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December 30, 2016


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Tips For a Successful Semester

December 30, 2016

This fall was my first semester back to school after taking a 6-month mental health break. I was excited to get back—taking a break definitely renewed my love of learning. While the semester wasn’t always easy, it was really great to see how much I had grown in the last year. This semester I learned about the history of race in America, electromagnetism, taekwondo, and multivariable calculus. Outside my classes, I learned more tricks to navigating the financial aid office, what it’s like to live in a cooperative house with 40 other students, and how to put on five different kinds of dog collars and harnesses. I also learned a lot about myself, and how to find a healthier balance in my life. Below are a few of my tips for students trying to make it through another semester. Hopefully, at least one helps you or sparks a new idea for how to take care of yourselves in between all the classes, clubs, and community service.

1 - Take some (small) risks. When your energy is being pulled in a dozen different directions, it can be hard to push yourself to take risks. This semester, the small risks I took really made my life more fulfilling, and definitely more interesting. I tried taekwondo, even though I have no martial arts experience, and am really clumsy. I was more honest when people asked, “How are you?” even though I felt like I was the only one struggling. I invited new friends out for pizza, even though I wasn’t sure I was ‘cool’ enough for them. Even when things didn’t turn out quite as expected, I was happy I had taken the chance.

2 – Find a supportive staff member. It can be really hard to feel supported by your school, especially if it is a big, bureaucratic institution. I’ve been lucky enough to find a couple of people who work at my university who are awesome individuals and care about my academic and personal success. Whether it’s a professor, a groundskeeper, or a counselor, a staff member who knows the institution and can help you navigate it is a priceless resource. They can help you feel like a person when you might feel like you’re being reduced to your GPA or student ID number.

3 – Don’t slack on the basics. When you have a full schedule, it can be easy to let your self-care routines slide. This semester, I focused on ensuring I got the sleep I needed. I was in bed at 11:30 almost every night, securing my 8 hours of sleep. Those couple extra hours of studying will never make up for a full night of sleep; a skipped meal; or a workout. Ensuring you always have the basics you need to be happy and healthy will help you make it through the semester without burning out.

4 – Break out the podcasts, audiobooks, or e-books. I love listening to audiobooks and podcasts on my phone. If I’m feeling overwhelmed and need some alone time, I can escape into the world of a book. If I’m feeling lonely, my favorite podcast hosts keep me company. Books, magazines, and podcasts can help you leave your responsibilities behind for a while, and they’re easy to squeeze into a busy schedule. Most public library systems have e-books and audiobooks you can check out and access on your phone, which you can read while you wait for the bus, wash the dishes, or travel to class.

5 – Get out of the bubble. Life as a student can feel really insular-- most of the people you interact with on a given day are students and professors wrapped up in the world of education. This fall, I found it really refreshing to leave campus and get out of the ‘student’ bubble for a bit. I would dog-sit for a weekend to spend some time with a cute pup, or set up a ‘play date’ with my little cousins. If you’re getting tired of school, find some spaces in the community where you can interact with elders, young kids, or animals and get a break from student life.

I hope you all have a restful break, and a good start to next semester! If you have any tips for surviving and succeeding as a student, I’d love to hear them.


This post was written by Point Scholar Alexa Groenke

Alexa grew up in Bloomington, Minnesota and is now is studying Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley. During her time in Minnesota, Alexa worked on campaigns concerning marriage equality and anti-bullying. Read more about Alexa here.

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