It’s a typical evening at college. You are armed with your textbook, laptop, notes, and your churning brain to write a report for your science class. Your fingers hover over the keyboard as you try to force your brain to form words to type. Nothing is coming to your mind, and you are frustrated. It feels like you are trying to decipher the English language to be able to use it.
Frustrated, you reach for your phone or open another tab on your laptop to check on your social media. You text your friends, you tweet about how hard it is to write this science report, you look up a question that randomly flew into your head, and you end up reading an article about cats and how they have complete control over you. Suddenly, you realize an hour has passed, and you haven’t even tried to go back to type your report.
Sounds familiar, right? Okay, maybe it wasn’t a cat article, but you get my point: we all get distracted! In our everyday modern life, we are surrounded by so many distractions that it can be hard to focus on our daily tasks. You are not alone! Your fellow students, professors, and even your parents have to battle distractions to get their work done every single day.
It is our job to train ourselves with healthier habits that can help us stay on task and finish what our homework. That being said, it does not mean you cannot have a social life or a paid job. However, as a full-time student, you have a full-time job to complete and balance your studies and work. You need to arrange your life around your classes, not the other way around.
Here are some helpful tips to maintain a less stressful and distraction-free semester:
- Find Your Niche. Have a place that is designated as your study area. If you repeatedly use the same area over a long period of time, it is easier for the brain to seamlessly go into homework or study mode. This can be anywhere that works for you! If you need extra quiet time, you can always go to the circulation desk in the library and ask for a key to one of the study carrels on the second floor.
- Turn It Off. Simply turn off your electronics so that if a notification sounds or lights up your screen, there will not be a need to check your phone. Some people need background music to study. Perhaps that’s you! If so, put on some light, instrumental music, and let your creative juices flow!
- Plan It. Set aside a block of time for your studies. In that way, you will go to your study place and have time saved for that use only just as you would for a class.
- Do Intervals. Research shows that if you study or work for 20-25 minutes on a paper and then take 5-10 minute break, you will think more quickly and complete assignments faster. The study interval gives the brain time to focus and relax.
- Balance. Have time for your studies and for your social life. It is hard, if not impossible, to juggle both at the same time and play catch up on one or both. Balancing allows you to relax and enjoy your friends’ company and have a better quality of work. Schedule time for your studying and homework and then make time for your social life. To make this more effective for you, start papers sooner and spend an hour each day working on that paper. The result will be less stress and more time to spend with friends.
Imagine your grades improving, having a social life, and stressing less about your classes. Sounds pretty awesome, doesn’t it? By eliminating distractions and promoting healthier habits of studying, you become more effective in different areas of life, especially when you graduate from college and move onto your career. The best part is that the tool that you need to accomplish distraction-free studying is you. You are your own key to success.
Sierra Fales is a junior English major at Castleton University.
Before the school year began, you were more than excited for a new year and a new team. It felt so good to say you were a collegiate student athlete—the best of both worlds. But then….reality kicked in: an exam on Monday, a team meeting Tuesday, two ten page papers due by Wednesday, an away game on Thursday and community service on Friday?!…and, of course, the infamous question: “Do I even get to eat today?!”
Don’t worry—it’s NOT impossible. Take it from someone with a cumulative GPA of 3.9 and four years of varsity experience. Since freshman year, I have had over fifteen professors and have experienced both the soccer and track and field teams. Check out these strategies I have developed to keep my stress under control:
- Organize. The first step of managing your time is organizing your time. When I say organize, I don’t just mean color coordinating notebooks and planners. Have a calendar on which you write sport AND school events. Make “to-do” lists and determine which items are the most important—complete these first.
- Plan ahead. Classes and practices are bound to interfere with one another. Before this happens, carefully look over your comprehensive schedule. When you come across a conflict, be proactive. Immediately inform your coach and professors, and let them know what your situation is. All parties will respond more graciously if you inform them well in advance—that’s a guarantee!
- Communicate. You are not the first student-athlete to struggle with time management. Coaches and professors have taught many just like you, so don’t be afraid to reach out to them. Not only is this suggested, it’s completely necessary! No one can read your mind, so you need to advocate for yourself. Let someone know if things seem to be getting out of hand. Coaches and professors are not only here to teach; they are here to help. Let them.
- Make time for yourself. This is much easier said than done. However, it’s the most important. If you don’t take care of your body, you will underperform in school and sports. Taking care of your body doesn’t only pertain to diet and exercise, but also sleep habits, stress control, and mental health. Bad habits are easily formed and their negative consequences are unavoidable. If you aren’t sure how to be healthy in all the aforementioned aspects, talk to a captain or coach, or stop by the Wellness Center.
