Concentrating while studying can often be nothing short of impossible. By being at Washington and Lee, we as students are immersed in a high-pressure environment where we are hyper focused on doing well in school. In fact, a study from the National Survey of Student Engagement found that the average college student spends about 17 hours a week preparing for classes. That being said, it is important to know your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to buckling down and studying away in Leyburn. Pulled from my own experience, the following is a list of tips to help make the second semester blues a little more bearable:
1) Organize, organize, organize
For the longest time, I would often get overwhelmed with the amount of work I had to do in a week or a day. I found that if I organized my time and set priorities for myself, the work load seemed much smaller and attainable. For example, say you have two essays and one project due by the end of the week. The best thing to do is plan out your week and write down when you are going to do each piece. For example, on Monday you could write up to the first body paragraph of one essay and do two slides of a PowerPoint presentation for your project. Or maybe you bang out a paper in one night because that works for you. Whichever way you like to organize your work is the right thing to do, just make sure to write it down in a planner or on your phone and stick to your deadline. You will thank yourself later.
2) Go to office hours
Sometimes when I really hate having to study for a class, I will prioritize going to office hours to ask questions and do problems with my professor. One-on-one interactions with a professor for a half hour leaves a much stronger impression in your memory than simply studying on your own. If you cannot make the designated office hours, consider emailing the professor to set up times to meet. If anything, make sure to go to office hours before a test at least once. It may seem like a hassle at first, but having a set time to sit down and talk with a professor will improve your grade, trust me.
3) Find your study nook
Be honest with yourself for a second and determine what kind of student you are in terms of studying. Are you someone who needs background noise or absolute silence? Are you someone who needs a clean work environment, or do you not care? Are you someone that gets distracted by others easily, or can you not bear absolute isolation? Luckily at Washington and Lee there are many places you can go to find your perfect medium. I had to study hop from multiple places in order to find the right place for me. I love the study rooms in the library because I am isolated in there, but there is still some noise to keep me sane. Plus, I can use the whiteboard walls, which is an added bonus.
4) Study in increments
Whenever I study, I will stop myself in between subjects or find a natural place to take a break. I find that when I have been studying for too long I begin to get tired and lose focus. However, if you give yourself ten minutes to scroll through social media, meditate (try the Calm app!), go for a walk, or do something mindless every so often, your brain will thank you. If you have a really hard time studying, try the 30×5 rule: for every thirty minutes you study, give yourself five minutes to decompress and then dive back in.
5) Music, so much music
Music is essential for me; my music really helps me focus. Some people find this really distracting, so it is up to you whether or not this strategy works. The music keeps me going and eventually becomes background music. If you are not a big playlist maker, I would recommend putting on an artist page you love or a YouTube channel. Some people listen to podcasts, so that might work well, but I find myself wanting to listen to the podcast more than I want to do my homework, so I stick with my music.
6) Motivate yourself with a snack break
This one is dangerous but can be effective. Sometimes, when focusing is really difficult, I will study for a while and reward myself by getting a good drink or snack from Co-op. Obviously, this is not the method you should be doing every twenty minutes, but every once in a while, studying for two hours and treating yourself with a chocolate bar can be worthwhile.
7) Study with someone (the right someone!)
This one is a little tough for me because I am a huge chit-chatter, so having a friend next to me can be distracting at times. However, if you have a person that you work well with, this method can be helpful. If you find a person that is looking to study and not just distract you, you can get a lot done by staying focused on the task at hand. Studying with a partner can help you remember more, so I would recommend studying with someone in your class as opposed to just a friend. If you do not have a common test, paper or project to work on, you are going to get distracted!