While planning my schedule for my first semester, I made the honest mistake of signing up for an 8 a.m. every morning (oh, little did I know what college had in store).
If you’re anything like me, you’ll have some long days in college. I start with an 8 a.m. every morning, have 3 to 4 classes, a quick lunch break, then 2 to 3 more classes. But that’s just the beginning. That’s not including any student organization, ensemble, or studio meetings I have at night, or the multiple hours of homework I’ve gathered. Yikes.
And so, I want to pass my experiences on to you! Here’s how to survive long days as an Illinois student:
1) Bring water.
This may seem like a no-brainer if you do it already, but if you don’t … start! When you’re getting through a long day of classes, you’re running back and forth across campus. Sometimes those quick 10 minutes before your next class aren’t enough time to catch your breath or stop at a water fountain. Let me be the first to tell you that sitting in the middle of a lecture with a headache because you’re dehydrated from running around is NO fun. Hydrate!
2) Yes, pack that rain jacket!
If it truly is a jam-packed long day, you WON’T have time to stop back by your dorm and grab a rain coat or umbrella if it starts raining. Sitting in an ice-cold, air-conditioned lecture hall with soaking wet clothes on is not enjoyable. Maybe even bring an extra pair of clothes if you KNOW it’s going to rain that day.
3) Know your closest dining hall.
Checking the dining hall app to see where your favorite food is served is great … if you have the time! When you have a long day, instead of spending your hour-long lunch break traveling to your favorite dining hall, go to your nearest one instead. You can use any extra time you have after eating to chat with friends or review any notes you took last class.
4) EAT ALL MEALS.
You’re going to need the energy. Breakfast may seem unnecessary (and if you don’t have class until noon, that’s probably true!). But if you have an 8 a.m. and won’t stop until late at night, grabbing a breakfast bar or something quick will keep your stomach from growling until you can eat lunch later on.
5) Get the homework done BEFORE the day it’s due!
When you have class back-to-back over and over, it’s super easy to fall behind on small assignments. Telling yourself “I can finish this between classes tomorrow” does not work in college. If you need to, break the homework up into smaller chunks and work on it for a few days before it’s due. When there’s a long day and you have a quick break, you want that break to rest, not cram your brain before a test or finish up an assignment. Plan ahead, and get that homework done!
6) Invest in a good pair of athletic shoes.
This goes without much explanation. Long days = lots of walking between classes, meetings, and activities. Buy a comfy pair!
7) Motivate yourself in any way possible.
Non-stop classes, running across campus, and mountains of homework are discouraging. One bad experience in a class can make it feel like the rest of your day is spiraling downward. So, motivate, motivate, motivate! I personally keep uplifting quotes as the backgrounds of all of my electronic devices. I keep note-taking fun by writing in multicolored pens as a way to motivate myself as well. Remind yourself that all these classes will be worth it in the end when you have the job you want. It will make the day seem less daunting.
8) If you need to … vent.
Classes are hard. Getting up early is hard. And that’s okay! Sometimes after a long day, all I want to do is sit down and talk about all the highs and lows the day had. Finding a good friend who understands your troubles (or is just a good listener) that you can talk about your feelings with is much healthier than holding it all in and stressing about the hours ahead of you. But refer back to step 7! Motivation is key, so make sure after your vent session you’re able to hop back to it and keep marching along!
9) Set a goal sleep time.
When it comes to sleep and attempting to stay up late into the night to do homework, knowing your limits (and what is physically possible) is key. If you have an 8 a.m. every morning and are usually not back in your dorm until late because of meetings/homework/jobs, staying up until 4 a.m. every day is not going to work. Know how much sleep you need to function well, set a time to go to sleep that reflects your desired sleep amount, and try your best to stick to it. Having the mentality of “I need to have all this homework done by __ p.m./a.m., and I know I can do it!” is better than “I’m not going to sleep until I finish my homework.” The first train of thought keeps you motivated to keep pushing forward and helps keep you off your phone or from getting sidetracked.
10) When in doubt … COFFEE!
But in moderation! While coffee does the job temporarily, it does wear off, and it can lead to unwanted health consequences. Got slightly less sleep than normal in the morning? A quick cup is fine. It’s your second day in a row of having practically no sleep? Probably not. Remember step 9, and if you decide to indulge in some coffee … buy me a cup too, please!
Thank you for reading! I hope my tips come in handy on any long days you endure this semester. Remember that you’re not alone, and you can do it. See ya in my next blog post!