If you have practiced all of these strategies, and you still feel overwhelmed, take a moment to consider your options. Ask yourself why you are playing the sport in the first place. Playing a collegiate sport is a lot of people’s dreams, but the reality is that it’s not for everybody. Make sure you are playing for yourself and not for anyone else. Play for the right reasons, and don’t settle for anything that makes you less than happy.
Finally, sit back and enjoy the ride. These years fly by, and it’s important you enjoy each one of them. Please, always remember, you are never alone in this crazy college world.
-Christiana R. Carmichael
Christiana Carmichael is a senior Education Major and four-year collegiate athlete.
Tis the season for witches and warlocks, ghosts and goblins. Maybe you’re donning a costume, attending a Halloween ‘do, or indulging in a little candy. But if you’re a college student, chances are, your biggest fears may not appear in horror movies. Here are some “monsters” you may encounter this semester and some “tricks” to help you dispel them.
Deadly Deadlines: They sneak up on you. And they often appear in pairs or trios: you know, your biology paper is due on the same day as your English essay and your history test. And deadlines don’t care about your job, social life, or family.
Well, you can’t make your deadlines disappear if you want to stay in college. But if you prepare for them, they can lose their ability to intimidate you. Use a calendar or planner to keep tracks of tests, papers, and projects. And instead of cramming for an exam or writing a paper in one night, break assignments and study sessions into manageable chunks over a few days or weeks.
Terrifying Teachers: Well, “terrifying” is a strong word. But some classes are more challenging and some professors less approachable than others. And if you don’t understand your professor’s expectations, it can be a little scary.
The good news is, professors can lose their power to terrify. Have a question about an assignment, grade, or class? It’s best to approach your instructor directly. Don’t know how to start the conversation? Talk to one of the counselors at Academic Support. They have a few tricks up their sleeves.
Haunting Habits: In the scariest movies, the main characters discover something terrifying about themselves: a potential for evil or a shaky grasp on reality. It’s no different in college. What’s holding you back is probably inside you: social media addiction, procrastination, maybe even a belief that you can’t cut it academically or personally.
Dispelling bad habits can be hard – most of us can’t manage it overnight. Sometimes, we make progress only to fall back. But the first step is acknowledging that they exist. After that, make a game plan, meet with a counselor, and do anything you have to do to replace destructive thoughts and actions with healthy ones. Keep going even when you stumble. It will get easier.
Ghastly Grades: Sometimes, despite your best efforts to keep the other horrors at bay, you’re confronted with Ghastly Grades anyway. A test or paper, a semester or academic year, end poorly. What’s most frightening is that they can make you give up entirely.
But don’t give in! Ghastly Grades may feel like the end of the world – or your academic career – but they don’t have to be. If you’re struggling academically, meet with one of the counselors at Academic Support. They help you develop a plan to get back on track. And while you’re there, they’ll tell you a few stories about other students who’ve beaten Ghastly Grades and achieved their goals.
We hope these tricks make your time at Castleton a treat. Happy Halloween from all of us at Academic Support!
-Dorothy A. Dahm
Having a good time, going out with friends, and splurging on something you really want are all good and well, but they can make staying with your budget difficult.
A budget is one of the most helpful tools students can use over the course of their college career. Unfortunately, successful budgeting can be difficult. Here are some of the best tips to stay on budget and help you save money!
- Know Yourself: You’ll have to know yourself to set workable goals for managing and saving money. That is, maybe you want to save $100.00 each month, but you know that by the end of the month you will spend at least $15.00 of that money on a meal with your friends. Plan to save $85.00 each month and work $15.00 into your budget to spend with friends or on something fun.
- Wants vs. Needs: Learning to differentiate between wants and needs can be incredibly useful when you’re trying to create a successful budget. For example, a candy bar might be a want, but a new notebook for class could be a need. By writing a list of your daily, weekly, or monthly wants and needs, you will be better able to factor them into a realistic budget. Creating a wants and needs list can also help you cut back on impulse buying, which will help you save money!
- Organize and Prioritize: Watch where your money is going and what you’re spending it on. Prioritizing your expenses can be as simple as listing them out and organizing them based on how much they cost, how important they are to your daily life, and if they need to be paid in a certain amount of time. For example, the list below shows how a student might prioritize expenses and then allocate their income accordingly:
3.) College/loan payment
- The Right Tools: It is important to use the budgeting tools that work for you. If paper and pen will help you create a budget and stick to it, use paper and pen. If you need to use an Excel spreadsheet to organize your finances, that’s easy to do. If you’re like me and forget to write things down or keep track of them, a budgeting app, such as MINT, is a great way to go!
