Dear Ivy

Dear Ivy

Billy Ferguson/ Fourth Estate

Ivy gives advice to a struggling freshman


Dear Ivy,

I’m at a point in the semester where everything is stressing me out. My finances are not in check and I still can’t find a part-time job.  On top of that, my grades are fluctuating just as much as my mood, and I might not be able to make it to next semester. Do you have any advice for me?

-Struggling Freshman


Dear Struggling Freshman,

First of all, you took one of the hardest steps of all: reaching out for help.

When you are overwhelmed with everything happening in your life, the first thing you should do is clear your thoughts and be honest about what is most important, and what you can and cannot control. You can do this by journaling, or talking to others. Only focus on the things you can control such as grades, looking for jobs and staying positive.

The easiest issue to solve is your grades. There are many steps you can take to achieve better grades and finish out the semester strong, such as staying organized. Make a to-do list of everything you need to do from big tasks like class assignments, projects, and looking for jobs to small chores, such as buying groceries and doing laundry.

Doing this helps you effectively prioritize and realize that there is very little time to worry about the future. Focus on the present and do not spend time procrastinating, which is often what happens when we’re stressed.

Procrastination is one of the biggest GPA killers. One way to avoid it is to mark off time for both work and free time. Another way is learning how you work most effectively. For example, knowing that you cannot listen to music without dancing for 20 minutes at a time helps you focus and keep on task.

Also, if you can’t work for more than 15 or 30 minutes between of everything else you need to get done, take advantage of that time and get anything you can done. Any time is still some time that can be spent on the projects you need to complete or the homework due at 8 a.m the next day.

If you do not understood your classes, there’s no need to worry. Mason’s Learning Services offers assistance such as tutoring to help you catch up. You can also see your professors during their office hours, and ask if there is an effective way to organize class material or prepare for exams.

In terms of finances, have you thought about finding an off-campus job or a paid internship? Many businesses in University Mall are accessible from campus. If transportation is not a problem, apply for jobs all over Fairfax. Additionally, actively reach out to other offices on campus, or professors who may need an assistant or know someone who does.

Finally, maintain your physical and mental health. It’s crucial to learn how to brighten your moods during stressful periods—try talking to family and friends, meditating, writing in a gratitude journal or doing yoga. Focus on the positive things in the present, be patient and trust that things will work out if you keep trying.

But if the problem persists, you might want to consider talking to a professional at Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) at Mason. There is nothing wrong with asking for help, which we all need sometimes. Remember that “this too shall pass.”

I wish you all the best, and hope that you will move past your struggling freshman days into a thriving sophomore.