Prepping for the Spring Semester

How to Be More Organized and Study Effectively

Deya N., journalist and member of the Student Council’s Student Support Committee

We are this year’s Student Support Committee! We know that it’s easy to feel isolated and overwhelmed with online school and COVID, but it’s important to know you’re never alone. Our mission is to remind you that you don’t have to handle everything internally- that’s impossible! We want to hear what matters to you and offer regular articles about ways to manage and cope. No shame, no judgment, all love. (This is not counseling but rather researched peer advice.)


Welcome to GWUOHS’ first student support article! The majority of our first survey’s results concluded that students are currently most concerned about planning for the spring semester and figuring out how to study effectively. If this sounds like you, we hope you find comfort in knowing we’re in this together. Through some research, experience, and experimentation, we’ve narrowed down six important aspects to organizing and completing schoolwork effectively. Don’t feel afraid to experiment and find what works for you!

  • Plan for positivity

This may seem basic–so basic that a few of you may not think it’s worth bothering. But believe me when I say that it is. The night before a day of thorough studying, write out what time you’d like to wake up the next day. What time you want to have eaten breakfast by, what time you want to have started working on your history essay by. Figure out what assignments need to get done first (usually, getting the subject which requires most brainpower done early in the day is a good idea). Schedule as much as you can. That way, you’ll wake up with a clear plan in your head and on paper. If you love to doodle, set aside 15 minutes before bed to sketch yourself feeling strong and excited in the morning. If you love using stickers, decorate your schedule with some of your favorite ones. Write down what you know you’ll probably need to hear in the morning: “You can DO this.” “I’m so proud of you.” “You are enough!” Positive affirmations are the real deal. And remember, your written timetable does not have to be set in stone–if you take longer than intended to finish an assignment, it’s not the end of the world. Give yourself a big hug for your hard work and get started on the next assignment. 

  • Remember–you are a full person, too. 

Let’s face it–studying, especially before finals (great job on getting through those, by the way!) or exams can become terribly overwhelming. It’s easy to succumb to a state of disarray, becoming sleep-deprived, malnourished, and in turn, unmotivated. But what if I told you that one of the best things you can do for yourself while studying is not study? Spending 24/7 in front of your textbooks or laptop will overwhelm and drain your senses, depleting your learning and cognition skills which are essential for retaining information. Make enough time for exercise, which will boost your endorphins, keep your body and mind strong, and make for better sleep. Find whatever feels fun for you- have a crazy dance party or skate around the neighborhood. Whatever feels good is enough. And NEVER underestimate the importance of breaks. Take them, and generously, if you have to. Take a bath. Go for long walks if they calm you, do some yoga in your pajamas, spend time with your family or watch movies with friends. Wind down. Get enough sleep. And eat fulfilling foods; the right fuel is essential for maximized brainpower. If you want your body (and mind) to serve you, it needs to feel loved, rested, and appreciated.

  • Focus on yourself. 

“Man, @xxemilyluv just posted a photo of her at Six Flags with all her friends, in Pinterest-esque outfits, having the time of their lives…and here I am, slaving away on these dumb homework assignments.” Sound like you? It’s okay–we all feel this way sometimes. External pressures seem constant and never-ending at our age. Picture distractions as a superhero movie villain and yourself as the protagonist meant to fight against them. “But how am I supposed to do that without any powers…”, you might ask? My friend, you’ve had one all along. Focus is your superpower. It may sound funny, but you’d be surprised at what complete dedication can accomplish. If you feel bad after your sister teased you about spending your Friday night catching up on schoolwork, that’s okay. You’re allowed to feel those feelings. But don’t let them consume you, and definitely don’t let them shake your goals. When you focus on the crap, it grows. But when you focus on you, you grow.

  • Let go of procrastination “guilt”. 

This one is pretty self-explanatory. We’ve all over-indulged in procrastination, and before you know it, you’ve been vegging out in front of your laptop for two hours watching Cody Ko videos, scrolling through Instagram, or rewatching your comfort movie. At that point, I know personally how gross, lethargic, and completely discouraged I can feel. I think to myself, “with all the work I had to get done two hours ago, I’m way off track now. There’s no point in getting back up.” But that’s just not true. It’s never too late to get back into it, and if you need to take a step back- a cool shower, a screen break -do that. But give yourself a hug, pick up your schedule, and when you’re ready, free yourself of that guilt. Focus on where you want to be, not where you’ve been. 

  • Create an enjoyable, personalized environment.  

Do whatever you need to do to flip a switch in your brain that makes studying an enjoyable, calming experience. Use Hogwarts ambiences online, and keep it on another window on your laptop so it doesn’t distract you. Or you could listen to the Study Girl Lo-Fi livestream on YouTube, feeling encouraged because thousands of others around the world will be listening to it and studying right alongside you. Boil some tea, pour yourself some lemonade, or even make a bowl of ice cream, if that makes you happy. Open the windows, keep your pet beside you, or hang up some fairy lights. You might even wear some fake glasses in your favorite color from the mall to feel more studious- there’s no room for embarrassment. And just like you’ll be experimenting with these different tips, there are specific tactics you might try to help the studying process. The Pomodoro Technique specifically separates work time into intervals and will help you get into a good routine. Related resources online or on YouTube can help you get started.  You might also look into the SQ3R system, which stands for five steps: Survey, Question, Read, Recite, and Review. This is intended to intensify your learning process, rather than just depending on memorization. Just take a deep breath and remind yourself that as a student, you will spend a lot of your time studying. And you are deserving of having that environment be a comfortable one. What works for you, works for you.

Today’s Summary

Prepping for the Spring Semester (How to be More Organized and Study Effectively).

  • Plan for positivity.
  • Remember–you are a full person, too. 
  • Focus on yourself.
  • Let go of procrastination “guilt”.
  • Create an enjoyable, personalized environment.

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