Usually, when you return home for winter break, you are so exhausted from the fall term that you sleep wherever and whenever you can. And if you’re lucky, you return to a home where they can do that and get lots of comfort food and TLC as well.
When you’ve slept, eaten, and hydrated enough, there are a few things you can do to set yourself up for success in the spring semester. They require three things: honest reflection, planning, and an ability to engage others in your plans.
- Take stock of the fall.
- Did you go to class, do your homework, and study enough?
- Did you pay attention in class?
- Did you connect with at least two faculty members in office hours to discuss the coursework and/or your intended career trajectories?
- Were your grades what you expected?
- Residential Life: Is your living situation conducive to your well-being or do you need to make changes?
- Social Life:
- Did you make any stupid mistakes – socially or otherwise?
- Did you take advantage of campus plays, speakers, concerts, and other cultural and intellectual opportunities?
- How do you assess the time you spent in front of your phone, tv, computer doing non-productive work?
- How do you feel about your acquaintances and friends? Are there any that are particularly good or bad for you?
- How are your eating and drinking habits? Any issues?
- Are you working out regularly?
- Do you sleep enough?
- Do you drink enough water?
- Are there habits you think you need to change?
This exercise is not meant to generate regret. There’s no time for that! Just be honest with yourself so you can get onto the next step.
- Make plans.
- Print out your spring course schedule and
- Time for sleeping, eating, and exercising
- Time for studying
- Time for socializing
- Find your professors’ office hours and note them on your schedule. Be sure to visit each of them at least once to discuss course material. For more suggestions on what to talk to faculty about in office hours (and why), see this post.
- Make a commitment to address any of the issues you uncovered in the taking stock part of this exercise.
- Discover academic support structures if you are struggling academically. These are usually found in learning centers. If you can’t find them on the website, ask your advisor or faculty members. Some courses have their own scaffolding, so it pays to ask your professors as well. If you can’t find anything suitable, make your own study group, which is a great opportunity to reinforce material, get to know other students, and add a line to your resume.
- Residential Life: If you need to make changes, do you need help with them? Who can help? Friends, parents, siblings, a therapist? Engage them in the process now.
- Social Life:
- What changes to you want to make in the spring? Will they be difficult? Will you need help? If so, who can help you? Parents, siblings, friends, a therapist? Engage them in the process now!
- What campus activities can you foresee being interesting? Make a list, or better yet, put them in your calendar.
- Make a commitment to address whatever issues you have.
- Engage the people you need to engage to get it done.
- Print out your spring course schedule and schedule:
You will note that every step of the second half of this exercise entails engaging others. There’s a reason for that. None of us can do all of this alone. We are human, social beings, who need one another. The trick is to find the humans you can trust and who can trust you.
This gets at the heart of the one thing that most college students are really terrible at: asking for help. If you asked me what the biggest downfall of today’s college student is, that’s what I’d say. They don’t know how to ask for help in time. And in this case, “in time” means in advance.
What you need to do is to create a scaffolding for yourself so that you can reach the highest heights possible. Because you are human, you probably can’t and won’t do it alone. Why should you anyway? People like helping other people. It’s their way of showing they care. So, give people around you a chance to show you they care. Set up your scaffolding in advance. And watch yourself soar.