College gives you both the responsibility of managing your life by yourself, and unrestricted freedom.
But, with the challenges of coursework, adjusting to life abroad, making new friends, and handling daily tasks, your life can easily derail. Add in the unhealthy habits of college students, and you could be on the slippery path to self-destruction.
Maybe you’re already seeing signs of it, with slipping grades, a sequence of missed deadlines, or constant stress.
But, it’s never too late to fix things and start making the most of your study abroad years.
Read on to discover the 6 most common student habits that can ruin your American college experience, and how you can fix them to get your life back on track.
1. Not Planning Your Time
The quickest way to get overwhelmed and mess up your semester is to not have a plan in place. Without your parents nudging you to study, or your professors reminding you about project deadlines, it’s easy to let things slip until it’s too late.
Ensure you stay on track by planning out your semester. Make it a practice to go through your schedule at the beginning of each semester to plan out your weeks. Split your coursework into weekly study hours, and plan ahead for test prep.
A student habit like this doesn’t have to stop at lectures, coursework, and study time. To be a successful college student, you must stay balanced by scheduling time for all parts of your life: studies, chores, exercising, socializing, and hobbies.
Pro Tip: Don’t go overboard and plan everything out to the second. Remember to leave some breathing room for when things take longer than you expect, or when life throws a curveball.
2. Mastering the Art of Procrastination
We’ve all been there; trying to finish a 1,000-word essay an hour before it is due, or preparing for a midterm the night before.
Yes, deadlines help us work at maximum efficiency, magically helping us finish three-hour tasks in 30 minutes, but this working style comes at the cost of the quality of work produced.
While breaking this student habit isn’t easy, it’s definitely not impossible. Here are three proven strategies you can use to kick it to the curb.
- Make a priority-based to-do list.
Having a vague, never-ending to-do list doesn’t help you get any real work done. You’ll end up procrastinating on the same ‘big, important’ tasks again and again.
Use Eisenhower’s “Urgent-Important” technique to categorize your work. This way you’ll always be clear on what you need to focus on today, and what can be done later. Then, hold yourself accountable to tackle the most important tasks first.
- Break your tasks down to reduce anxiety.
A major reason people procrastinate on doing a task is because it seems new, unknown, scary, or difficult. Reduce the fear and anxiety around starting a task by breaking it down into smaller and smaller pieces, until each piece seems doable by itself.
- Start with time-goals, not work-goals, to build your focus.
When you’re a chronic procrastinator, you can find it difficult to focus without a deadline looming ahead of you. To do away with the deadline-dependency, use the Pomodoro Technique:
Set timed sessions to study or work for just 30 minutes at a time, and get through as much work as you can in those sessions. Then, reward yourself at the end of it, for a boost of positivity.
These are simple, but very effective student habits that will help you stop procrastinating ASAP. You will soon be getting things done, even without external pressure.
3. Multitasking Your Way Through Life
Here’s a reality check for you: your brain isn’t built to multitask.
Switching between activities confuses your brain and kills your focus. So, that quick peek at TikTok for a “two-minute break” in the middle of a study session will cost you dearly.
Plus, with the endless scrolling on social media, it’s hard to keep track of time, and minutes soon turn into hours. Don’t let yourself, or your grades, fall prey to this. Avoid multitasking while studying.
Instead, choose one task to focus on for a set period of time, and turn off all other distractions for those few hours.
Set your phone to ‘Do-Not-Disturb’ mode, or turn off your notifications. Then, keep your phone in the other corner of the room so you don’t pick it up to check for messages every few minutes.
This can be a difficult practice to implement at first, but give yourself at least a week to get used to it. You’ll soon be flying through your to-do lists, having tons more free time, and you won’t even miss your phone!
4. Spending Time with the Wrong People
Your friends are a major part of your college life, and they end up influencing most of your habits. So, spending too much time with people whose goals are different from yours can steer you off your path.
This isn’t about staying away from the “party crowd” that your parents keep warning you about.
It’s about people who don’t align with your career goals, your lifestyle, and your values.
If you’re someone who learns best in the mornings, then something as simple as a late-night study group will drag you down.
There’s no such thing as a universally right friend group for anyone. But, we’ve got some tips to help you choose the right friends in college:
Understand what works for you as a person, and pick people and systems that support that.
Do you work better in small groups or big ones? Do you want to spend time working towards a corporate internship or community service projects? Does weekend clubbing excite you, or do you prefer hiking in the woods?
At the same time, you don’t have to cut everyone else out of your life. Common goals and lifestyles are one part of compatible friendships, but the other side of it is how supportive and nurturing those friends are.
Observe how you feel after spending time with a person (or group of people). Do you feel drained after lunch with a friend, or do you feel more energized?
Choose people and groups that support both your goals and your personal happiness. It will help you not just get better grades, but also enjoy your studies abroad.
5. Trying to Do Everything by Yourself
Learning to be an independent adult is an important part of the college experience. But, no one knows everything, or can do everything alone.
Trying to do it all by yourself every time will just lead to isolation, anxiety, and will eventually overwhelm you.
Don’t let your ego or fear stop you from asking for help. Step up and ask for help when you need it; your college experience will improve dramatically with that one small habit.
Whether it is asking someone how to use your washing machine card, or for help understanding a complex chapter, it’s good to reach out.
Most people will be happy to help you out, and you might even end up making some new friends.
If in doubt, remember: It’s always okay to ask for help, in college and in life.
6. Losing Sleep over a Drop in Your Grades
Yes, we know we’re supposed to be telling you how to prevent your grades from dropping, but extra stress and a constant feeling of doom can drive you to burnout, and ruin your college experience.
Part of the learning process involves failing. Losing out on an A grade, or struggling with a paper is a normal part of college.
In fact, your education should be a little challenging. After all, there’s no point in you shelling out all that money to breeze through classes where you already know everything.
Being able to handle struggles and the occasional failure is a valuable life skill to gain.
Instead of beating yourself up over every small failure, use it as inspiration to do better next time. Go have a chat with your professor or TA to see how you can improve. Ask those who did better if they have some tips for you, or if you can study with them.
Learn from your mistakes, change your course of action and you will do better next time. Do a quick check of your student habits to see how many of these are damaging your study abroad experience. Then, start by making one small change at a time, and soon you’ll be making the most of your college days in the U.S.
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