September 14, 2016

On Heading Back to School

For students, the rolling in of September means there's a sudden onset of responsibilities that come rushing in. For me, this is my last year of September being synonymous to back-to-school. As such, being the university student on the brink of my last year before graduation, I thought I'd share some of the tips I have come to accumulate regarding getting through the school-year.

#1 - Set goals; big and small. Set small goals that you can feasibly achieve, and set gradual goals that amalgamate into the fulfillment of your bigger goals. I have always been a persistent follower of to-do lists, but what I have learned over the years is that breaking your tasks to micro-tasks can be largely beneficial. For instance, rather than listing off that I need to read a specific chapter by a certain time, I list the amount of pages I need to read per day in order to finish that chapter instead.

#2 - Now, making lists is not at all hard. Time-consuming? Yes, sometimes. But, not hard at all. What is difficult, on the other hand, is what is more important -- and that is holding yourself accountable when it comes to ticking of things that need to be done. For me, seeing all the things that I need to do on paper drives me to work hard in order to be able to check off the task upon completion. To-do lists offer a consistent tangible reminder that I need to be attaining certain goals.

#3 - More important than what was more important however, is to not beat yourself up when you do not get everything on your list completed on the day that you were supposed to. Perhaps one of the greatest lessons I've been learning throughout all these years is the ability to forgive yourself when you do not meet your expectations. So long as you did some things, there are always other days to complete other things. Essentially, we all ought to practice the art of balancing accountability and forgiveness.

#4 - Time management is everything. There is a time to study, a time for breaks, and a time for sleep. Knowing when to stay up or sleep in took me quite some time to figure out. During my first few years of university, the shock of the workload caused me to pull all-nighters often, and also pushed me to wake up early everyday, even during weekends. Quickly enough, that kind of routine took its toll on me and admittedly, my mental well-being suffered as a result. So take care of yourself. Understandably, there are times when you will need to stay up late, but listen to your mind and body, and know your limits.

#5 - With that being said, tattoo this next tip on the forefront of your brain; your mental health is more important than your GPA. Always, always, always. Set healthy boundaries and do not forget to reward yourself (even if it's just an ice cream cone after getting through a rough day). Learn to pat yourself on the back. Be self-sufficient in your rewards system and do not rely on other people for your self-esteem boosts. Personally, I set high standards of myself and get unbelievably frustrated when I don't meet my expectations. My happiness is often linked to the letters and numbers that professors equate with my work -- so much so that when I would get grades that are below my standards, I would go home and have an emotional breakdown. Another one of the greatest lessons I've learned throughout the years however, is the importance of not letting grades equate your worth as a human being. Your value is by no means tied to your GPA.

#6 - In the same vein, mourn over a bad grade if you feel the need. I sure as heck still do. To some people, it's a habit that cannot be shaken. Although, in spite of that, allot yourself only a night to feel bad. Go cry if you must, get frustrated if you must, and crawl into fetal position if you must. BUT, come sunrise, push past it and work on turning that grade around.

#7 - Another habit that's easier said than done is comparing yourself to others. It's a big don't, but it's a tendency that we all gravitate towards. As humans, we are social beings. Therefore, comparison comes naturally, especially in environments that foster competition -- like educational institutions. Evidently, we won't ever be able to completely curb our inherent predisposition for comparison, but if you unrelentingly remind yourself of your individuality, you will be able to lessen the negative impact. When it's all said and done, you are your own. The only comparisons worth noting are the ones between your past self, your present self, and the progression to your future self.

#8 - Last, but by no means least, say "I hate school" as much as you want. It's okay to feel the need to let out steam over something that stresses you out. However, at the end of the day, be grateful for the opportunity to learn and grow. If you are in school, you are one of the lucky ones. As much as it means that you need to exert a lot of time and effort, it also means that you are blessed with a privilege not afforded to many others. At the end of the day, remind yourself how lucky you are to be in an environment that fosters your growth and will open doors for you if you let it.

Stay rad,


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