A new semester approaches, which means the usual creation of goals that entail earning a 4.0 while doing amazing things! I have got lots of things to dread as well as look forward to. The feeling of dissonance is never an old friend of mine when it comes to examining my emotions and their effect on my academic performance.
Classes – I’m taking three biological sciences courses (genetics, homeostasis and biochemistry), in addition to two seminars (ASAM and Honors). While I am looking forward to all of my classes, I am also mentally giving myself pep talks that perpetuate the ol’ “You got this. Confidence is KEY. No pressure. Just do what you always do but cut out ‘Say Yes to the Dress’ and all those wedding shows you love on TNT. Oh, and please eat more. Your brain needs at least 200g of carbohydrates just to function decently! Get that glucose!”
MCAT – Here’s the kicker! I have been slowly studying for this test, but it definitely won’t happen until school really starts. I took the Kaplan diagnostic test online and that was a fail, haha. While I like to pride myself in time management skills, I tend to put more time to club meetings and research and less on actually studying until a week or two before. Why? Well, in the moment you think, “Ahh, but if we don’t do this now then…” and while that conversation should be about studying, I procrastinate. It’s never on purpose, of course. This is where your “gear” comes into play.
So, I figure it’d be good suggest some methods that you can motivate yourself to do awesome this semester!
- Stock up on Post-it Notes. I absolutely LOVE Post-it Notes. They are the bomb. They’re easy to carry around, and you can drop messages left and right! I use them mainly to write down my to-do list. Even though I can put it on my phone, I don’t find myself diligent enough to ONLY look at my to-do list. Sometimes things are better when they are separate (ex. my beef with tablets and their capabilities). Things are more organized. It’s nice to have things all in one place in theory, but then I think about my dresser and how I put EVERYTHING on top of it during the semester. When I’m trying to look for something, I’ll find it eventually…but it’s more beneficial to either clean every day, or put things in designated places. Anyway, that was a long tangent but basically Post-it Notes can be a great asset. You can put them on your walls and write your own “morning routine” pep talks or confidence boosters like “Hey beautiful!” What’s even better? Having your significant other write them about you. That’ll put a smile on your face.
- Do it old-school. Loose-leaf notebook and binder for note-taking. Take notes this way, unless the class has powerpoint presentations that the instructor uses (you should really download them…but if they’re like 100+ slides maybe do without them and write the slide number next to your notes as a reference…save paper!). I have always thought about bringing my netbook to class and taking notes on it like 1/3 of my classmates I see, but then I see them continually fall under the temptation to check Facebook or play Minesweeper (I don’t know) and honestly I’d probably do the same. Besides, I can do that stuff on my phone (which I lock away in my backpack during classes). Distractions, obviously, will distract you. So, if you’re like me and unable to concentrate when there’s so many exciting web apps to play with (although go ahead if you’re into computer science and programming), keep it away from the classroom. Also, I think there’s some psychological thing where your brain works better when you’re physically doing something too (note-taking while writing the words rather than typing). I’m not sure if there is research on typing versus writing in terms of retaining information, but do share if there is! Of course, we all have different learning strategies so do what has been working best for you. :) I personally fear that my computer will just die one day or get stolen if I bring it out so having my notes in paper form is best (unless a fire happens…oh no!). Hmm, well if you take notes with your computer, at least do it through a cloud system so that even if your computer explodes your information is accessible from anywhere!
- Download EverNote. Man, this app ROCKS! I make study guides for myself with my netbook and then it gets synced onto my phone. Once it’s on my phone, you bet that I’m reading and studying on my bus rides and breaks! It’s so wonderful. I honestly have to say that was how I had success this past fall semester in most of my classes. And this case, retyping my hand-written notes helps me a lot with remembering the information. If it had been already typed, I don’t think I’d remember as well…I don’t know why.
- Do something that you used to love doing every day. For me, it’s drawing, playing my erhu or violin or piano, dancing to my Xbox, etc. For you, it could be anything! Think back to when you were a little kid, fascinated by everything. What was it? Taking pictures from an instant camera? Crafting? Sewing? Fishing (I guess you can’t do that every day unless you do it virtually)? Video games! If you ever feel like you just can’t study, go blow off that steam and regain that confidence to work hard because it really will pay off. It might seem like a time-waster to indulge in these activities, but I think you waste more time being frustrated if anything. Being focused is tough, but if you’re in a good mood and have the right attitude then it is not an issue.
- Start early. Here comes the calendar. D: I use my phone’s calendar obsessively to plan, but you might find it better to write on a paper type of planner (like those desk-sized ones) to see everything very clearly. My motivational interviewing professor for a nutrition class I took last semester said that whatever goal he had each day, he made sure to document its completion by drawing a smiley face! My quota for each day is to study the MCAT at least 3 hours a day. So, here’s my plan. Get a calendar that I can draw smiley faces on after studying at least 3 hours a day! Try it for any long-term goal you have, like working out or something…(that’ll be my next goal). Heck, you can get a separate calendar for each goal you have. That’ll decorate your wall quite nicely, haha.
Anyway, I’ve been spending the past week going into research and seeing old friends as well as spending it with my family. I saw “Django Unchained” and “The Hobbit.” The first one was not my cup of tea, as my friend Piotr suggested to me…and he was right! I really enjoyed “The Hobbit” and I can’t remember a single thing from the book when I had read it in 6th grade! I vaguely remember the end where Bilbo is drinking tea with someone, I think…but I didn’t see that in the movie at the end so I was confused with my memory. It’s been a very nice winter break and it has helped me see the light at the end of the road. ^_^