Haya Aldossary works on a project in Ellis Library (copy)

Graduate student Haya Aldossary works on a project in 2017 in Ellis Library. Aldossary studied statistics at MU.

The first few weeks of college can be an overwhelming experience, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

Learning how to effectively master time management skills is the first step to success. Whether you are learning how to balance course work, making time for meals, meeting new people, exercising or working, the stress can be conquered. 

Comfort is critical

Creating a comfortable space in a dorm, apartment or house can improve one's mood. Focus on making a comfortable bed. Bringing decorations and other items from home can be beneficial when students feel homesick.

Decorating with plants has proved to reduce stress and increase focus, according to the International Society for Horticultural Science. This may help for long study nights or just on a bad day. 

Read and record

It's important to have some knowledge about the courses you're taking before the first day of class.

Read the syllabus. Write down information the professor has provided, such as grading scale, class materials and basic guidelines about the class structure.  Record the assignments on a calendar, and explore  ways to organize the assignments and their due dates.

Kick the procrastination habit

Multitasking will become a common ritual. There is a lot to do in one day, especially during the first semester of freshman year. After the first semester, reflect on what worked for you and what didn't. This may include study habits, social life and living arrangements.

It's easy to be distracted by social media. Create boundaries, such as setting an alarm to take a break.

Another time-waster may be the wrong study schedule. Find out when your brain is most active during the day. It could be after your morning coffee or in between a class.

Each student has a different learning style, so time will allow you to find what works best for you. 

Procrastination habits can be hard to kick. If you have a big project, break it up into small steps to keep from being overwhelmed the night before it's due. Starting the job is usually the hardest part of conquering a heavy workload.

Create deadlines and reward yourself for sticking to your deadlines. It might be helpful to minimize distractions in a crowded area, use a timer for a work session and breaks and achieve accountability by working with a classmate or friend. 

Establish flexible routines

Flexible routines help students be pro-active about their plans while also allowing room for change. That can alleviate anxiety for those who push themselves to hit a hard deadline. It also provides an opportunity to prioritize plans for the day.

Rather than a weekly plan, try making a daily plan. Strategically use breaks throughout the day. Take time to walk over to a dining hall or the Mizzou Recreation Center. 

Take time for yourself

Use your free-time wisely. There is plenty to do in Columbia, and some of the best experiences will be those that aren't planned. Visit the MKT Trail or Devil's Icebox to explore caves, woodlands and abundant wildlife.

Try journaling, pick up a new hobby, start conversation with someone new, or spend time alone for introspection. A day spent at home may be the reset you need. 

It’s OK to say no. Temptation may be difficult to manage, especially when it comes to social events. Remind yourself that there will be plenty of time to participate in social events.

Remember why you’re here

Doing well in class doesn't just mean looking over the syllabus and creating a course schedule. It's a good idea to think about the big picture.

Make connections with your professors and peers. Schedule meetings with your advisors to check in about the semester.

Think about the impact of your mistakes and work to resolve them as the semester continues. It's rare for incoming students to have a career in mind, so take the most you can from each class. Your newfound passions may surprise you and lead you on a path you never considered. 

Ask for help

Accepting criticism and rejection is an important skill to learn. It develops a mature mindset. It can also decrease stress and provide insight. No one is perfect, and realizing this early in college will lessen the anxiety you may feel about being a star in every area.

Help is always available. Professors, teaching assistants, academic advisers and the Student Success Center are excellent resources. 

Everyone deserves a break once in a while. College may present the fewest obligations you’ll ever have, so take advantage of what MU and Columbia has to offer.

  • General Assignment reporter, Summer 2021 Studying publication design Reach me at gelh8d@umsystem.edu, or in the newsroom at 573-882-5700

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