Christy Nolan—Every college student has that moment in the semester; that moment when they would rather go to sleep than go to the library, go to lunch rather than read those chapters of the textbook, and watch Netflix rather than start that paper. This lack of motivation tends to happen toward the middle of the semester, usually right before midterms. However, we all know that midterm grades are important and end up hating ourselves at the end of every Sunday for putting all of our work off until the last minute.
A friend of mine once called this the “semester slump.” It’s important to know that every student goes through this rough patch at some point of their college career, if not most of their college career. The “semester slump” is the ultimate test of one’s motivation. The way you adapt to it can differentiate between getting a B- and an A- at the end of the semester, so it’s obviously important to come up with a few strategies to tackle that part of your mind that just wants to take a second nap.
1. My first piece of advice toward tackling the semester slump is to find a fun place to study. I know this sounds so so lame, but I have found that if I study away from my bedroom and go somewhere that makes me feel like I’m already being productive, there’s a better chance that I actually will be productive. Think of this the same way you would think about going to the gym: if you get yourself all ready and actually get there, you are a lot more likely to actually go in and start moving.
For some people, the library serves this role. However, I do not always react productively in a setting where I see a bunch of people that I know. Sometimes people bring friends to keep them focused, but I just see this as another reason to break out the new Snapchat filters and put off the work I went in there wanting to get done.
So, rather than the library, my first favorite “fun” spot to study is Java Junction on Main Street. Not only do they serve phenomenal coffee, but the atmosphere is laid back enough that if you pick a table in the back, you can pop in headphones and get a lot done.
I also like studying next to the big fountain behind the library (donated by the USSR) when the weather is nice. On really warm days, sometimes the wind catches the fountain’s water and mists you so perfectly it feels like mother nature did so on purpose. It’s also a great spot to get a little sun between classes if the weather permits.
I also love to study beside the Erie Canal (it’s such a cool thing to have in our own backyard!). My favorite spot is on the old wooden dock behind Lot D. On nice days sometimes other students crowd over there and hang out too, but if you go at the right time you can catch a nice moment between you, the history in front of you, and a few stray ducks.
Although these are a few of my favorite spots to open a book, I don’t mind sharing. However, it is helpful to try a few places out and ultimately find a favorite spot for yourself.
2. My second piece of advice is to organize yourself when you actually have the motivation. Although this may not help you at this moment, it can save a lot of stress when the “slump” comes around next time. I find it helpful to find a weekly planner and write down all that is due in my syllabi after the first week of class (or starting after Spring Break). This also can pertain to time management in the sense that delegating a specific slot of time for school work makes it more likely that you’ll feel forced to sit up and get that school work done. Whenever a burst of motivation happens to hit you, I think staying organized in as many aspects of your life as possible really helps you push past the days when you don’t want to do much of anything.
3. My final piece of advice to pushing past the “semester slump” is to cut yourself a break. You only get to be this age once, and it’s important to make some good memories in the process. If you get all of your work done during the week, you have more time to make those memories on the couple of days you don’t have class. It’s also important to remember that midterm grades are just a preview of the level of work you have already submitted. You can easily pick up the slack and bring up your grades in the second half of the semester (heck, I’ve done that too many times to count).
I see midterms as a turning point in the semester for many people. This is when you really have to get focused and get going on extra credit opportunities and preparing for final papers and projects. The earlier you prepare yourself, the more time you can afford to allow yourself for fun and enjoying your semester with friends. College is supposed to be challenging, but it’s also supposed to help you grow as an individual. Growth may begin in the classroom, but as a last-semester senior, I have found that most of it takes place in the moments outside of the classroom. That being said, it’s important to take as much out of this experience as you can. One bad grade won’t destroy you, but a bad experience just might.