Having a monthly budget will help you reduce your spending and track where your money is going. Best of all, you’ll be less likely to scramble for money in unexpected situations. So even though budgeting isn’t always glamorous or fun, it’s something everyone should try to incorporate into their lives.
Challenge yourself to create a budget and stick to it – even if it’s just for a month.
Christin Martin is a senior double majoring in social work and sociology. During her time at Castleton, she has served as a Senior Community Advisor and a TRIO Mentor. She has also co-coordinated the Game of Life, a financial literacy game for undergraduate students.
College is a time of big changes in your life, and those changes can be both pleasant and absolutely miserable. For me, they were miserable.
I went to a small high school in Vermont, where I was the captain of the football and lacrosse teams and just an overall popular guy within the school and the community. Life was good for me; I had as many great friends as I could possibly ask for, and I was content with where I was.
When I rolled into college my freshmen year, I tried to be optimistic – for about a week – but not long after that, I started getting feelings of regret and loneliness. Castleton was the absolute last place that I wanted to be. It was hard for me to leave my life, my family, and, more importantly, my best friends, who I had been with my whole life. I spent that whole first year miserable and depressed. I went home every single weekend, trying my hardest not to leave my past life behind me.
Life since has gotten much better, all because of a few simple changes. These tips certainly will not be universally helpful, but if I can help even one person get through some hard times, I will feel better about my tough start.
So that said, here are some things I wish I knew as a freshman:
You are not too cool to participate: This was a big one for me. I roomed with a friend from high school, so when the time came to participate in orientation events or activities put on by community advisors, I turned up my nose at the idea and refused to get out and do some events. I chose to just be with the person I knew best at school. I missed out on opportunities to meet new people and make friends by not participating in campus events.
Realize that college IS a new chapter in your life: As painful as it may be, high school is over, and you’ll be better off not trying to avoid that fact. Keep your great memories and hold them close, but it is time to go out and make some new ones!
Talk to someone: Alright… to be honest, I heard this from professors all the time especially in first-year-seminar, and I neglected to listen. Don’t be like me. Talk to someone. Whether it’s a friend, or a roommate, a professor, a CA, or even someone in the Wellness Center, I promise it will feel better if someone knows how you are feeling.
Make campus your home: Going home on the weekends is great. I still do it from time to time. But for me, each time I go home, it makes it harder for me to want to come back. So try to make your dorm as comfortable and as homelike as possible, and stay on campus on weekends. It is hard to get a college dorm to replace the place where you grew up, but the more at home you can feel at school, the better.
Evaluate your options: All colleges are different, college isn’t for everyone, and that is perfectly fine. Evaluate if Castleton is the place for you, and if it isn’t, try something new.
This is by no means a one-size-fits-all solution to a happy freshmen year. But if I had done these things, my first year here could have been much better.
Take a deep breath, and just know that everything will be okay.
Isaac is a senior multidisciplinary studies major with a concentration in special education. In his spare time, he volunteers for Special Olympics.
At one point, Jasmine Keefer didn’t know if she’d be able to attend college. Her parents didn’t have the resources to help her, and as first-generation college student, she found the financial aid maze bewildering. “If I wanted to go to school, I’d have to pay for it myself,” she says. She knew she’d have to work two jobs to pay for her tuition – and even then, affording college would be a struggle.
But when Jasmine arrived at Castleton University in Fall 2014, help was waiting. Through the Summer Transition Program (STP), a week-long program for new students, she grew comfortable on campus and formed firm friendships. She also connected with the Academic Support Center’s (ASC) full-time counselors. Kelley Beckwith, Director of Academic Services, helped Jasmine unravel the intricacies of financial aid. With the help of Kelley and Castleton’s Financial Aid officers, Jasmine found a way to pay for her education. She’d still have to work, but she could remain at Castleton and pursue her goal of becoming a teacher.
But Jasmine did more than stay at Castleton – she thrived. Today, Jasmine is a senior multidisciplinary studies major with a concentration in math and a 3.30 GPA. She is also earning a certificate in civic engagement. After graduation, she hopes to obtain a master’s degree in special education and eventually teach math in a K-6 school.
