The Techniques You Need on Your Academic Quest

Jamie Compton pursues her MA in Women’s Studies at Texas Woman’s University, where she also earned her BA in English with a minor in Women’s Studies. As she pursued her undergraduate degree, she achieved memberships with Alpha Sigma Lambda National Honors Society, Sigma Tau Delta International English Honors Society, The National Society of Leadership and Success, and Omega Rho Alpha English Honors Society.

From the moment you open your acceptance letter from your chosen university, your mind buzzes with excitement. You’re in! Life looks sunny-bright, and you feel so empowered that you declare to graduate with honors. This all feels simple and grand. However, doubt seeps into your mind as the start of term inches closer and closer. By now, you have heard of many rumors that make college life sound both prodigious and scary. You feel excited, but at the same time, you doubt yourself, and by midterms, you do not think you will make it, after all. You feel like a failure—as if you should give up.
But do not give up because you can make it—you will graduate!
I remember when I received my acceptance letter. I experienced the same excitement and pride, but I also felt nervous, and later, that nervousness turned into fear and doubt. This fear sprang up towards finals week when every class appeared to conspire against me. I had papers to write, projects and presentations due—among other regular assignments. This, combined with a low-paying job and family responsibilities, elevated my stress and my desire to quite. Yet, I did not quite, for I learned many techniques that helped me to continue my quest. Most of the techniques I learned through trial and error, but I do not want you to experience what I experienced. I will explain the six techniques that helped me most as an undergraduate.
One: Get organized. Although university professors do not require their students to use three-ringed binders, portfolios, and folders—as did my high school teachers—it is imperative that you organize your work. Everyone organizes differently. I liked to carry a spiral and folder for each class, as well as, a bag for pens, highlighters, paper clips, whiteout, stapler, calculator, etc. However which way you like to do it, keep organize, and do not forget important supplies such as: tissues, hand sanitizer, headache medicine—anything you may need while in class or while you study at the library. Keep a separate bag for these items and be sure to use a backpack, as well. I prefer the roller backpacks. They are great for storage and keep your back from constant strain.
Two: Create a productive schedule. Every college student needs an agenda planner. I like the large planners that look like spirals. They have lots of space to write long lists. Use these planners to write down what homework you must complete every day and assign time for yourself to study and research. Write down the due-dates for important projects and presentations. If you keep a schedule, you will stay on top of your workload and ease your stress. You can also arrange time to relax and reward yourself every time you stay on schedule. Remember, without a schedule, it is easy to lose track of your academic responsibilities and fall short of success. I arranged my schedule so that I was a week ahead in most of my classes. This strategy works—especially in graduate school—because it allows you to get sick for a day or two without any worries.
Three: Get involved—network. When you surround yourself with likeminded people and create a support system, success comes easy. One way to create a support system is to get involved with campus organizations and societies. Clubs, sororities, and fraternities are great organizations to build brother and sisterhood, but do not forget departmental academic societies. These societies are great ways to form a support system with the faculty, as well, who will later become great resources for recommendation letters. So, connect with your classmates, form study groups, and network. You never know whom you will meet!
Four: Take care of yourself. To succeed, everyone needs good health, whether it is their physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual health. Keep up with your check-ups, sleep eight to ten hours every night, exercise and take vitamins, eat more greens and fruit than meat, and drink plenty of water every day—in fact, bring water to class, so you can sip on it. If you sleep and eat right and stay active, you will feel great and perform better on your academic work. Exercise with the right foods will create the energy you need to stay on top of your responsibilities, for if you feel great, you will perform great. So, take care of yourself and have fun doing it! If the gym is not your thing, try a sport or use an aerobic DVD. A fifteen-minute stretch period can also help. Whatever you do, have fun with it, improvise, and laugh!
Five: Love yourself and love what you do. Many people will tell you what degree you should pursue (such as business or computer science) for they think believe the best degree is the one that enables you to earn a wealthy living. However, the only person who can decide what you should study is you. No matter what people say, follow your passion and love what you do. Success comes easy when you study a field you love rather than one you feel obligated to learn. College is a building block to the life you want, so pursue what you love and love yourself for it. Despite the many naysayers I encountered, I pursued a degree in English, and I have no regrets. I loved it, and it made my journey a lot less rigorous compared to some of my fellow classmates.
Six: Live by a mantra. What helped me persevere was a mantra I believed and recited it to myself every time I wanted to give up or felt too stressed. My mantra inspired me and renewed my strength. When I recited my mantra, I would envision my goal: graduation. The more I envisioned my graduation, the more it became easier to see my impending success. So, create a mantra and live by it. Write it down on post-it notes and paste them everywhere in your house, on your laptop, and anywhere you study. My mantra was, and still is, “There is no such thing as failure, for the only way out is to succeed.” I also adopted another mantra, which I borrowed from the movie Kung Fu Panda: “There is no secret ingredient.” Many people think successful dignitaries possess something they do not have—that they are not intelligent enough or strong enough to accomplish their goals and pursue their dreams. This is not true. We are all human; we are all capable of greatness. Just remember that you can succeed because the power is in you.
I hope my advice helps you on your academic quest. The most significant lessons you should walk away with are the notions to love yourself and believe you can succeed because you are great. Your desire to pursue higher education is proof of that, so do not worry. You will experience several bumps and stormy weather on your way, but do not let these tiny irritants hinder you. Stay true to yourself, keep organized, and never give up.

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