Dealing with Distractions

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You’re ready to write a short paper for your English class. It’s only a two-page response to a novel you’ve been reading, so it shouldn’t take long. You sit down with your laptop. Before you start typing, you decide to check Facebook quickly. You comment on a friend’s post. Then you see that another friend has posted a funny cat video. You click on it, of course. You Tube recommends more cat videos; you watch two more before you start typing your essay.

Three hours, ten texts, three e-mails, and one conversation with your roommate later, you finish the essay and hit save. You don’t have time to proofread: you have history class, dinner, and a pickleball meeting ahead of you. Then, after pickleball, you need to study for that big biology test tomorrow.

You spent three hours doing what you could have done in an hour or less. And you didn’t even do it very well.

Sound familiar? Modern life is filled with distractions — and not just for students. Parents, faculty, and staff find their heads spinning between various screens and obligations. But to be productive, all of us have to put down our devices, prioritize our workload, and focus on the task at hand.

No one is saying you have to give up social media, texting, extracurricular activities, or your social life. We also know that some students have jobs and family responsibilities. However, if you’re a full-time student, college is your full-time position. As with any job, you should arrange your life around your studies, not your studies around your life.

Here are some tips to keep you grounded and focused as you navigate college life.

1.) Find Your Place. You need a space where you can concentrate on your work with a minimum of distractions. This may not be your dorm room or apartment! Consider studying in the library or Academic Support Center. When you really need to focus, check out the study carrels on the library’s second floor. You can get a key to one at the library’s circulation desk.

2.) Turn It Off! Turn off your music, phone, TV, and other devices while you study. If you’re working on a computer or tablet, resist the urge to keep multiple windows open. Tell yourself you’ll look at Instagram after you finish the paper. Some students insist they need background noise in order to concentrate. If this sounds like you, try listening to soft music during study sessions. However, don’t try to combine socializing, web surfing, or television with academics. They don’t mix.

3.) Schedule It. Fill out a Weekly Schedule. In addition to your classes, work, practices, and other commitments, make sure you block off time to study. Dedicate a few hours to studying most days of the week. For example, if you know that you’ll be working on assignments from 2-5 every Thursday, you’ll be able to reserve the evening for food, fun, and sleep.

4.) Remember Why You’re Here. You chose to attend college because you had a dream: you wanted to become an expert in something or prepare for a particular career. Everything else is secondary, including extracurricular activities, entertainment, and your social life. Remind yourself of your goals whenever any distraction tempts you.

5.) Focus on Fun. Heard about work-life balance? It’s hard to achieve when your work and study times blend. Imagine if you didn’t have to do your chemistry homework and catch up with friends simultaneously. You’d do a better job on the assignment – and you could relax and enjoy your friends’ company.

Imagine seeing your grades improve and having more time for yourself. Imagine being less stressed about your classes and doing better work than ever. Eliminating distractions and focusing on your studies can help you become more effective in all areas of your life. Here’s the best part of it: you don’t need to buy anything to achieve this balance. You have all the tools you need to become the best student you can be.

-Dorothy A. Dahm

The Post-Transfer Blues: Adjusting, Settling, and Thriving

Starting new things can be scary.

Even students who are excited to start college will likely report that some things scared them—and that’s when they start as a freshman in the Fall with everyone else.

Switching schools can offer a whole new set of frightening experiences. Starting new in the Spring means everything is new to you even when it isn’t to your classmates.

As someone who has made this transition, I know how overwhelming this can seem. But don’t fret! There’s no reason your transition has to go poorly.

Don’t Hide. If you’re anything like me, your first response to finding yourself in a strange new circumstance is to do as little as you can. It can be very tempting to move only from your lectures to the dining hall, and back to the inviting cave of your blankets, stuffed animals and laptop. This is a bad idea – and I speak from experience. Hiding in your room won’t help you feel more comfortable in your new school.

Try talking to people. Maybe sit in the library, or a public lounge, or the common room in your suite instead of your bed. Try leaving your door open. It’s okay if you don’t feel like going to supper every time your suitemates invite you, but you shouldn’t turn them down every time either. Chances are they’re really nice and want to help you settle in. Let them help you.

Get Involved. Okay, I get it, your Intro to Psych class may not be the best place to meet people with shared interests. But there are other ways to make friends. Castleton has many clubs; check out the list and see if any of them might be fun. If you’ve already found a couple of people who’d like to have a Quidditch team, but you want to find a whole bunch more, you can see about starting your own club. (If anyone wants to start a Quidditch team, let me know).

Getting active through community service can also be a great way to meet people and accomplish something good!

Go Home, But Also Don’t Go Home. If being closer to home was one of the reasons why you chose to come to Castleton, then you should take advantage of it! If it’s 2pm on a Friday, you’re done with class, and home is within a couple hours, go for it. Leaving school, especially in your own car, can make a world of difference in reminding you that you’re not actually trapped.
The flip side is that going home too much won’t help you. It’ll make school seem even more foreign, cut down on your chances to make friends, and probably only make you feel more homesick. If you find some way to cheat and go home three nights in one week, you’ll only find it more depressing the next week when you can’t swing it.

Don’t Sweat it. At first it may feel like you’ve come to an alien planet where no one is interested in anything that you like, and no one likes you. When you start to feel this way, do something to remind yourself that your entire life isn’t based on this place. Decide to stop worrying about it. Relax.

Once you stop worrying, you will find that suddenly you don’t feel like such an outsider. You probably won’t notice it happening, but before you know it you’ll have places you like to sit, an inspiring professor, and a great group of friends to study, commiserate, and hang out with.

-Amber Clark

Amber Clark is a former transfer student and a recent graduate of Castleton University.