The end of April is always ridiculously busy. The projects that you cringed just reading about during syllabus week are due, and every activity including TGIS, recitals, banquets and SCAD are here. It would be easy to let your grades slip in favor of finally getting down that dance routine before the Emotion showcase or spending as much time as you can with friends before separating for the summer, but fight through.
No one wants to let spring fever tank the grades they’ve worked so hard for all semester. It’s imperative to finish strong, and to do so, a student has to stay motivated. But how do you do that?
If you’re anything like me, in January, you agreed with a naïve smile to a million activities all occurring in the span of the last two weeks of the semester. You didn’t want to let anybody down. The events were so far away, they seemed imaginary. I’ll say “Yes” now and deal with the consequences when they come. The number of times I uttered the cliche, “I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it,” is embarrassing. Well, I’ve come to it.
If I wanted to survive the end of this semester with my mental health intact, I would lock myself in my dorm room with enough food, blankets and movies to live through a nuclear war. But I don’t want to do that; I want to succeed.
If I’m going to succeed, I need to spend every waking moment doing something productive. This doesn’t mean spending every moment my eyes are open looking at a book or writing a paper, though that would be ideal. This means shorter showers, no Netflix binges and zero minutes staring blankly into space.
Give friends as much time as you can. Remember that they’re not the cause of your stress, but they can’t always be your top priority either. Give them mealtimes, and maybe one night a weekend, but always keep your deadlines in mind. You’ll still have friends in May. Just get through the projects first.
The best way to succeed is to get a chip on your shoulder. Find something that keeps you going even when your eyes are burning from staring at notes and your back is aching from sitting so long. Make some decisions.
Decide who the best student in a given course is and silently compete with them. You’re in the library studying for the exam. The yawns can’t be stifled anymore, and that last cup of coffee has officially worn off. It’s midnight, so you start packing up your books. But you look across the room and see that kid still diligently working. If they can be up and studying, so can you. Sit yourself back down.
Decide that you can have it all. Make your bed. Never skip a workout. Keep your laundry under control. Though sleeping in may be almost irresistible, you’ll be in a better mindset all day if you get up and get everything done. We’ve all been there. The alarm goes off, but you think “When’s the next time I’ll be under this blanket? I have so many meetings today. I have to give a presentation. There are so many hours between now and the next time I’ll be this comfortable.” So you hit snooze four times and end up sprinting to class with soaking wet hair. How much better would you feel if you got up, made your bed, got in the shower and left adequate time to pick a nice outfit, check emails, drink coffee and arrive with dry hair? It’s tempting to let the little things slide, but as my mother is fond of saying, “It’s a slippery slope.”
Next, decide who you’d be letting down by letting things slip. Just yourself? Your professor? Your parents? Though they have never, and will never, point it out to me, my parents are paying a great deal of money for me to attend this College. They’re good enough to never pressure me or hold that fact over my head, but it goes without saying that they expect good things from me. If they didn’t believe I could succeed, they would shrewdly invest their hard-earned money elsewhere. In a sense, they’re putting their money on me to succeed, and I don’t want to let them down. That’s the chip on my shoulder.
If all else fails, decide you’re going to be as great as someone you admire. My personal hero is David Muir. He wanted to grow up to be Peter Jennings. From his adolescence, he’s worked all day, every day. He never sleeps the day away, never eats an entire pizza by himself while binging on Grey’s Anatomy, never wastes a moment. If he’s not reporting the news, he’s reading the news. He has an inner fire that’s gotten him everything he’s ever wanted. Whether it’s true or not, decide that if you have an inner fire, you too will get everything you’ve ever wanted. The belief will fuel you to go the extra mile.
Finally, decide you’re worth the extra effort. I’m as guilty of it as anyone–I would do so much more for other people than I would do for myself. If I’m falling asleep when you ask me to edit your paper, believe I’m going to stay awake for as long as you need me. But if I finish a paper at 3 a.m., I’m much less willing to stay up and proofread. The difference in the two situations is that I want to make sure you feel comfortable and secure in your work. Why shouldn’t I want the same thing for myself? Why do I believe, if subconsciously, that my work is less important than another person’s? Decide that you are just as worthy of your time and efforts as the people around you.
Comedian John Mulaney is right: it’s 100 percent easier not to do things than to do them. Even so, you owe it to yourself to finish the semester strong. It may be a living hell for a few weeks, but as you walk out of your last final and that smile, which only comes from complete and utter freedom, creeps onto your lips, you’ll thank yourself for all your hard work.