by Augusta Williams in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences, MPH ’15
Surprisingly, we’re officially almost halfway through the semester. Second-year students have applied for graduation and are either searching for jobs or have been accepted into medical and professional schools. First-year students are applying to practicums, adjusting to life after the Core, and wondering if spring will ever arrive in NYC. As we approach the halfway point in the semester, midterms are quickly approaching. So if you haven’t already, now is the time to start preparing.
1. Don’t wait until the last minute.
Whenever I have to study, it suddenly seems like I have a list of chores and errands that need to be finished before I can crack open a book. It becomes extremely important to clean my apartment and cook elaborate meals. Save yourself that agonizing feeling—start preparing for midterms now.
2. Treat yo’self!
As you are working, be sure to reward yourself for reaching your goals and completing various tasks. If you are productive for a certain amount of time, treat yourself to a smoothie or a social media break. Try not to cash in on your reward until you really deserve it, as this will keep you motivated longer.
3. Plan ahead, especially for things to go wrong.
If the professor tells you that the assignment will take roughly 6-8 hours, plan on 10-12. Things tend to go wrong when you would least like them to—aka, midterm season.
4. Make specific goals.
For each larger task, I make specific goals. This way, ‘study for biostats test’ turns into more achievable milestones like review notes, make equation sheet, meet with TA, review homework problems. This allows me to feel like I have actually been accomplishing something.
5. Find a different study spot.
The typical study spots in Hammer and ARB are usually filled with other high-strung, stressed out grad students who are pretty much running on caffeine and chocolate (at least in the EHS department). Find a seat that suits your desired study habits, or save yourself the hassle and find a new place to work—whether it’s your favorite coffee shop, a friend’s apartment, or another library. The change in scenery will increase the connections to the material in your memory and may even increase your productivity.
6. Eat healthy.
It is easy to turn to the trusty comfort foods during a stressful time. However, as our public health education has taught us, when we eat healthier, we feel better. Sometimes chips and frozen yogurt may be necessary to make it through the week, but throw in a salad and some protein in there as well.
7. Caffeine before your nap.
This one may seem counterintuitive. Caffeine takes 15-20 minutes to take effect in your body. So next time you are feeling a little sluggish, drink your latte, and take a quick power nap. Then you’ll be ready to power through your work.
8. Use colors.
I may follow this one a little too closely as I’m a bit of an organizational freak, but I find color coding my classes, my lists, my notes, etc. super helpful. I find this most useful when I’m making an equation sheet or study guide. If you are more of a visual learner, like I am, you may more easily remember something on an exam based on the color you used when writing it.
9. Go outside.
Despite the frigid cold that we have been dealing with here in NYC lately, getting outside for some fresh air and sunshine can really refresh you. Even a quick walk around the block to get some coffee and snacks will help wake you up.
10. Spend time with friends and laugh.
I believe that getting together with friends, commiserating over similar struggles, and finding a reason to laugh can relieve a lot of stress. If you schedule this as a study group, it can even appear to aid in your productivity!
11. Get a good night’s sleep.
If you are well rested, both your body and mind will function better. If you’re running on little or no sleep, you could actually perform worse than if you had traded some of your studying time for sleeping. Plus, your brain keeps processing material while your sleeping, so you’re not being completely unproductive during that time!
12. Take a deep breath, you’ll be fine!