By Laura LaVacca
After a summer filled with sandy beach days and the top riority being getting a tan, going back to school can blindside any student — especially a college one. Papers, buying books, syllabi. It’s enough to make students just pull the covers over their heads and go back to sleep.
However, the key to a successful college school year isn’t some mystery. Successful people consistently employ the same techniques. From organization to mindfulness, you too can have a successful semester.
“It’s always hard getting back into school after a long summer but it was especially nerve-wracking starting as a freshman in a new school,” Molloy College student Sara Miller explains. “Once I was given the syllabus for each class it made me feel better knowing that as long as I stay organized and pay attention to the syllabus I can be successful.”
Miller brings up a key component — organization. And a key word — syllabus. Professors often provide these detailed calendars at the beginning of the semester so students know exactly what to expect in the course.
Students may have the tendency to stuff them in a folder and pull them out the night before to see what is due, but this is a pitfall.
“Knowing assignments ahead of time and being vigilant about completing them not only eases anxiety but often results in higher grades,” Counselor Lisa DeMarco notes, “Students who complete assignments in a timely fashion avoid the midnight cramming sessions that often produce poor work filled with a multitude of mistakes.”
Being ahead of assignment due dates also gives students ample time to head to the resource labs on campus for help — whether it be the writing center or math lab. Colleges such as Nassau Community even have more specialized subjects such as reading labs on campus to help students analyze texts and extract meaning.
Being ahead of the game is also a chance to chat with professors about any assignments students are confused about or to ask for feedback on drafts. College campuses want students to succeed, as do faculty, hence the ample resources students are offered.
“My experience at college thus far has been great; however getting adjusted to the lifestyle of being away from home and getting use to the workload has been troubling,” Sam Lanza,a freshman at Marist College explains. “Through planning, I am becoming aware of managing my time spent on assignments versus time spent with friends.”
With the ample amount of time students have in college in relation to the time they are in class, students can sometimes choose too much socialization over using their time wisely. Hey, no one wants to begrudge a college student of the time they have to meet friends for lunch or enjoy a good book under a tree—but these activities shouldn’t outweigh the time spent on completing work. Planning accordingly, purchasing a planner or using the calendar feature many phones have, are all ways to keep students on track.
Perhaps the most useful notion to keep in mind comes from Ellen Langer, a social psychologist, who has been labeled “the mother of mindfulness.” Her books include “Mindfulness” and “Counterclockwise: Mindful Health and the Power of Possibility.” Langer is a professor in the Psychology Department at Harvard University.
She defines mindfulness as “the simple act of actively noticing things — with a result of increased health, competence, and happiness.“ She is quick to call herself an “anticrastinator,” asking, “Why get things done later when they can be done now?”
Langer urges all people to keep in mind the big picture, to question why they are doing the things they do and understand that the choices they are making affect their overall goals. “Being mindful allows us to be joyfully engaged in what we are doing,” she asserts.
When applied to the college population, students can focus on the reasons why they are completing a paper, taking a test or arriving to class on time. These small tasks can frustrate students but they must keep in mind the bigger picture. Professors don’t give ten-page papers for the heck of it. Students who complain about length, hard-tests or finals need to take a step back. Self- reflection is a major part of the college process — or any process in life. Being in the moment and enjoying it is another.
Students are in college for a career goal, to complete a degree and come out hoping to attain a job, open a business or whatever it is they set their eyes on. It is this goal that students should not lose sight of. They should be mindful, as they make decisions that move them further toward that goal and not away from it. As the old adage states, hard work pays off — but as the new one goes, “understand that hard work pays off.”