Saturday, 18 January 2014

How to Get Through “No-Break” November (Also Great for “All-the-Work” April)

By Virginia Dobson

At my college, the last few weeks of every fall semester have names. The week of (American) Thanksgiving is called Hate Week; because that is the week our (American) football team plays our arch rival, U (sic) Georgia. The week after that is called Hell Week. This is the last week professors are technically allowed to give tests, so naturally they all do. Penultimately there is Dead Week, also known as ‘the week preceding finals’ by those who are also trying to make ‘Fetch’ happen. And finally, no pun intended, comes Finals Week. In my experience now, at the beginning of November, is the best time to get a jump on last minute learning. This is really important, and has helped me make it through the semester by being the kind of student I probably should have been all along.

1. Plan: There’s a saying about how failing to plan is planning to fail. It’s completely true. At this point in the semester, everyone is either in denial or running around like a headless chicken. Plan out when you are going to study, what you are going to work on (homework, exam prep, review, etc.) and who you are going to study with. Be very aware of what you need to do. You know what works (or at least what doesn’t), schedule it down and commit. And just to be safe, take a page from the electric code and make sure to allocate 125% of whatever time and resources you think your workload is going to take. Stuff happens.

2. Commit: Sometimes I really hate commitment because it gets in the way of doing fun things. But when I think of how terrible my life will be if I don’t graduate, I make a very important exception (and so should you). My best friends right now are all in my classes, my mom is doing my laundry for the next month (thanks Mom!), and I had an important talk with my boyfriend (an understanding engineering grad student). Like some of you, if I don’t stay really on top of things I tend to have the attention span of a gold fish and things don’t get done. Have to lock yourself in the quiet room beside your advisor’s office and block everything resembling fun on the internet? It’s crunch time, you should do that. Do whatever it takes to get it done.

3. Be Flexible: This might seem odd, talking about flexibility, but it is crucial. In a strictly academic sense, you never know when you need to go to extra office hours or when a review session will pop up. Realistically, you are going to burn out and need a way to blow off steam when it starts to impact your rate of productivity. Reward yourself, sleep (occasionally), and just make sure that you don’t put off something off for more than a day.

Most of this information is very general, but I feel that this is necessary because everyone works and studies in different ways. Later, I plan on writing a how-to guide for engineering students on how to keep yourself accountable when you are easily distracted, which best reflects my personal experiences. I strongly encourage everyone to become familiar with their learning style and how they best learn the material, because it will help you out a lot in the long run. Remember, the first step is to plan.

Happy studying! And if you have any questions (or advice on your particular accountability style), please speak out in the comments!

Virginia Dobson is a senior electrical engineering student at Georgia Tech. She is a member of the Georgia Tech Honors Program and a sister of Alpha Omega Epsilon, an international engineering sorority. When she is not hitting the books or in class, Virginia enjoys doing research in machine learning and assistive technologies with the Opportunity Research Scholars’ Program and spending time with friends.