I think all college students can agree that the end of a semester is a particularly hard time. More assignments, big projects, and who can forget about finals week? When really the only thing on anyone’s mind is getting done with school and enjoying vacation, spring semester can be especially challenging. However, the end of a semester can make or break all the hard work you’ve put in all term. Staying motivated is key. Plus, summer vacation is just that much sweeter when you walk away from school knowing you gave it your all and your final grades show it. Try out a few (or all!) of these tips to make the last couple weeks of school just a little easier to manage.

Take your homework outside! – That test you have to study for suddenly becomes a lot more appealing when you can go grab a coffee or smoothie and set up your study session in the park. Something about sunshine just makes everything better, even homework. Science gives us plenty of good excuses to get outside and enjoy some fresh air. Vitamin D provided by the sun is essential for a healthy immune system (and who wants to get sick during finals?) Who knows, you might even be able to convince your professor to hold class outside.

Plan ahead – Organization and time-management will be essential as you work to finish the semester. If you have a planner, now’s the time to use it. Write down your assignments and their due-dates as soon as you know them, so you can stay on top of everything you need to get done. Create a time schedule for yourself, including how much time you need in the mornings to get ready, what times you’ll be in class, when and where you’ll study, and when you’ll have free time for friends. Follow your schedule and you won’t wonder where all the time went or how something didn’t get done. Try writing down three things each morning that you want to get done that day. For example, 1. Finish chemistry homework 2. Exercise for 20 minutes and 3. Get my laundry done. As you can see, they don’t have to all be school related. As you complete one goal, you’ll feel a great sense of accomplishment that motivates you to complete the next, you’ll be more in control of your schedule, and all of a sudden that pile of homework won’t seem so overwhelming.

Remind yourself of your long term goals – It’s easy to get caught up in a negative mindset as your workload grows and forget why you even started going to college in the first place. All college students at some point in their career will think “Wow, how am I ever going to make it through this?” What you need to know is that these thoughts are normal, and happen to everybody. The point is to not get caught up in them and lose sight of what you are there to do. Take some time as the semester comes to a close to reflect on why you chose to go to college and what graduation will mean to you when it comes. Are you training for a specific field? Are you going to school to grow and develop as a person? It can be worthwhile to have a firm idea of exactly what you want out of college, and how your current situation (no matter how difficult it may be) is helping you to get there. Sit down sometime this week and write out your main reasons for going to school, along with why that reason is important to you. If possible, try and make a connection between your current school work and how it relates to your long term goal. For example, Goal = “I’m going to school so I can get a job in the media industry”. Reason = This is important because I’d like to be independent and self-sufficient by the time I’m 25. How it relates = My ethics class is teaching me how I can clarify my own values when working in the industry and how I can remain open-minded towards people whose views differ from mine. Think outside the box and I bet you’ll be amazed at how even the things that seem so pointless now will pay off in the long run.

Seek out help! – Many schools make their resources for students even more available during finals week. Call or stop in at some of your school’s facilities to see if they offer extended hours or extra tutors during finals. Colleges offer a library, computer lab, writing center, counseling services, and a college skills center, where students can get peer tutoring, math assistance, textbooks, calculators, study rooms, and more. Some of these services are even available on the weekends. You can also reach out to your fellow classmates either in person or online to see if anyone is interested in getting together to study. Chances are, they’re struggling too and would welcome the support. You can even cut down your work load this way by splitting up assignments like study guides into sections, having each person complete a portion, and then getting together to discuss!

Stay healthy – Forgetting to take care of your body is one of the surest ways to make the end of the semester way more difficult than it needs to be. Set a goal that you won’t go to bed past 11 p.m. each night, and use the planning strategies above to be sure you are getting all of your work done by a decent hour. Try to exercise at least two or three times a week. You can utilize your school’s gym so you can go right from class to a workout, or go for a quick run after you’ve finished studying at the library. The trick is to make exercising something that easily integrates into your daily routine, so it doesn’t become another chore. Do some stretching, push-ups, sit-ups or jumping jacks whenever a commercial comes on T.V. or after every assignment you complete. Finally, one of the simplest changes you can make to boost your health is to drink more water.

Find time for work and play – It’s important to take time to do the things we enjoy (yes, even during finals), because without it, we’ll burn out even faster and our motivation will completely go down the drain. Find time in your schedule to relax. Even if it’s only an hour a day to do something simple, like watch T.V. or read a book, these things are vital to our overall happiness and well-being. Make plans with a friend to meet up and have lunch one day, take your dog for a walk or go spend time with family. You’ll be surprised at how taking a break from the stress and worry of school can revitalize you and help you find your motivation again. And as always, stay positive!

Contributed by Michelle DeRoetth