By Rachel Bittman
It happens. One semester down, one more to go until summer (and internships, jobs, and whatever comes next). Classes seem tedious, homework endless, and all you want to do is don your sweatpants and curl up in bed with a bag of chips and the newest season of your favorite show on Netflix.
Problem? The semester is nowhere near over! There are still classes to attend, activities to get involved in, maybe an internship or a job to seek out and obtain. You can’t afford to sleep the semester away.
So then what do you do? Here are several tips to keep yourself motivated and avoid falling into the ‘Spring Semester Slump’.
1. Set small goals
What is it you want to accomplish by the end of this term? Is it a certain grade in that class you’ve been struggling in? An internship or a job with a specific organization or company, or in a specific location? A student organization you’ve thought about joining all year but never got around to?
Once you have the big goal, break it down. How can you achieve that grade, how can you get that job, what do you need to do to join that organization? Could it be attending office hours, sending out emails or cold calling companies? A large goal can seem daunting, but by breaking it down to small actions, you can make that ending seem much more reachable and attainable.
Organization might seem impossible at times. You’ve got so much going on in your life, nobody ever said grad school would be easy. There’s classes, homework, extracurricular activities, and let’s not forget about keeping an active social life outside of school. Organizing your calendar can help you keep track of assignments and classes, so that you can avoid the last minute panic of having a ten-page paper due with only a day to write it. Whether that calendar is electronic on your phone, tablet, computer, or all three, or if you keep a paper copy, just remember to update it when you first hear about that final presentation, test, or project! Set small intermediate objectives: if you have a project due at the end of the semester, what steps do you want to have done by midterms? Break down assignments to smaller tasks to avoid becoming overwhelmed, and remember to keep track of what you need to complete and the dates they should be done!
Sometimes it can be hard to remember that there is a light at the end of this tunnel. Whatever year you’re in right now, whether you came straight from undergrad to grad school or took a few years off in between, don’t forget why you’re here. Those reasons are different for everyone – it could be a need to obtain a higher degree to advance in your chosen career path, or a change in careers, a step on the path to another degree, or any one of a thousand reasons. It may be more than one reason. Whatever challenges you face in school or in life, remember why you chose to pursue this degree. That inspiration can carry you through the semester, and remind you of that bigger picture: even though it might seem tedious and trying at times, you’re here for a reason.
4. Life exists outside of school
I know, it might not always seem it at times, right? When you’re taking so many classes, and there’s so much homework and reading to get done, tests to study for, projects and assignments with looming deadlines. But it’s important to put down the textbook at times, and just go out and have fun (anyone who knows me will know that I’m writing this in more of a ‘do as I say, not as I do’ kind of fashion, but it’s still a good point to make).
So spend a Saturday night with friends at a bar or a club. Go hiking, or skiing, or whatever other activity you might enjoy. Find a cooking class, or a spinning class; maybe there’s something you’ve always wanted to try but never got around to it. You’re here for a degree, but what’s more important is that you enjoy getting it. If you spend all your time in the library or buried in your homework, it’s very easy to lose the passion that got you here in the first place.
5. You’re a part of something
Here in SPH, we’re completing different degrees, we’ve got different program requirements, different reasons for why we chose to come to this school above all others, but I believe that the underlying motive for being here, what draws us to public health, all boils down to a desire to help people. Maybe we just want to make a difference. So reach out, make new friends, and don’t be afraid to try something new. We might not all have the same interests, but we’re far more connected than we are different.
6. Believe in yourself
I learned about the term ‘imposter syndrome’ in one of my first classes, in my first semester at graduate school. I didn’t even know there was a specific word for it. The term is a concept describing high-achieving individuals who are marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a fraud.
Basically, even though you were accepted to an amazing school, and even if you’re doing well in your classes, you still feel like you don’t really belong here. I felt it, I still feel it. And I know I’m not the only one. And neither are you. Even if you have moments of doubt, remember that you’re here. The University of Michigan wants you here. They looked at thousands of applicants, and they chose you. Just keep believing in yourself, no matter how hard it might get at times. Use all of these tips: set small goals, organize efficiently, remember your inspiration for pursuing a career in public health, don’t forget to relax and have fun at times, and connect with your cohort, your fellow SPH-ers.
And most importantly, if you need help, don’t be afraid to ask. It can seem like a never-ending journey at times, constantly studying and reading, so much to do and not enough time to do it. If you feel overwhelmed, you’re not the only one. There is a whole network of classmates, faculty, and staff, just waiting, ready to help you if you ever need it.
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