The breadth of Jasmine’s extracurricular involvement would be impressive even if she weren’t working two part-time jobs while studying full time. She plays trumpet in Castleton’s wind ensemble, jazz band, marching band, and spirit band. Since her sophomore year, she has also served as the treasurer for Phi Eta Sigma, a freshman honor society. Jasmine believes her activities complement her academic endeavors. “My passion is playing trumpet,” she says. “It doesn’t have anything to do with teaching, but it’s important to do something you love.”
While Jasmine’s academic prowess and time management skills are impressive, her personal warmth and dedication are even more remarkable. Since her first year, she has worked at the ASC as a learning center assistant, helping senior support staff with reception and special projects. “LCAs should be welcoming and knowledgeable about our department, and Jasmine has been wonderful in that regard,” says her supervisor. At Castleton, Jasmine has also served as a STP mentor, TRIO Texting mentor, and, most recently, STP lead mentor. As a mentor, Jasmine nurtures students with the same fears and struggles – financial, personal, and academic – she once faced. For Jasmine, that role doesn’t end once the program concludes. “The most satisfying thing has been maintaining relationships with mentees,” she says. “It’s cool students feel comfortable coming to me with problems.”
Jasmine’s dedication doesn’t just impress her fellow students. During her time at Castleton, she has earned the respect of faculty and staff. Becky Eno, academic counselor, has known Jasmine since she enrolled in Summer Transition three years ago. She admires Jasmine’s persistence. “Jasmine has faced financial and personal challenges every year,” Becky says. “Yet her determination to succeed, her work ethic, her willful resilience always triumph in the end. She is an inspiration.”
-Dorothy A. Dahm
You’ve started dreading Biology. Your lab partner is nice enough, but she doesn’t do much. You have to ask her to help with the task itself, and she texts her boyfriend while you prepare the lab report. You try to get her to contribute, but she always says, “I don’t know” and copies whatever you write.
Then there’s Business Management. In groups of four, you’re working on your final project: a plan for a new business. The assignment constitutes 30% of your grade, so you want to do a good job. You’re also excited about applying the concepts you’ve been studying in class. But one guy has already appointed himself CEO of your fledgling corporation. He’s not interested in your ideas; in fact, he doesn’t let anyone do very much. This is just fine with one member of your group who is delighted to be off the hook. But two of you are getting frustrated: it’s your education, too!
If you’re a student, you know the perils of group work. Since kindergarten, you’ve also heard teachers rave about the importance of working with others.
Like it or not, collaboration is part of the academic and professional world. After graduation, you will have to contend with other people – even if you work from home, run your own business, or pursue a freelance career. Often, your colleagues will be warm, supportive, and inspiring. Sometimes, you will find yourself with a lazy, stubborn, or overbearing co-worker. You’ll have to contend with these situations without clenching your teeth, compromising your health, or leaving your position.
Here are some tips to make group projects less stressful:
1.) Set Boundaries: Before you get started, delegate tasks. Determine who is responsible for each part of a project and set deadlines. This can be casual: “I’ll answer questions one and three if you do two and four.” With larger projects, you may want to establish more formal requirements: “Rick will write the Procedures section, Liana the Analysis, and Chelsea the Recommendations. We’ll meet to discuss our drafts a week before the paper is due.” Get these arrangements in writing – or save e-mail correspondence about them – so that there is no confusion about responsibilities.
2.) Be the Teammate You Want. Don’t be lazy, don’t be disparaging, and don’t take over. It’s normal to be frustrated when the material is difficult or when your partners’ standards are different than yours. If you’re struggling with the project, get help – from your professor, classmates, or the Academic Support Center. If you find yourself with well-intentioned, but less skilled group members, help them succeed. For example, if your partner is not a strong writer, you might proofread his work and tactfully make suggestions. You might also refer him to the Writing Clinic. When he does something well, tell him so.
3.) Document Everything. Keep track of who attends meetings and contributes to the project. If a teammate isn’t pulling his or her own weight, you will be able to bring specific grievances to the professor. Use this option as a last resort: only approach your instructor after you have talked with your group member. If you must complain about a classmate, be professional. Don’t tattle or rant. Instead, express your concerns in a well-written e-mail, and attach any documentation you have.
4.) Put Your Project in Perspective. Sometimes, this means writing the lab report yourself if you want a good grade in the course. At other times, you’ll have to shrug off your lackluster discussion group. Weigh each assignment to determine how much time you want to spend nurturing group dynamics.
Regard difficult group work as you would any other obstacle: a chance to prove to yourself and your professors that you have the maturity and determination to overcome a challenge. Take a deep breath, and tell yourself that you’re developing skills you’ll use the rest of your life.
-Dorothy A. Dahm