After a semester is over, it always feels like it was the hardest semester ever. But this semester that just ended… it was a different monster. Just the two weeks before finals, I had 11 tests. Not a typo, my professors are just a little crazy. For example, one of my professors calls this “the marathon” and just tests us every single day in different stuff we learned over the semester, kind of like an extended final.
But now, even if it seemed impossible three weeks ago, all of those tests are done. Even my finals! All the essays and lab reports have been written. My homework has been completed and turned it and I can finally breathe. And I can also reflect on the things I’ve learned over the past four months.
1. Breaks are important, mental-health days are important
Waking up the Saturday after finals was the weirdest thing in the world. I wasn’t going home for another week, and it was just me in my apartment… with no homework to do? No tests to study for? I was so used to studying every single day without any breaks that having nothing to do was really unexpected. I even started making to-do lists with random chores I had to get done before leaving school just so I could have some structure. And that’s probably not healthy.
Even if it seems like you really can’t afford to take a break, your brain (and your body) needs one. You’ll get back to work feeling refreshed and your brain won’t be so overwhelmed with information. Or there may also be times when you’ve been studying for days and getting back to work seems like an impossible task. That’s fine too. If you don’t have anything urgent to finish, it’s fine to step away from it all for a couple hours or even an afternoon. Don’t burn yourself out.
2. Sleep is not overrated! And take care of yourself
“Anything is possible if you don’t sleep” was basically my motto during this semester, especially those few weeks leading up to finals week. You might not believe me… but your body needs sleep! Even if you can only afford to sleep 2 or 3 hours (you’ll still feel awful though), it’s better than nothing. Take power naps as needed; they can work wonders. Not only are power naps good at 2 pm, but also at 10 pm before hitting the books again, or at 2 am if you’re pulling an all-nighter (sometimes all-nighters are inevitable, but power naps can help. Just make sure you actually wake up if you decide to nap at 2 am).
Some other things your body needs: food, water, relaxation. Sometimes fast food really is the only option, but try to get something a little bit healthier every once in a while. And while you’re drinking tons of coffee and energy drinks to stay awake, get some water, too. Do something fun every once in a while, like taking a bubble bath or watching an episode of your favorite show (notice I said episode, not season).
3. Work smart, not hard. But don’t be overconfident
“Work smart, not hard” is the biggest lesson I’ve learned from our fabulous editor-in-chief. It’s great that you want to rework all the practice for your class, but if it’s the night before your final, you don’t have the time (or energy) to do that. Same goes with attempting to do all the assigned reading for an entire semester in a couple of hours. If you’re in a hurry, and there’s stuff you already know and stuff you don’t know that well, review the easier stuff and work on the confusing stuff.
But, remember to be smart about how you study smart. For example, this semester I could make a 74 in the final for my fluids class and still get an A in the class. So, I decided to ignore fluids for a bit and work on subjects I had more trouble with. I made a 50 on the final. Thankfully, the professor gave a 20 point curve, and he knew I had worked hard all semester so he helped me a bit. But that was close! Don’t let it happen to you.
4. A “B” (or any other grade) is not the end of the world
I know how hard it is for my mom to put me through school in the US, and I love making her proud. Add to that the fact that I’m a perfectionist (and that my favorite quote used to be “You’ll never achieve 100% if 99% is enough), and it makes sense that I’ve been known to push myself a little too hard sometimes. So, this semester, it was kind of hard to accept that I didn’t get the results I wanted in a particularly hard class. I know I tried my best, and I still made a good grade, plus the world has not stopped spinning. It’ll be fine.
5. Mom is always there! Or your friends. In other words, always have a support system
I don’t really like telling people about my problems or if I’m having trouble at school or anything like that, but sometimes having someone to vent to is really beneficial. My parents are just a text away, and sometimes, when I’m having a really bad day, there’s nothing better than hearing how much they love me and how proud they are. Watching Disney movies with my roommate also helps. What I’m trying to say is, don’t be afraid of reaching out to others!
As an engineering student, I know things are only going to get harder from here. And I’ll admit that scares me a bit, but at least I have a better perspective on many things. So, don’t worry prospies; you got this!