Back to School How-To

Hey there Sunshine!  It’s the middle of the night, going on the very early morning hours. I had a bizarro day (may have witnessed a very injured and mentally unstable young man steal a wheelchair and run away from a hospital ER), and that’s making my anxiety go through the roof tonight. When the Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend was heading off to bed, I had to sit up in front of the TV for a bit doing my deep breathing, because I was sure I was about to have a heart attack.

Oh well, hope your night is going much better!

This whole combination of bizarro situations and ridiculously high anxiety DID remind me that school is starting soon, though. I moved a month into high school to a whole new city, to a newly opened high school. Somehow, my parents thought that the fact that the school was new meant that no one there knew each other yet, so I should have no problem making friends. Had to finish my fifth and final year at a new school back in my hometown. After a few years off, went back to college, only to leave after only getting my one year certificate (instead of the 2-year diploma) due to an incident there. Years after that, went back to university as a “mature student” and spent more than 5 years working on my degrees, only to let anxiety get the best of me and not apply to graduate school.

So believe me when I say that I KNOW back to school anxiety.

The thing is, there are so many different things that can worsen your back to school anxiety: financial woes, social anxiety, moving to a new place, the unknown in general, education itself, fear of the future……….  I keep seeing these articles on how to handle your Back To School Anxiety, but they only have band-aid solutions to things.  Sure, lavender might help you relax, but will it help you save money on school supplies and textbooks? Eating lots of veggies is great for your all-around physical and mental health, but how will that help you meet people? Companion animals are great, but most dorm rooms don’t allow them.

So what’s a student to do?

Hopefully, I can shed a little light on that for ya’ll. I researched things back then for myself, and research them now for friends and roommates. I’m digging through my ancient external hard drive, stacks of old half-used notebooks (I dare you to find a troubled writer who doesn’t have at least half a dozen of these in their home), and my very large pile of Research I Printed To Read Later But Never Did. I’m combing Tumblr blogs (I’ll have links to a few that are super helpful), old PowerPoint presentations, and that forgotten “Stuff For My Blog” folder in my Bookmarks. Basically, I’m digging through all my shit to find that shit that works best for you.

So, I’ll try and pour as much of this anxiety-fuelled awakeness into my research for now. Hopefully, I’ll have some posts for you on this all this week, while you’re getting ready for Back to School.

 

ALWAYS know the rules!

Playing this crazy game called like is a little like…… playing the Game of Life. There are certain rules that need to be followed. If you don’t follow then, you risk failure.

This is especially true when you’re looking at your course load for school. Not every school has the same rules regarding grades, required courses, and how their Degree Audits work. Just because you think you know what you’re doing when planning out your degree, doesn’t mean you actually do. You ALWAYS need to check these things out!

Case in point: I know of someone who was working on a second degree. At one point, she was told that she needed three more courses before she could graduate. Since she was committed to a full year of part-time studies due to her job, she split the three classes between two semesters, and filled in some of the gaps with courses she had already taken.

THIS is where things get a little hairy.

You see, she decided that, since she had already passed these courses, she didn’t need to pass them again. At some schools, when taking the same course multiple times, the school will take the best mark you get and put it on your transcripts.

Not this school.

Here, if you retake a course, your make the second time around is the mark you’re left with. It doesn’t matter if that mark is better than the first time, or worse: that mark is the one you get.

When this person took her courses the second time, she didn’t bother actually taking them. She focused all of her time on her last three courses, and her job. She didn’t even write the exams for her other courses. So, she failed.

Fast forward a few months, and she checked to see why she didn’t get a letter about graduation yet. Low and behold, she was three courses short! It took months of negotiation with the University to straighten things out.

She was lucky. The University forgave those three failed courses. Don’t count on that happening for you.

If you want to retake a course, check with someone to see how this will effect you overall in the event of failure.

Get The Most Out of EVERYTHING You Can

Yes, once again I’ve been gone for quite some time. While I am working part-time at a liquor store, I’m still looking for work. There have been quite a few obstacles in my way, that it turns out I could have taken care of a lot of these obstacle while I was still a student. Which brings me to today’s post: Certification matters!

