly realize that this
semester is not going the way others have before. Perhaps you’re already
struggling to keep up with the homework your professors have assigned, or perhaps you’re daunted by the tidal wave of work heading your way. The first few weeks of school are trying times for all of us, but it’s important to remember that it’s okay to fail a few times before you get it right.

If you’re a freshman, getting acclimated to Baylor may seem impossible. The professors expect a very different type of work from you than your teachers did in high school. Some classes start lecturing the first day of class and the homework list keeps growing and growing. Finding a niche in such a new environment involves not only getting used to the academic differences but also the social differences from what you were used to.

At the beginning of my first semester at Baylor, I studied all the time. It was the only way I could get all my assignments done. I never had any free time, I didn’t hang out with anyone and I struggled to make friends even when it seemed like all the other students didn’t have this issue. At a certain point, I had to tell myself that I needed some time to relax and plan out when I was going to do homework so that I was able to have some fun. It took a while, but I was finally able to find time to make friends. So, even if you are feeling isolated at this point, it does get better.

However, adjusting to the new semester is only a problem freshmen face. Every single semester I face the adjusting period where for about a month I struggle to balance my obligations and classwork. It doesn’t go away, but it does get easier once you know what works and doesn’t, which is different for everyone.

Here are some simple suggestions to get through the first few weeks of class for students of all classifications:

  • Buy an agenda
    and write down all of your school work. It does take a while to accomplish
    but by doing so you eliminate the need to drag out multiple syllabi every
    night and you can compare the amount of homework you have on a given day.
    This helps to stay organized and to think ahead to when you’re going to
    start working on those long essays.
  • When you’re
    studying, take short breaks. The Success Center recommends 10 minute
    breaks for every 50 minutes of studying (further strategies can be found
    Short breaks can re-energize you, help you be less stressed and improve
    your retention of material. Try not to get distracted during breaks
    and say that you’ll just watch one TV episode because I know from
    experience that doing so breaks your concentration and sometimes turns
    into binge-watching.
  • Take
    advantage of the Success Center resources. There’s walk-in tutoring, mentoring by graduate students and even
    a brand new walk-in Learning Lab for help with stress, note-taking, etc.
  • Plan for a
    little fun. Fun is by nature unexpected, so planning for it may seem odd,
    but during the first few weeks you must find the balance between staying
    in your room all the time and taking every spontaneous offer to go out. My
    time at Baylor was changed because I decided to not study one Friday
    evening and watch a movie with some classmates instead. Friday night soon
    became movie night for me and now those classmates are my best friends
    because I took a chance to do something different.
  • Go listen to
    an interesting speaker, see a Baylor Theater production or watch a film
    in the World Cinema series. Attending cool on-campus events can make you
    feel more cultured, smarter, and less stressed, which boosts your
    self-esteem when it may be low because of your progress in class.

The beginning of the semester is hard to manage for everyone but the best suggestion I have is if you’re struggling to keep up or to not slack off, consider what is going wrong and how you can prevent it. Have fun, experience something new, and ask for help when you need it.