The Pearce Center’s Tips on Managing the Back-to-School Transition
Coming down with a case of the back-to-school blues? Pause and take a deep breath—you’re not alone. Stress is a natural result of transitioning from summer to school year. While we may have finally outgrown the chaos of “back-to-school” trips to Target for new binders and highlighters, college students still have a long “to-do” list to prepare for a successful new semester. Unfortunately, many of us don’t prioritize checking off those boxes… especially when it still feels like summer outside, “syllabus week” workload is deceivingly light and the Clemson Tigers’ football season consumes our weekends. After the long summer break spent interning, traveling, working part-time jobs and relaxing, getting back into healthy school year routines can be tough. As we begin our fifth week of classes (and only our third full week of classes), the workload is starting to pile up. Rather than feeling overwhelmed or blind-sided, take this opportunity to develop some strategies to succeed through September.
We asked Pearce Center interns how they deal with the inevitable stress of transitioning back into the school year. They shared with us their best practices for ensuring a strong semester, starting with establishing healthy habits early on.
1. Make a schedule that works for you (Time is valuable!)
You might be second-guessing the overly ambitious class schedule that your bright-eyed, idealistic Spring-self created four months ago. The university’s drop date may have passed, but that doesn’t mean it’s too late to modify your schedule. Take note what your day-to-day feels like, and if you’re already feeling overwhelmed by class, work and club commitments, consider making some changes — maybe you adjust your exercise routine, or maybe you choose one extracurricular over another. There’s nothing wrong with cutting back when you realize you’re spread too thin.
“When you get back to campus, there’s instantly a lot on your plate. It’s important to sit down, assess your commitments and realistically determine how much time each requires. It might be that you need to dedicate more time than you expected,” advised senior Communication and women’s leadership student Sallie McLeod.
2. Communicate with your professors (Ask for help!)
Get to know them, use them as resources and become friends with them! Professors hold office hours for a reason — they are generally happy to share additional insights, tips for how to succeed in his/her class and every once in a while, free coffee. Developing a relationship with a professor outside of class can help you feel more confident inside the classroom, too. It’s important to feel comfortable asking questions if you don’t understand something in a lecture, even when you fear it’s a silly question.
Senior Hannah Rohaley, our longest-standing Pearce Center intern said, “Don’t be afraid to ask for help! Reach out to professors or classmates if you’re having trouble with the workload or just understanding content. It can be a hard lesson to learn, but you’ll be better for it.”
3. Do the work before it gets too hard (Actually do your readings!)
Get a jump-start! We all know that procrastinating is bad, yet we all still procrastinate. That’s because it’s a terribly difficult habit to break, and no professor announcing that “procrastination won’t fly in my class” will actually convince you to stop doing it. The best way to combat the inevitable procrastination is to use your time, resources and energy wisely. Tackling assignments head-on, reading ahead and coming to class prepared will make things much easier a month from now — we promise. The more you get done early, the less there is to do later.
Get started on projects and papers when they are assigned to you, rather than the night before they are due. Don’t let the work pile up and overwhelm you; instead, break your work up into manageable chunks and allow yourself to take frequent breaks. Much like the famous Kit KatⓇ jingle taught us, breaking it down helps us succeed.
4. Keep your eye on the prize (You’re here for a reason!)
Unfortunately, many students consider homework assignments to be a tedious burden, rather than an interesting learning opportunity. Senior marketing and communication intern Kylie Miller encourages you to engage with the assigned material. “If you’re an upperclassman, then you’re probably taking mostly major-specific courses this semester. Take a moment to recognize that this is exciting! What you’re learning in the classroom should be of some genuine interest to you, and the material is likely relevant to your future professional career,” said Miller. Give yourself permission to actually enjoy assigned readings. Developing a working knowledge of relevant concepts, theories and skills will benefit you as both a student and a young professional.
Political Science and economics student Ashley Jones reminds us to stay focused on our goals. “Keep your eye on the prize! When feeling defeated or unsure if it is worth it, remember your end goal and how finishing that assignment or studying the extra hour for your test will help you to impact someone else in the future.”
5. Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize
Fall might feel like a fresh start, but that doesn’t mean it’s necessary to re-evaluate every aspect of your life. If you have an exam coming up, then now is not the time to worry about updating your LinkedIn headshot.
Across the board, Pearce Center interns are notorious list-makers. Making daily or weekly lists of important tasks to complete helps us visualize what we need to do and when we need to do it. Ranking your to-do’s in order of importance or by due date will help you better manage your work and commitments. Consider pushing low-stakes tasks to a day when you have more free time to complete them, but make sure you are allotting yourself enough time to relax and spend time with friends.
Here’s another great piece of advice intern Jones had to offer: “When overwhelmed, take a second, breathe and make a list of everything you need to do. From there, prioritize what needs to be done that day and what can be done in the future.”
6. Catch some z’s
A healthy sleep schedule is so important for our bodies, brains and health. Senior English and world cinema student Addison Cox says she changed her sleeping schedule this year, and it’s made a huge difference. “Not getting enough sleep was a huge source of stress for me last year, so I made a bigger effort this semester to make a consistent schedule. I planned my fall schedule intentionally to try to get healthier sleep, and it’s paying off,” said Cox.
If nine hours of undisturbed nightly rest are out of the discussion for you, then naps might be your new best friend. There is no shame in napping; in fact, we encourage taking advantage of some extra snooze time when you get the opportunity. Getting just 20 minutes of rest is scientifically proven to have positive benefits on your performance, mood and alertness. Intern Summey says she “always turns to naps in times of need” and swears by a good midday catnap’s power to “refresh your mind and reset a particularly overwhelming day.”
7. Finally, an important piece of advice we received from Hannah Rohaley:
“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Carve out some time to do something that you enjoy. Your happiness (and sanity) should be a priority as well as school or work.”
By: Kylie Miller and Taylor Summey