By: Laura Amodeo
This blog has been reviewed by Mihaela Zlatanovska and Pariza Fazal, edited by Nicholas Murray, and formatted and published by Nicholas Murray.
Laura, tell us a little bit about yourself.
Hey! My name is Laura and I am a third-year psychology undergraduate student at Concordia University. I am currently a crisis line responder volunteer with Kids Help Phone, a tutor, and a volunteer research assistant in a laboratory at Concordia. I enjoy baking, dancing, and creating art when I have free time. I have chosen a career in psychology because I have a strong desire to help people to the best of my capabilities. I am also interested in using the knowledge to learn more about myself.
What do you think made you successful as a student?
I was always an anxious person when it came to school. I had and still have a huge fear of failure, but even thinking about doing my schoolwork feels so draining. This, sadly, has led to some degree of procrastination, which fed into a negative loop. Sure, I would always get my assignments completed on time, but I was aware that if I had started earlier, I could’ve given my 100% and maybe gotten a better grade. Unfortunately, it was the same story every time. I kept making empty promises to myself and always had a negative mindset. This dragged on throughout high school.
When I started CEGEP, I felt like I had found a place where I could really excel. Sure, I was still procrastinating to a certain degree, but I never felt the anxiety I felt in high school. It was like a giant weight was lifted from my shoulders. I was taking the maximum course load every semester, got amazing grades, and ended up graduating with honours.
However, once I started university, it was a completely different story. Since I could handle 8 classes in CEGEP I thought “maybe I can handle the maximum course load in university too.” I was juggling five classes and two part-time jobs at the same time. Boy, was I wrong. I was back to the intense anxiety and sense of being overwhelmed that I felt in high school, and it was likely to be more intense. I ended up having to stop working mid-semester so I could focus on my studies. I managed to finish my semester with almost a B- average which crushed me, especially since I just came from CEGEP graduating with honours and the best grades I had ever received. I promised myself that I would do anything possible to get back on track during the next semester. Everything started out fine at the beginning. I was working only one part-time job, and took 4 classes instead of 5; I already felt more at ease. Sadly, my grandfather passed away at the beginning of March. It was a really hard time for me since it was the first time that I had lost a family member. A week after his funeral, we were in our first COVID lockdown. The end of that semester was rocky as well, and I ended up using the PASS notation on half of my classes so it would not negatively impact my GPA too much.
The second semester into the pandemic, my uncle passed away in mid-October. Once again, it was a really hard time for me. It was the second family member I had lost in the span of less than a year. I was also having some other issues, so I felt lonely the whole year. However, I got the best grades I had ever gotten during my time in university during that semester. I had started studying with my friend, as we had a lot of classes in common. We would review powerpoints together, the night before quizzes and exams. This was really helpful since whenever one of us didn’t understand a topic, the other could explain it and vice-versa.
Fast-forward to the third pandemic semester, Winter 2021. After a great fall semester, I was confident that my studying abilities had now improved, and that it would only be uphill from this point onwards. I was wrong once again. In one of my elective classes, my teacher was unbelievably absent and wasn’t there when I needed them. I would constantly send emails asking to meet on Zoom with questions I had about assignments and grades, but I never got a reply back. Unfortunately, the absence of my teacher impacted my grades and therefore my GPA.
The time comes for me to commence the next semester of my degree. After a less-than-desired winter semester, I had to make some serious changes. I wasn’t happy with my study habits and my procrastination, and I knew something had to change if I wanted to improve my grades. I remembered something my mom had told me a while back: “When I was in university, I got the best grades when I was busy and working full time. This made me manage my time better because I knew that the free time I had, had to be used to study or I would fail.” I figured that it would be worth giving it a shot. I started signing up for some volunteer experiences that I knew would be good for my Master’s application and for my own personal knowledge. I figured that it would be a great way to test my mom’s theory. To be quite honest, it is a lot to deal with and I am still working on balancing everything. However, I can affirm that I learned the importance of prioritizing my time and managing it.
I am definitely far from being a successful student in my eyes, but I have grown a lot since high school. Success isn’t a straight line, sometimes you will fail and make mistakes. The important thing is that you believe in yourself and you don’t give up.
Success isn’t a straight line, sometimes you will fail and make mistakes. The important thing is that you believe in yourself and you don’t give up.
What strength, skill, strategy, mindset, or habit allowed you to get where you are today?
Something really important to keep in mind is that no one will do the work for you. It is so easy to procrastinate and push things to the next day, and then complain that if you had more time, you would surely be successful. This is something I constantly struggled to comprehend. I always thought that other students were more successful because they had more time, but for a majority of the time, this isn’t true; they were just better at managing their time efficiently. We all have the same 24 hours; what we choose to do with our time depends on us.
A strategy that really helped me with time management was using Google Calendar and using the Pomodoro technique. With Google Calendar, I would box out my classes in one colour, my volunteering in another, my work shifts, and any other responsibilities or plans I had made for that week. This would help me visualize where I had free time and for how long. Then, I used the Pomodoro technique to study efficiently without excessively tiring myself. The Pomodoro technique entails studying for 25 minutes and then taking a 5-minute break. This is repeated four times before taking a longer 15–20 minute break¹. Both of these strategies significantly improved the quality of my school work and reduced my procrastination.
It is also a great way to keep yourself sane by not overworking and also to schedule yourself some self-care time to relax and ease your mind. For my personal self-care and relaxation, I journal. I find that once the negative thoughts are written and acknowledged, I can move past them.
How would you invite other students to cultivate those qualities?
One of the most important things to remember to cultivate these qualities is that you must trust and be kind to yourself. Having a negative mindset and weighing yourself down with unrealistic self-expectations will only make you feel worse. This will lead to increased procrastination, feeding into a negative loop. Of course, leaving this pattern is easier said than done, so remember that it’s okay and even good to ask for help! You need to forgive yourself for not meeting your goals because whether you like it or not, it will happen sometimes. Failure is inevitable and helps us grow. Your self-worth is not based on how much you achieve, and you need to remind yourself of that. Believing in yourself and your own capabilities is a great first step. To achieve this, you need to find a balance, you must set realistic and achievable expectations and must practice some self-love. My favourite form of self-love is engaging in one of my hobbies.
Failure is inevitable and helps us grow.
Any last words you’d like to share with fellow students?
The last thing I would like to add is as I mentioned before, prioritize your well-being first and make time for your friends and family. You can be both a successful student and have a social life simultaneously. Your happiness in one aspect can positively affect you in the other aspect. School is not a race–it’s okay to take your time!
Feel free to contact me with any questions or leave any comments to me via email: firstname.lastname@example.org. I am definitely open to receiving suggestions, answering any questions, and/or giving some advice!
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- Boogaard, K. (2018, January 18). Take It From Someone Who Hates Productivity Hacks — the Pomodoro Technique Actually Works. The Muse. https://www.themuse.com/advice/take-it-from-someone-who-hates-productivity-hacksthe-pomodoro-technique-actually-works