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How To Succeed In Second Semester (Feat. Cats)

Or, seven common first-semester problems and what to do about them.

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Problem #1: Time

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It's a known and accepted fact (much like how a cat on a table with an object will 100% shove said object onto the floor) that University life is a constant cycle of having too much to do in too little time. If you felt yourself running short on hours for assignments, sleep, studying, (etc.) last semester you're not alone.

The important thing is to find ways to lessen or eliminate that feeling this semester! Try getting ahead on assignments, making detailed to-do-lists, setting extra reminders, or cutting out procrastination. Challenge yourself to try out at least one new time management strategy this semester!

Finding more time in your schedule might mean not watching that extra Grey's Anatomy episode at 1am, or staying in one night when you might otherwise have gone out; it hurts at the time, but you'll thank yourself later!

Problem #2: Sleep

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Whether you found yourself short on time for sleep (see problem #1) or just didn't sleep well enough to feel rested, I'm sure being tired last semester sucked.

You don't need to sleep 20 hours a day like our friends the cats, but students our age are recommended to shoot for !9 hours! (and ideally 9 straight; not 6 supplemented with a huge nap!)

Now that's an admittedly lofty goal, but the least you can do is make sure the sleep you do get is good quality sleep. This semester, try to isolate and eliminate what's keeping you up.

Are your room and bed comfortable? Cracking your window at night or adding an extra blanket might make a huge difference in a less-than-ideal sleep environment.

Are you overdoing the electronics? It's recommended that you keep your eyes away from screens for at least an hour before you sleep. That means *gasp* no scrolling on your phone before bedtime...

Is your brain too busy? Many people that have trouble sleeping attribute their sleeplessness to an overactive brain. If that's you, try wiping your thoughts with a mindless routine before bed. Perhaps reading, yoga, or simple breathing exercises might do the trick.

Is life in residence interfering with your sleep? Maybe your routine clashes with your roommate's; if so, now's the time to talk about it! Find out what both of you can do to help each other get a good night's rest. (Or maybe things have been a little noisy on the floor; don't hesitate to bring up noise at a community meeting or mention the issue to your RA!)

Problem #3: Grades

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The number one issue on the majority of first years' minds is academics. (Unlike cats, who mostly think about sleeping, eating, and how best to lie on humans to cause great discomfort)

Sometimes first year (and especially first semester) hits you hard!

The important thing is figuring out how you can change things for the better the second time around. New semester= New start.

If you didn't take advantage first semester of library resources like Supportive Learning Groups (SLGs), Writing Services, and the Science Commons, start doing so! Try paying the Academic Drop-In Centre a visit!

If your first semester average fell below 60%, consider checking out the Bounce Back program: https://www.uoguelph.ca/uaic/bounceback

Think about modifying your study strategies or changing up your note-taking approach. Don't be afraid to experiment to find what works for you; it's what first year is all about!

Problem #4: Homesickness

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Much like cats who get sad when their owners leave them alone, adolescent humans often feel a surprising amount of sadness when separated from their families. This is normal; whether you're 30 hours or 30 minutes from home it can be difficult to be away from (likely) the only home you've ever known! Even after several months of doing so!

The best cure for unrelenting homesickness is to work on building up your new "university family"; that is, build connections and get more integrated into the University community at large!

The best way to do so is to put yourself out there: join some clubs or sports teams; get to know the people on your floor better; get involved and connect with people with whom you share common interests.

It's not a matter of replacing or ignoring your "real family", but a matter of building a secondary family here that feels almost as good. :)

Problem #5: Lifestyle

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We can't all lead the generally balanced, easy lives of cats...

Do you feel like you sacrificed elements of your health (like fitness and a decent diet) for academics or your social life (or both!) last semester?

Now's a great time to re-evaluate that balance and see if you can give a little more toward a decent lifestyle. You'll feel a lot better for it and will likely perform better all around!

You don't need to start hitting the gym every day and give up sugar for the semester (unless you want to, I suppose) but simple actions like hitting up the odd Zumba class or occasionally choosing veggies over fries can go a long way.

If sticking to your lifestyle goals is the biggest challenge, try roping in a buddy so you two can motivate each other.

Problem #6: Constant. Stress.

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Stress.

We all have it, though we don't all pant about it like cats do.

If you felt like your stress was sinking you last semester, it's time to take a step back. What was the root of your stress burden? Was it a problem like one (or multiple) of those discussed in this article? Was it an overwhelming combination of factors? Was it internally or externally induced?

Once you've got an idea of where your stress is coming from, take the steps necessary to work on reducing your stress load this semester. Find out how to lessen the pressure.

For example, if you're stressed because you aren't happy with your program, consider some of your motivations for studying in your chosen area and decide whether it's still the right fit for you. If it's not, take the steps to make a change (i.e. set up an appointment with your program counsellor!)

If you're not sure where to start when it comes to your stress or you think talking to someone about it might be beneficial, consider contacting one of the counsellors on campus via Counselling Services in the University Centre.

Problem #7: Roommate/Floormate Issues

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If you had residence-related troubles first semester (internalized or not) don't let them stew inside all through the second half of the year, especially if they're interfering with your ability to sleep, study, or be happy in your own living space!

If you haven't already, don't wait to open up discussions with your roommates or floormates regarding any issues! Things are unlikely to change unless they're addressed. If your roomie's constant pileup of dirty dishes got on your nerves last semester, say so! (Just make sure all discussions are civil and polite)

If you're unsure how to broach a topic gently, chat with your RA about it! They're likely more than happy to help resolve the issue.

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