Taryn Walter is a student storyteller who met with a peer academic coach, Michelle, to troubleshoot academic challenges and explore holistic solutions.
Navigating academic challenges on your own can be stressful – but student life isn’t something you have to handle alone. No matter the course load, year, or program, every student can use extra help. As a full-time fourth-year Bachelor of Business Administration student, Taryn felt overwhelmed trying to balance academics with work, friends and self-care.
“My first impression of Peer Academic Coaching (PAC) was that it sounded useful for others but not necessary for me. I have always had good grades and done well in my jobs, so I didn’t know what I would even talk to a coach about. My perspective completely changed after I left my first appointment.”
Peer academic coaches can offer support with time management, goal-setting, study strategies, giving presentations, note-taking, test-taking, and dealing with exam anxiety. Taryn met with Michelle, as she specialized in organization and time management.
Here are Michelle’s top five tips based on her experience and research.
The Pomodoro Technique
This study method is fairly well-known for its timed work and rest intervals; the recommendation is to study for 25 minutes, then take a five-minute break and repeat. Michelle encourages students to use the rest period wisely; instead of scrolling through Instagram, get up and move. “Using your phone for a break isn’t always very effective; it can accidentally end up being a 30-minute break if you get distracted. It’s important to get up and go for a short walk or even have a five-minute dance party,” Michelle says.
Eat the frog!
During that first meeting with Michelle, Taryn discovered that she struggled with getting started. “Once I’ve begun an assignment or studying, I have no problem with procrastination. I find it particularly hard to begin something new”.
When faced with a long to-do list, most choose their favourite or easiest tasks to complete first, which is something Taryn often does. The eat the frog theory indicates that the best way to combat procrastination is to tackle your most dreaded or least favourite items first, with your favourite coming in last. Doing so allows you to reward yourself with the best task and get the hard ones out of the way first.
Taryn reflected on her learning approach: “One of my greatest weaknesses is how hard I am on myself. I panic if I get less than 90 percent on any assignment or test, refuse to not be on the Dean’s List, and take on too many jobs, leaving no time for myself. Although a high GPA feels rewarding, it’s not healthy to get worked up over an A- on a midterm”. A great work ethic is a good thing — to a certain extent. To avoid putting this pressure on yourself, Michelle says it’s important to adjust personal expectations and change the perspective on an unsatisfactory grade. Recognizing that your grades don’t fully define you is key to maintaining good mental health throughout your studies.
View responsibilities from a new perspective
Students often try to manage multiple responsibilities, which can lead to burnout. Michelle’s perspective is that student life is like a juggling act. “In life, you juggle different types of balls; some are made of glass, some are made of rubber, and some are sandbags.” Glass represents your main responsibilities: work and school. Classes must be attended; assignments must be handed in on time. You can’t drop them, or else they’ll break. Rubber balls represent extracurricular activities and time spent with family and friends. As important as these relationships and past times are, they can’t always be your main priorities. Sandbags represent what you need to forget, like assignments you’ve already submitted or unsatisfactory grades you’ve received. Once you’re waiting to get the grade back, dropping this cognitive weight is okay because it’s now out of your hands. After receiving this tip, Taryn says, “thanks to Michelle and PAC, my perspective completely changed on my responsibilities for the better.”
Have weekly self-checkups
Ignoring signs of stress can lead to burnout or a breakdown. Having weekly self-checkups is essential for managing your mental health. Review your schedule at the start of every week to identify what’s coming up and what needs to be completed. Also, take a step back, catch your breath, and reflect on your well-being to assess whether you have the capacity for the week ahead. If not,
“After attending a PAC session, I felt calm and ready to take on the semester. The tips I received were extremely helpful, especially about having self-checkups. I highly recommend these coaching sessions. Everyone can use a different perspective and a knowledgeable peer to talk to.”
Appointments can be booked through the website or through the Writing Centre (OM 1411).