Jessica Fletcher is tired.
The senior advertising major pushed herself to graduate in December. But the stress of classes midway through the fall caused her health to decline and moved her graduation date back to May.
“Classes came first, which is probably why I’m sick now,” Fletcher said.
It’s time for a new start with new hopes. The spring semester is when some students make resolutions to perform better – mentally and physically – after learning from mistakes in the fall. Dr. Frank Farley, a professor of psychological studies in education, said such a trend is likely due to the infamous New Year’s resolutions.
“People tend to make resolutions anyway in December or January, not in August or September, so [the spring trend] picks up on the cultural impact of what Jan. 1 means,” Farley said.
The Temple News spoke to experts about how to start the semester on the right foot – and not tripping midway through.
Amanda Neuber is an academic adviser in the Honors Program and sees many students “freaking out” a few weeks after the start of classes.
“Midway through the semester, the novelty of winter break wears off, and that’s when things start to stress you out,” she said.
Neuber said one of the biggest problems students have in maintaining their academics is time management. She frequently recommends making one syllabus for all your courses in the first week of the semester.
“Get all of your syllabi, lay them out, and literally look to see when things are due,” she said. “If you have three, five-page papers due in the same week and you don’t know ahead of time, you’re going to freak out about it.”
Farley, a former president of the American Psychological Association, agreed that organization and time management can make or break a semester for college students.
“You’re at a university. You need to allocate time effectively,” he said. “You have to think about what things you are going to spend the most time on.”
Neuber said the responsibility lies on students to be proactive with their academics. To keep sane, she advocates using a planner to schedule everything, from classes to nap time.
“Create a schedule that doesn’t only include classwork, but also time to relax and be with friends, time to eat, or time to lie down for seven minutes,” she said.
Both Farley and Neuber agree that leading a good physical life can have ties to clean mental health for the duration of a semester.
“You’ve got to eat right and exercise if you can,” Farley said. “It’s also very important to sleep. I know it’s hard for students – it’s hard for professors, too.”
“Pulling all-nighters, skipping meals or grabbing a Red Bull so you have time to study is really terrible for your mind and body,” Neuber said. “If you aren’t being healthy, you’re never going to be able to perform.”
EXERCISE YOUR RIGHT
Because of her heavy workload, Fletcher had a hard time taking care of herself physically.
“I got tired fast,” she said. “Eating was probably the last thing on my mind.”
And experts say that’s not a good thing. Julie Rhule, a registered dietician for Sodexho Dining Services at Temple, said adapting a healthier lifestyle now can affect the overall quality of your life.
“Whether you need to lose, gain or maintain weight, health should be the No. 1 priority, not your appearance,” she said. The most effective way to stay healthy is to focus on your current weight rather than on where you want to be five months from now, she said.
“If you fall short of those unattainable goals and feel like you failed, you’re not going to stick with it,” she said.
Rhule offers one-on-one counseling for students where she helps develop a personalized eating plan, making sure each student gets enough nutrients in his or her diet. But at the same time, don’t completely give up foods you enjoy, she said.
Having a steady exercise routine can supplement a good diet, said Tricia DePoe, fitness coordinator for Campus Recreation.
“Write it out. Have it physically in front of you instead of making it up in your head and thinking you’ll stick with it,” she said.
DePoe said it’s beneficial to include a variety of workouts so exercising doesn’t seem like a “chore.” When you get bogged down with academics mid-semester, go outside to get fresh air, she said.
“Don’t put pressure on yourself to work out for a half hour or an hour,” DePoe said. “Just as long as you do something that day in your regular schedule, it’s beneficial to your body.”
Campus Recreation offers group fitness sessions with different classes and different instructors weekly throughout the semester. This allows for a good variety in the workout and prevents boredom, DePoe said.
Farley uses an equation to summarize his outlook on a successful semester: “success equals self knowledge plus motivation.”
“Knowing a lot about yourself is enormously important,” Farley said. One component of that is recognizing whether you are a morning person or an evening type.
“If you have a good sense of that, you can adapt a lot of things to it like a study schedule,” he explained. “If you’re an evening type, studying in the morning won’t work for you.”
The motivation part of the equation is acting on that self-knowledge and playing to your strengths, Farley said. Instead of doing what others want for you, find happiness in what you enjoy, he said.
“The best time to start on that self-knowledge piece is now because it will help you navigate the whole college experience,” he said. “But you have to act on it.”
And you also have to enjoy time outside of work, Neuber said. She said students sometimes forget to have fun, especially if you heavily stress over academics.
“Two things I always ask my students are, ‘How are classes and how’s life?'” she said. “People don’t realize that one is equally important as and affects the other.”
Chris Stover can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.