Nov 21st, 2023, 10:00 AM

Surviving the Mid-Semester Slump

By Karina Peterneamt
Image credit: Karina Peterneamt
How Not to Give Up Until The Holidays

We have all been there. It's the beginning of September, a new academic year is about to begin, and we feel motivated to learn, get involved in extracurricular activities, and have a productive routine. And it works! For a little while, at least. Until something we identify as “the mid-semester slump” installs into our system, that’s when we start losing that initial drive and counting the days until the next big holiday. But, fear not, fellow college students, because this article will delve into the art of not just surviving but thriving during this mid-semester phase. We'll explore practical tips that are easy to understand and implement to keep your spirits high and your academic performance on track. At least until the holiday festivities start. Then the priorities can change to trying all the hot chocolate places in Paris. 

So, what exactly is the mid-semester slump? The first step to conquering this phase is understanding it. This slump is a common occurrence, characterized by a decline in motivation and energy levels. To get more psychological, this also ties in with seasonal affective disorder (SAD) which is, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine, "a type of depression that happens during a certain season of the year — usually in fall and winter." Although the causes aren't clear, less sunlight and shorter days are likely factors. The timing coincides with the mid-semester slump, which occurs around the halfway point of the semester when the novelty of new courses has worn off, and the end seems far away. It may also be the time when you start considering dropping out and becoming a full-time influencer but remember, trying to gain followers and brand deals can be just as hard as writing that paper.

One powerful tool and a great place to begin for battling the mid-semester slump is setting clear and achievable goals. Instead of viewing the entire semester as one overwhelming journey, break it down into smaller, manageable steps. Set specific goals for each course or project. For instance, aim to complete a certain number of readings, submit assignments ahead of time, or achieve specific grades in your upcoming exams. By establishing clear milestones and celebrating your achievements along the way, you'll stay motivated and maintain a sense of progress. And remember not to overcharge your schedule — your goals should be challenging to achieve, but not anxiety-inducing. It's like aiming for an 'A' but being totally okay with a well-deserved 'B.'

As the demands of assignments, exams, and extracurricular activities pile up, it's crucial to make the most of your time. Start by creating a weekly schedule that outlines your classes, study sessions, and leisure time. This schedule will provide a visual representation of your commitments, helping you identify when you're most productive and when to tackle your most challenging tasks. Use a physical planner, online calendar, or any other tool that works for you. Remember, time management isn't about squeezing every minute out of your day. It's about making time for everything important, including going on your daily hot girl (or boy) walk and listening to annoying self-help podcasts. 

Image credit: Karina Peterneamt

In the midst of assignments, exams, and an active social life, it's easy to put self-care in the backhand of your priorities. However, taking care of yourself isn't a luxury — it's a necessity for maintaining motivation and well-being. Regular exercise, a balanced diet, and adequate sleep are all crucial components of self-care that can boost your physical and mental health. Additionally, don't forget to engage in stress-reducing activities such as meditation, yoga, or simply skipping a few classes here and there. Mental health first, right? 

Balancing personal and academic life is essential for avoiding burnout. As much as your studies are an important part of your life, don't forget to nurture your personal interests, hobbies, and relationships. Set boundaries for study time and downtime to ensure you maintain a healthy balance. Make sure you take a phone break after every ten minutes of studying. By dedicating quality time to your personal life, you'll return to your studies with a fresh perspective and greater motivation. Or maybe you'll want to completely drop the academic part from the balance, that's understandable. 

One of the most effective ways to stay motivated during the mid-semester slump is to celebrate small achievements. It's easy to focus solely on the major milestones or the end-of-semester finish line, but recognizing and celebrating your smaller victories can provide a consistent motivational boost. Did you wake up 20 minutes before class and still make it? Did you ace an essay paper using Chat GPT? Treat yourself to a reward, like an overpriced coffee or a few hours to scroll on TikTok. You deserve it!

Image credit: Karina Peterneamt

As you tackle the mid-semester slump, it's important to keep your long-term goals and future plans in mind. Remember why you embarked on your college journey in the first place, and visualize the accomplishments and experiences that await you at the end. This broader perspective can be a powerful source of motivation, reminding you that the current challenges are stepping stones toward your dreams and aspirations. Of course, that's unless you have no future prospects. Then maybe just stay in the present.