OPINION: Maintaining Your GPA and Your Sanity

By Susan Katherine Corkran, Columnist

It’s that wonderful time of the year yet again. Spring on a college campus is marked by sniffling allergies, impatient dreams of summer, and the crippling stress of approaching finals. The coffee-filled library sessions of furious studying and frantic paper-writing have taken their toll, and every weary face declares how little sleep has been enjoyed in the last weeks of the school year. It’s all well and fine to point out that the semester and its stress will all be over soon, but we aren’t there yet. Right now, each and every one of us needs to commit to serious studying and writing as we prove what we have learned in the past few months. It’s a necessary series of challenges, and with hard work, we will have grades to be proud of when it’s all done.

So how do we achieve that lofty goal of success? The key to keeping sane during this busy season lies in knowing how to balance your to do list. I know that multitasking gets a good deal of criticism—some even claim it is impossible. I politely disagree, on the condition that it is done properly. And here’s how you manage just that.

The first step to tackling multiple projects at once is in organizing your time into clean, neat schedules to divide up your agenda each day. Conflicting due dates can make anyone’s heart race, but the situation doesn’t have to be an academic death sentence. Knowing how to manage your time is a skill all of us will need in life long after we’ve left college. When it comes to final papers and cumulative exams, procrastination has to be avoided. Full stop. I’m sorry that it’s harsh to say, but we are so close to summer vacation that this time needs to be given over to our classes. That might be unhappy for a short, stressful time, but what it yields is worth it. To cite some wisdom I learned in elementary school, putting off assignments will only make them bigger and scarier.

Once you have your assignments planned, you have to have the discipline to sit down and adhere to that schedule. Easier said than done, true, but there are ways to make it easier. I find that the best way to work effectively for all six of my classes is to take “breaks,” not by turning to YouTube or Netflix, but by moving from one assignment to a different assignment. So if I get tired of examining psychoanalytic principles for Theory and Inquiry, I can jump to reading about liminal funerary rites for Ritual and Burial. Or perhaps I’ll choose to prepare a PowerPoint for Public Speaking and then read a chapter or two for Classical Rome. There’s always something new to read about, learn about, write about, and enjoy about every class you are taking. You might go to bed at night exhausted, but the sleepiness will come from having learned a lot and achieved your full potential. Finding something new to inspire your thoughts and keep you busy is better than blissing out while the to-do list just keeps waiting.

That’s ambitious and it takes a strong will to pull it off, but it is not impossible. It’s not even as grueling as it may sound. Our mental health and wellbeing demands that we get the rest we need along with social moments, relaxation, and fun. Those can be enjoyed even during finals, just in smaller doses than we might prefer. So long as there is a set of goals you are working towards with a realistic plan of how you will accomplish it all, there’s no reason why you can’t have them all, plus some sanity by the time finals finally finish. And when summer does arrive, it’s made even happier by knowing that you’ve done your very best work in all your classes. So best of luck to everyone!

Photo Courtesy of Evan Cantwell/ Mason Creative Services