How to stay the course

Our Monash student contributor Sara Nyhuis shares her honest views about uni life and some tips on how to find the balance, stay motivated and keep the end in sight. It's a good read for returning students at the start of a new semester.

There’s a very strong sense of complete and utter panic upon opening Allocate to check your results when they are released. If any of you do what I do and check your results by looking through your fingers, then you’ll know that finding out how you did in each of your units is one of the most daunting things about university.
There are lots of university memes out there, likening it to riding a bicycle (in hell) or the ‘due tomorrow do tomorrow’ routine - but I’ve always imagined it like a rollercoaster. The ride up is very long and very slow, but reaching the top provides the biggest breath of fresh air you could hope for, and the most amazing view. Of course, it sends you back down again and you’ll probably want to let go - because, well, it’s a rollercoaster. You take the highs with the lows, you keep up your ‘This semester is going to be different!’  mantra every time you start climbing again (fight the week 4 lull, fight it!), and try not to panic on the way back down.
My point is - it’s hard, it’s slow, and it’s long. Sometimes you have no idea what made you get in the damn cart in the first place and you have no idea where you’re going - and then other times it’s the most exhilarating and rewarding experience you could ever have. But it’s hard to find the balance between the two, and to keep sight of the end.
Set yourself some goals

One of the most effective ways to get through the grind of daily uni life is to set yourself smaller goals when the end of the line seems too far away to be realistic. ‘Baby steps’ is probably one of my most used phrases throughout semester; in a good week I congratulate myself on finishing an assignment early; in a not so good week I’ll probably congratulate myself on just turning up to class.

Regardless of how big or small your goal is, giving yourself something to work towards keeps up the sense of achievement to motivate you to get to the next goal.

If setting goals seems a little arbitrary to you, try scouting around for some volunteering opportunities to keep you motivated. Be an O Week tour guide, a student mentor, take a PASS program, even just sign up to a weekly online magazine related to your studies to keep you in the know and keep your brain active and interested.

Find the balance

If you’re like me and manage bizarre hours between work shifts and socialising, you’ll understand how difficult it is to fit time in for study or for yourself. I can’t stop you from procrastibaking, watching Netflix until it makes sassy remarks about your social life, or from napping in lieu of studying - but I can advise you that if you maintain a healthy social life, studying becomes much easier (and Netflix won’t judge you). By allowing yourself one or two nights a week to let go and forget about whichever essay you’re writing, you burn out a lot of restless energy that usually leads to dedicated procrastination. It also makes you more relaxed at work, because you know that you’re actually productive in your study time.

The balance is hard and it can take a while to figure it out, but you get better at it (trust me) and it honestly pays off.

Also, you can totally put time management skills on your resume afterwards.

Keep it up

One of the hardest things to do as the semester wears on is keep up with your studies. I don’t just mean assignments here either, but also keeping up to date with your reading list and your lectures. If you’re anything like me you struggle to pay attention to lectures by about week 4 - and that’s where setting yourself goals comes in handy. I usually dedicate one day to catching up on whatever lectures I’ve missed, and then reward myself with the rest of the day to do whatever I please - and 60% of the time, it works every time.

If you have any advice of your own, any thoughts on techniques or questions about staying motivated, share them in the comments below and help your fellow students out. In saying all that, I wish you luck. Keep up the mantra, set yourself some goals and keep holding on til the end of the ride, guys.
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  1. The most important thing I learned about studying is: get comfortable with being fired from casual jobs. I studied two degrees and during my first degree I had a part time job that I was very loyal to. I was a model employee and sometimes I let work offers take priority over my studies. During my second degree, I learned to say no to extra work shifts, and to cancel shifts when I needed more time to study. Sometimes I even told insistent bosses to shove it. The result was I repeatedly got fired during my second degree. 12 years after graduating, I'm glad I put my studies first, and I have lots of great memories of having stood up for my degree.