With August approaching, it seems like this summer has flown by. Only one month left until we’re thrust into the madness of university life, and I’m definitely feeling the pressure for this year. With this being my final year in my Undergraduate degree at the University of Ottawa, the time has finally come to begin applying to Master’s programs and searching for a potential supervisor. Time to bulk up my resume and bump up my grades. Every year I tell myself I’m going to bring my A-game, and every year I seem to find myself in exactly the same position, just a notch from where I would like to be.
So what makes this year any different?
Honestly, everything I’m about to say could prove to be completely ineffective in my fight to boost my grades and reach my full potential, but if I don’t try, there’s no where to go but down.
1. Lighter Course Load
Over the course of six weeks in May and half of June, I took two summer courses at the University. This move has allowed me to take only 8 courses over the course of the Fall and Winter semesters rather than the usual 10. By no means were the classes easy; deadlines and readings are due twice as quickly, and all your friends are out enjoying the summer sun. The pain was temporary, however, and the classes were over before I knew it. I now have more time during the year to balance my job, volunteer position, and classes.
2. More Specialized Courses
Every year my classes have grown gradually more specialized, culminating in the fourth-year seminars offered by the History Department. These seminars are small, intimate classes of around 15 people, with highly specialized topics that vary depending on the Professors’ areas of expertise. My hope is that these specialized courses will be more motivating and of greater interest to myself, as they offer an opportunity for a more in-depth and research oriented study. Part of me is also terrified of failing miserably and seeing all of my dreams go up in smoke, but I think positivity is key here, and I am keeping these thoughts at bay.
3. Creating Distinct Living/Working Environments
I have discovered over the course of my years at university that productivity is highly dependent (for most) upon the environment in which you work. Attempting to write papers from the comfort of my bed has often proven to be comfortable, yes, but also extremely distracting. I found myself more often than not browsing tumblr and catching up on missed YouTube videos than actually writing papers or doing my readings. Creating a distinction between a place to work and a place to relax can be extremely valuable for time management purposes and can have a huge impact on the outcome of your studies.
When it comes to working from home, having a desk to work from can be a life saver. If you’re like me, however, your desk can quickly become a quick-fix dumping ground. My goal for this year is to really work to keep my desk tidy and avoid working from the comfort of my bed. Working from a dining room table can also be a solution to this issue. The key is not to get your butt into bed or onto the couch!
An even more productive solution, I have found, has been to actually work on campus. I find myself ashamed to even have Facebook open when I’m working on a study floor in the library, which means my time becomes much less wasted. Avoid common areas and couch studying because they can be distracting and noisy.
There is no sure-fire way to improve your academic performance and time management skills. What’s important is to figure out what does and doesn’t work for you. It’s also going to take focus and perseverance, something I haven’t quite mastered at this point. My hope for the upcoming school year is to change that though, and hopefully you can too!