When I was a University student, the school offered a variety of workshops, seminars, free classes, volunteer opportunities, and all the things that you need to prove that you are an educated, responsible grown-up person who deserves a job. And, for the most part, we all ignored them. I did quite a bit of volunteering, but didn’t bother trying to get that put onto my Co-Curricular Transcript (a transcript of school-approved clubs and societies, and the different positions you could hold in each). In five years, I went to maybe a handful of workshops and seminars. For the most part, I figured that I didn’t need them, since I already knew what they were about.

There were Microsoft workshops offered at one point. For a very small (less than $30) fee, you could take a weekend workshop on a specific Microsoft Office program, and receive an official Certificate upon completion. Back then I thought, “Hell, I know Microsoft Word! I type essays, and wrote out a resume, and even create meeting minutes for one of my clubs! Why would I need  to waste a weekend learning about it?”

Turns out I needed it for that CERTIFICATE. After school, all those jobs I thought I could get easily wanted PROOF that I knew how to use that program. Instead of paying $30 back then to get that piece of paper, I am taking a $225 workshop. Yes, $225!

It turns out, all those things I had shunned in my University days actually mean something afterwards.  Sure, I joined clubs, but never strove to get a leadership role. I used Microsoft Office programs, but never got proof that I can use them. I worked on-campus positions, and volunteered with students and staff, without securing professional references. Basically, I wasted my time.

So take the time to get those little bits of experience (and paper) that will propel you higher than your peers. It’s not always good enough to type out papers and volunteer; you need proof! Get a certificate, a letter, some sort of documentation that proves your knowledge. And while you’re at it, make as many contacts as possible.

(I’ll cover making contacts and creating a portfolio at a later date. They are both VERY important things that never seem to get taught to students.)

Time Budgets

Sometimes it feels like there just aren’t enough hours in a day to get everything done.  Other times, it’s like there is absolutely nothing to do for hours on end. And in Netflix time, you’re 23 episodes in to Supernatural and decide you have just enough time for another season or two before bed.

No matter how you spend your time, though, just remember: you have 168 hours to use each week.

That’s right: 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, equals 168 hours in every week.

I know that seems like a lot and not enough at the same time, so just take your planning one step at a time now.

1) What commitments do you have?

This is where you factor in the things you absolutely must do on a set schedule: classes, labs, work, and other things you simply MUST be in attendance at. Write these things down in your day planner (don’t know how to use one? We’ll get to that another day). Add up how many hours you have in your week that you just cannot use for anything else, because they’re already scheduled.

2) Check your “time sucks”.

Yes, “time sucks”. These are the things you might forget about, even though they’re unavoidable. This could be anything from commuting to and from campus, getting to and from different parts of campus, or those awkward bits of time between classes (seriously, who thought a 15 minute break between classes would be productive?). Make sure you figure out roughly how much time these will take up.

3) Now throw in your basics.

Everyone needs to sleep. Some people only need 5 hours a night, while others need a good 9 hours to feel productive. Figure out how much sleep you need, and factor that into your schedule! Don’t forget the time it takes you to prepare and eat your meals. And (many people forget to factor this in) most of us don’t just roll out of bed looking (and feeling) fabulous. Make sure you factor in whatever time you need to get ready to start your day. (Personally, I need at least 1 1/2 hours to wake up, shower, have my coffee, check email, and get myself looking presentable)

4) Now you can plan everything else.

Take a look at the hours you’re not using yet. THESE are the hours for you to do everything else you want to do. This is when you study, socialize, volunteer, party, and marathon Netflix.

5) Be realistic.

Don’t schedule every spare moment for studying. You’ll burn out pretty damn fast. Don’t plan every day to keep you on campus from 8am until 10pm. Don’t plan nothing but work and studying, with no fun. No matter how dedicated you are, you need to take a break from time to time. Frequent breaks ensure that you won’t burn out too fast. If you see that you have a rough couple of weeks, make sure to plan a night out (or a night in to relax). If you see that you have an easy few weeks, try to throw in a little extra study time to work on things you’ll have less time for later.