By Karin Gosselink
“I know I should rest over break – but I’m so far behind!” This refrain has been heard around campus more than ever this fall semester. The difficulties seem legion: transitioning to in-person learning after months of online learning, gap, and leave years; confronting COVID-19 and other illnesses; navigating the grief and trauma of the loss of loved ones over the past two years; continuing the fight for racial justice; facing the economic stress many students and their families experience. All of this has made focusing on academic work even more difficult. Being told to “take care of yourself” can sound like an empty platitude to those who are burned out and exhausted but who still have obligations to meet for their courses, their extracurriculars, their professional lives, and their families and friends.
There are no quick fixes for any of this, but there are a few small things students can do that might make this time a bit easier:
- Develop a list of essential tasks – and make sure they are truly essential. If you are behind in your coursework, don’t try to catch up with all the readings and activities. What assignments are required to be turned in? What is the essential work needed to get them done? Just focus on the essentials and let everything else go. If you need help figuring out how to determine what’s essential and what’s not, talk to your instructors, TFs, other students who have taken/are taking the class. Our Academic Strategies Mentors are happy to help, too.
- Make a realistic timeline. You will not be able to make up all the work over break. You will also not be able to work 8 hours per day on your schoolwork over break. Look at your plans and find where you can realistically get an hour or two of work done here and there after you have rested and in times when family and friends won’t be expecting your attention. Planning it out and setting small, realistic tasks for yourself make it more likely that some work will get done. It’s also OK to plan to do make-up work after the break. A two or three-week timeline for finishing work is much more realistic than trying to get it all done in a brief period.
- Share the work. Concerned about making up the work before a post-break midterm exam or project? Ask peers in your class to set up a study group, assign different readings or key problems/questions to review to each student in the group, and then get together and teach each other.
- Use the resources. Meeting with writing tutors, course-based peer tutors, ULAs, TFs, and Academic Strategies Mentors can save you time and help you complete your work more efficiently.
Finally, remember that your work as a student is not who you are as a person. Everyone struggles at multiple points in their career, and these extraordinary times make it more likely that you are experiencing significant struggle right now. But you will get through it. Even if you miss opportunities right now because you don’t have the bandwidth, other opportunities will present themselves and you will make the most of those when you are ready. This moment is not what it will be like forever, and the challenges you are experiencing right now will not last. Be kind to yourself and to others and lean on your communities.