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As the Weather Gets Colder, Don't Get Burned

This is about the time of year that the crushing weight of school comes crashing down hardest on many of us. Exam week is bad but the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving are consecutive weeks with a single day of respite since school started up in August. The everyday grind of homework mixed in with big projects and tests has left many of us drained. Even Finals Week comes on the curtails of a long break, a time to recharge and set one’s priorities straight after a week without classes and some good food. Anecdotally, the number of students I know that are counting down the days till Thanksgiving is roughly 100%.

These upcoming couple weeks is commonly a convergence of a number of factors that lead to students feeling “burned out.” Combined with the no-break daily grind is the fact that this break is often a very convenient time for teachers to grade tests and papers – which means there’s often tests and papers the weeks leading up to the break. Moreover, as the semester’s progressed, classes demand more out of you and these late-semester evaluations are often the most difficult with the most amount of information being presented. This puts us, students, at the epicenter of an earthquake where just thinking about it all is enough to make us yearn for the comfort of our beds and to put everything out of mind.

But don’t burn out. It’s not worth the temporary relaxation.

It’s easy to just say “Screw it” and close that tab, that book, and those notes, to throw your pencil across the room and say “I’m not doing another problem,” or to wake up and think, “I stayed up so late studying, I can skip this test. But that’s not why we’re here. Make up any excuse you so need in order to get that last push, that last ounce of motivation you have left. You’re teetering at a B+ ... that doesn’t mean you need to settle for a B, go for the A-. Every late night you’ve spent thus far shouldn’t go to waste because of one or two weeks. Every A you’ve worked for shouldn’t be overwritten because you settled for a C. And certainly every test that you’ve struggled so hard to pass shouldn’t be wasted because of the daunting task of passing this next one. Keep your chin up, fellow Hokie – we’re all in this together. Take a walk through the library and see all those who are also working around the clock trying to do the same things you’re trying to do: pass, ace, or improve.

We’re all in this together. Sometimes college can feel surprisingly lonely – which sounds weird to say when surrounded by tens of thousands of peers. “Ride the curve” is the college motto but the curve exists because some are trapped underneath a breaking wave. To those of you who feel this way: that wave isn’t a barrier, it’s a goal. It’s not something that can’t be overcome but something that can be mounted and tamed. There is no class that will willfully fail you and those students around you? Reach out to them, they’re studying the same thing you are and they won’t bite if you ask to study together.

But don’t think that means not doing any work and expecting them to teach you the material.

They’re not here to be your teacher or your TA but they can be vital resources. Study and work at it, take advantage of every opportunity that you have if you’re struggling in a class and then try to work with others. It’s often that through conversing that a concept becomes clear or an idea suddenly makes sense. Lastly, be respectful, they’re studying too. While helping is a form of review, don’t overstep and become a burden for others.

And for those who have final papers or portfolios: every minute detail is important and if you’re asking yourself if “it’s good enough” – then do more. When you reach across the desk and hand your teacher your final painting, design, or essay – do it with a smile. Put forth your best effort and look your teacher in the eye with pride in everything you have to showcase. When you’ve done that, you’ll truly feel that reprieve, that cathartic release of a semester-long battle finally coming to an end.

Now – go and get some rest. Sleep is important. And then when you’re done sleeping, go and do that assignment that you’ve been putting off. The only burning should be from within – that you can do this and that the long nights are going to be worth it. Even if right now, you’d rather go to that party or watch Monday Night Football.

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