Deal with Back-To-College Blues and Dominate New Term
Stepping back into that chilly dorm room after a luxurious winter break can feel like a prison sentence. Your new courses yawn out in front of you forever, with spring break an eternity away. If you’re not careful, this can turn into a post-vacation funk. Even worse, it could lead to depression or dropping out. The U.S. News and World Report states that 1 in 3 college freshman won’t make it back for sophomore year, with a full 10% of students dropping out during winter break.
What is the reason for this significant loss of motivation? Money, family issues, and plain old loneliness. In a recent book by Donald Foss, a professor of psychology at the University of Houston, he states that loneliness, isolation, and financial problems can combine into a perfect storm of college demotivation.
Fortunately, there are a few simple ways to combat this post-break malaise. By actively engaging with your college experience, practicing positive behaviors and attitudes, and keeping yourself healthy, you’ll be much more likely to limit your stress and have a great second term.
One of the quickest ways to fall into a post-break funk is to feel like you don’t know what you’re doing. That’s why it’s important to be proactive about how you feel about school. Start by making a schedule of all the major goals you want to get accomplished this semester – both academic and personal. Then, break each of those goals down so you know what you need to do each week to get that goal accomplished. You can even include specific assignments that will need to be finished so you’ll have lots of time to complete them. This will give you the focus you need to get engaged in your new term.
Since isolation is one of the main reasons that students feel depressed after their winter break, it makes a lot of sense to get involved in a new activity. Try to pick something that you think will be interesting, but not time-consuming. In addition, if you pick a physical activity (like a co-ed team sport), you’ll be exercising your body at the same time you’re exercising your social skills.
Getting involved in an activity can go a long way to relieving the sense of isolation that many students feel during the post-winter term. In addition, it keeps you moving when your instinct is to stay cooped up in your room.
When life gets you down, the best antidote is positivity. This is an especially good idea for students who are feeling nervous about their new teachers or term. At the end of each day, take five minutes and write down at least three things that you felt good about for that day in a “positive journal.” You can fill your journal with things as simple as smiling at a stranger, or as complicated as getting a good grade on a huge project. Then, at the end of each week, read over your daily entries. Take a minute to congratulate yourself on doing (and seeing) so much good. You’ll feel better about yourself and begin to start seeing the positive everywhere you go!
For a lot of students, the first few weeks of the semester are the ones when they feel most excited to learn. The brand new books, teachers, and curriculum can be exciting…until that mid-semester boredom kicks in.
Super-smart students take advantage of this first-of-the-term motivational boost by getting ahead. Take a look at the syllabus on the first day and see what kind of assignments will need to be done over the next few weeks. If you can, start thinking about paper ideas, read ahead in the book, or complete easy homework assignments that you can turn in later. When your initial boost of energy wears off, you’ll still be ahead of the curve and more likely to establish a habit of turning in work early rather than late.
If, for any reason, you’re stuck in a pattern of depression and lack of motivation, don’t wait to get help! There are many people who want to see you succeed, and who have the skills to help you organize your schooling so that you can finish like a champ. Talk to your friends or roommates, and see what kind of advice they have for getting out of your slump. You can also talk to an academic advisor or school counselor, even abiut the things that seem small. They are much happier hearing from you before your depression has become an emergency. And, of course, get help from your family or other close associates. Truly smart students know when they can’t do it alone.
Have you managed to overcome post-holiday blues and lack of motivation? Share your story with us!