A popular bumper sticker on Facebook profiles reads: College Life, choose 2: 1. a decent grade point average 2. a social life 3. sleep. While most people think they can forgo sleep, and others try to work around the academics, you don’t have to settle — you can have all three. The key to balancing life at the College of William and Mary is to know exactly where, how and when to study.
As most freshmen find, sometimes Earl Gregg Swem Library isn’t the best place to study. The third floor of Swem will continue to be a place of solitude and peace — wearing noisy flip-flops on the third floor has been known to illicit death glares from the more studious, but the bustling social atmosphere on Swem’s first two floors can cause distractions well into the night and end up being detrimental to attempts at solid studying. More often than not, students get sucked into the socializing — only to discover they’ve spent the past three hours discussing the latest episode of Lost. So if you actually want to buckle down and study, try these places:
*Small Hall*: Located next to Swem, Small is a prime location for studying. While not as intense as Swem’s third floor, Small’s library provides the perfect atmosphere for paper writing.
*The cafe in the College Bookstore*: Located on the second floor, it is usually quiet and provides plenty of studying space, including window nooks. Another plus: you can sip a latte with your biology textbook. Just remember not to get sucked into the magazines.
*Old Campus*: For late-night study sessions, most buildings around the Sunken Garden remain open late. An empty classroom in Tyler Hall, Washington Hall or Blair Hall is the perfect quiet getaway for all-nighters. The comfy seats, white boards and adjacent location to Wawa are all pluses. During exam periods most students find these empty classrooms suitable for studying alone or in a group.
*Outside*: On a nice day, the Terrace or shady areas of the Sunken Garden seem like the ideal spots for studying. However, be careful not to get sidetracked by passersby or to turn a study session into a half-an-hour power nap in the sun. Instead, try the Lake Matoaka Amphitheatre. It may seem far from campus, but this fortress of solitude can help most to relax and focus on the task at hand.
*The Recreation Center*: An unexpected favorite is the gym. There are a few couches and tables on which to study, but for some, the treadmill can be a motivating factor to finish work early. A post-studying workout can help de-stress after hours of studying.
*The Daily Grind*: Located in the heart of campus, the Daily Grind may seem like a haven for those who worship indie music. However, a table at the Grind — if you are lucky enough to snag one — is golden. With coffee, your computer and chill background music, the Grind isn’t just a great meeting place for friends, but a great location to study — without the trek to the bookstore.
All students know the feeling of procrastination. It is common to become flustered with starting a paper or studying for an exam, and suddenly what was one hour of Project Runway becomes five hours of watching re-runs of ESPN news, crappy MTV dramas and even the Lifetime Channel. The first thing to do in this situation is to hunker down and start. For those who can’t just start, try getting a planner. The most effective way to maximize your social time and sleep is through organization. Here are some other ways to help you study better and more effectively:
*The Writing Resources Center*: This free service is not solely for English majors. WRC students help with drafting, revising and starting papers. There is also a History Writing Resources Center as well for those writing history papers.
*Get plenty of sleep*: Freshman year does not have to be a fiasco. There will always be parties, students running up and down the halls at 1 a.m. and recruitment for midnight games of Ultimate Frisbee. If you set a disciplined curfew then it will be easy to balance friends and papers. And once you get an A in chemistry, most of your night-owl friends will be wondering how you managed to pull it off.
While you should get plenty of sleep, try not to sleep in. We all love to do it, but reserve this luxury for weekends. Most learn the hard way by accidentally sleeping through classes and not making the most of the day. Getting up at six, seven or even eight a.m., grabbing food or hitting the Rec Center will start the day off right and get your body into a rhythm for the school year. Otherwise grades suffer, as will your sanity.
The Reference Desk: Library services are incredibly helpful. They are more than happy to help students and they even have an AOL instant message screen name (swemrefdesk) so that you can ask questions at your convenience.
*Notes*: If you set out at least two hours every day to look over notes and study, it makes a huge difference. The more you go over notes, the easier the information will soak in — cramming does not work.
*Fruit*: Try to eat plenty of it. The dining halls may not serve blueberries, but one apple in the morning supplies the same amount of energy as four Monster energy drinks, and that’s without mentioning the health benefits. Eating a lot in the morning isn’t so bad either. Studies show that making breakfast the biggest meal of the day helps fight the morning slump, all-day cravings and fatigue.
*Study habits*: Most people find highlighting a book helpful. College is for knowing and absorbing information, not just memorizing. Flash cards can be useful for studying, but study groups have proven to be the best — especially for bouncing off questions, ideas and discussing subject material. Also, studying with a partner can be motivating and will ensure you don’t fall asleep or procrastinate — just choose your partner wisely. If you’re not a group person, making charts that group related subject matter helps strengthen an overall understanding for the course.
*Rest and Relaxation*: Take time out to relax. Our brains can only take two to four hours of studying before turning into mush. To forgo numbing ourselves, study in advance and in intervals. Study for two hours, then hit the Rec Center for one hour before two more hours of studying. Taking breaks is more beneficial than studying for eight hours straight. Despite walking all over campus during orientation, it still may take some time to locate all these places, and even more time to implement these habits.
However, keep in mind that the study and sleep schedule you follow at the beginning of the semester tends to get stuck that way. And remember, even though academics are important to keep up with, the college experience is also about everything else that goes on around campus. Don’t forget to get involved with extra-curricular activities and to have some fun. After all, it is college.