Article Submitted by Yusheng He.
In the 1,000 meters run, you will be exhausted when only 200 meters are left; undergraduate life is also tiring when you enter your senior year. You need to balance your time between studies and graduation school or job application along with student organizations. A peaceful mindset helps you succeed in your academic journey and social networking. Senior year is stressful, but it is also the time to enjoy your undergraduate journey. Make the best use of your time and always be well-scheduled.
Here are 10 recommended ways to stay sane in senior year:
1. Do your best in studies
Undoubtedly, the most important thing is to prioritize your time on your studies, as your GPA impacts your graduate school or job prospects. Therefore, please always spend time studying. Senior-year classes are difficult. But don’t be nervous; always finish work on time, use office hours and try your best to attend classes, you will be fine. Being early on assignments one week before due dates helps you have more time to edit and submit high-quality class papers.
“Stop partying too much; spend more time on the assignment. Don’t wait until the deadline to complete the assignments,” Penn State senior Anoop Kosaraju said.
You need to start doing assignments from Monday morning to Sunday night, including some midnights. Sometimes, to finish a report, I stay up until 4 a.m. However, consider if you can miss a few classes without being punished for absence. Last fall semester, I entirely used six absence opportunities for a general education class at 9 a.m. to have more sleep. An excellent mental state helps you focus.
2. Don’t ignore your future
We attend university for a better job. Studying is mentally stressful and occupies most of our time but remember what we must do after graduation. If you want to apply for graduate school, ask your professors for recommendation letters in advance; if you want a job, polish your resume and cover letters and obtain work samples. Graduate schools or companies will consider if candidates have enough work experience.
“It’s very rare that you’re going to remember a lot of the technical concepts you learned during your undergrad. The biggest thing when undergrad is finding yourself [by] understanding how you work, how you thrive, making fun memories and looking back on it as a life-altering growth experience,” Penn State Ph.D. Candidate Akshay Chaubal said. “The technical knowledge will come either on the job or in a future grad school.”
You need to work in the summer to better prepare for your career. You should apply for jobs during the semester, helping you to not be in a panic in summer. You can spend some days on travel, but returning to work after a trip enables you to run ahead of others. Summer vacation is a valuable time to transfer your theoretical knowledge into hands-on experience. Don’t waste your time.
3. Treat yourself well
You must need a break from your tight academic schedule. Always give yourself a “flexible window” to refresh and don’t think you can work 24/7. I scheduled three consecutive classes for the previous two academic semesters and found concentrating in the third class difficult. Even though you have a lunch break, don’t push yourself for three straight courses. Go to Starbucks or Panera for coffee and enjoy the fresh air after classes; you need at least a two-hour break (not including lunch or dinner) for one day.
4. Be careful of your mood
Pushing yourself too much might make you outraged at tiny things. Relaxing yourself is always better than getting angry at others. I understand we almost never own our weekends during semesters, but make sure to find someone to talk to or hang out with. It may seem like a waste of time and increase your deadline stress, but you will have a better state of mind after the break. If you feel overwhelmed, talk with your advisors or on-campus psychological consultant; they are glad to help you reduce stress.
5. Break down big plans into daily goals
If you want to apply for graduate programs, you need internships, an excellent GPA and relevant on-campus research hours. Stay calm and make doable daily goals, such as finishing class assignments on time, applying to relevant student organizations and saving time on internships. You need to prioritize the most important things. If you need to attend a job fair, feel free to talk with your professors about skipping classes. Being responsive and listing the most important things keep you on track.
6. Don’t over-plan
Staying out of your comfort zone is essential, but don’t over-plan yourself. Getting work experience helps you apply for a job, but studying is an undergraduate’s priority. Don’t be shy to stop working for student organizations if your class work is overwhelming. Decorating your mansion makes you more competitive but you need a solid foundation. Don’t let perfectionism restrain you.
7. Set up off-line hours
I always remember one of my teacher’s comments— “I don’t need you to study every minute but make the best use of every minute of your study.” Senior year is overwhelming, but it is the remaining time to enjoy your undergraduate journey. Except for regular breaks between classes, you should always spend at least one hour a week enjoying your life. Going out for sports, organizing a picnic or attending worship with friends would help you relax. You need those off-line hours to help you better return to your academic schedule.
“Understanding the balance between getting your work done and also having fun. If you’re not having fun, you won’t be happy, and you won’t be motivated,” Penn State freshman Sydney Schuyler said.
Treasure your time as an undergraduate student. When you review your undergraduate year, you don’t want to leave regrets. So, after semester-long classes, say thanks to your professors. Go to the football game and cheer with the other students. Don’t always be rushed around campus but enjoy the moment.
“It’s important to save the time you have on campus; you are going to be able to walk across the campus street as a student for so long. Even once you graduate, it’s not quite the same,” Michael Caniglia, a sociology Ph.D. candidate at Penn State, said.
I arrived at State College, Pennsylvania, last year and almost finished my undergraduate studies. Time flies. It is easy to be busy because we are stressed, but try to slow down after work. Always explore your campus and try new things. If you haven’t tried the dining hall, try their food now, even if it is expensive; if you haven’t tried the university’s ice cream, go to the ice cream shop now.
8. Make the best use of your college resources
Finding a job is difficult; finding a job without effective strategies is much more difficult. LinkedIn shares job opportunities, but you need to compete with worldwide applicants. Always talk with your academic or internship advisors to design your job-hunting or interview strategies and revise your resume and cover letters. For international students, you must contact your international student advisor to see if any additional document is needed to work in the country legally. Attending campus job fairs is helpful, and always check internship or job recruiting emails from your college; you will have larger possibilities of getting an interview and employment.
9. Plan for your budget
Finishing your senior year needs a comprehensive and detailed daily plan, including how to save your budget but live well. It isn’t easy to find time to cook, but you must find places to eat. Eating well and sleeping well helps you study well. It is expensive to buy a meal plan and eat on-campus but see if you can fill money to your campus ID and get a discount. Or go to Reddit or ask your friends to find recommended cheap food.
10. Be realistic about your class schedules
You might like to take more relevant classes for your future career but always evaluate your coming workload. Scheduling two upper-level courses is enough for a semester, and you should take some easy general education or entry-level major-relevant classes. Academic advisors are great resources that help you design your class schedule. Double-check if internship credits suit your academic plan and would be an advantage for your future career. You should spend time on job applications, so provide flexible times outside the classroom.