Spring break is coming up, which usually means big plans for students. Many of us will be traveling, spending time with friends and family, volunteering, or just looking forward to a week or two to decompress from our hectic school schedule. Unfortunately, the semester doesn’t end just because classes are out. Whatever else you are planning for spring break, make sure you set aside enough time to study. Speaking from personal experience, I start off almost every spring believing that I will spend hours every day buried in my textbooks. Spring break feels like a chance to get ahead, and I promise myself that I will catch up on all my classes, finish all my long-term assignments, and be ten chapters ahead by the time classes start again. Of course, despite my best intentions, by the end of spring break, I found myself having accomplished very little school work compared to what I thought I was going to get done. If you are looking for ways to balance relaxation and study time over your upcoming break, then I can offer you the following hard-won advice.
1. Make a Plan
The first step for a successful spring break is a good plan. If you are still in classes, make a schedule now, before your brain switches from college mode to vacation mode. Make a list of all the things that you want to get done and assign each of them priority based on due dates, the amount of time you think it will take, and what percentage of your grade that project represents. Block out all the times you will not be able to study because of family events or other plans then try to fit a little bit of study time between these events every day. If you are traveling, look for long stretches of dead time like long car rides or airport layovers. These might are your best opportunities to have uninterrupted study time.
Even if you are not traveling, it is still a good idea to make a rough schedule for when and how much studying you want to do every day. Having a plan will help to ensure that nothing gets forgotten, or put off until the last minute. Think about times when you are more likely to be hanging out with friends, or otherwise be distracted/unmotivated and try to find study times that don’t compete too much with those other activities. Picking a time and place with minimal distractions will increase the odds of you being productive. Also, now might be a good time to let your friends and family know that you need to study over the break. Stating your intentions in advance will help to set expectations and might mitigate disappointment when you turn down a fun activity to read a book instead. If you are lucky, you might even get a few reminders that you need to stay on top of your school work. That being said, don’t expect anyone else to take responsibility for your projects. If you can’t stick to your schedule, then it’s not your friend’s fault that you spent the whole night partying with them.
2. Build a Routine
Good habits are an essential ingredient to academic success. However, they can be almost impossible to develop when you are already stressed out and under pressure, aka in college. Spring break is a change of pace that gives you a little bit of breathing room so that you can focus on developing a consistent routine that you can fall back on when you return to class, and stress levels go back up. You can read a post on good study habits here, and chemistry specific study skills here, but the most relevant part is to have a set time place for studying with as few distractions as possible and stick to it. In addition to study habits, train yourself to eat healthily and drink plenty of water to increase your focus, willpower, and decision-making abilities. Going to bed at the same time every night and getting enough rest is another habit that can dramatically improve your clarity of thinking which will translate to enhanced performance in all aspects of your life.
3. Use Technology
The digital age has made organizing and accessing documents easier than it ever has been. Services like Dropbox and Google Drive allow you to upload files and then access them from any device with an internet connection. I do this will all my documents, including scans of handwritten notes, just so I never have to worry about computer crashes, or forgetting an important binder on the kitchen table. If you are traveling over spring break, having all your materials available over the internet will save you from dragging a 40-pound backpack full of random notes and research materials across the country. Online documents also give you the added flexibility to access your content from any computer. If you are not already using a service like this, then spring break might be an excellent opportunity to update your organizational system and put all your files in a central, easy to access location.
Another advent of the digital age that I find indispensable while traveling are online tutors. If you don’t already work with a tutor (and you really should), spring break is the perfect opportunity to cultivate a good relationship with one that suits your needs. Work often slows down for tutors over the break which means you will have a better chance of finding a good one. This way you can get your spot in tutor’s schedule and you won’t have to panic during finals season when they are all booked up. You can find out why it is so important to include a tutor in your study plans here, but an online tutor can be especially useful if you have a hectic spring break schedule because you can meet from any computer at almost any time. No matter reviewing for a test, or looking ahead to stay on top of your classes a quick 30-60 minute meeting with a trained professional will help you stay on track and ensure that you understand the material you are going over.
Don’t stress too much if you don’t get everything finished over the break. An essential part of learning is giving your brain downtime so it can move information from short-term memory into long-term memory. Remember that you are not a robot, it is healthy to take time to rest your body and mind. They call it spring break because you need to take a break after all! Make sure that you give yourself time alone, and with friends so that when you return to classes, you are feeling recharged and ready to get back to work again. Even if it means there are one or two projects that didn’t get as much attention as you would have liked.