The Worst Semester Ever

When everything else goes wrong, all you need to do is focus on five things.

By Nicole Fryer, University of Pittsburgh


Last semester, I went through my semester of hell.

Being an English major, besides a couple of harder gen-eds along the way, I never expected to face many difficulties throughout my four years. I thought everyone would just be happy-go-lucky and we’d be writing our imaginations down on paper, and after four years, I’d have my degree and a relatively high GPA. I guess the joke was on me.

If I’ve learned anything, it’s that my semester of hell was not caused by the courses themselves, but by some personal issues, so I’m not going to tell you to go and drop every class that you think is going to stress you out. Instead, pace yourself; if you’re already worried about the course load with classes just starting back up, drop a course if you can, or if not, see if there are other classes you can take that won’t be as stressful.

How I Survived My Semester of Hell (And How You Can Too)

Image via Vanderbilt News

Toward the beginning of the semester, I was going through some relationship issues and working too many hours, and, by mid-semester, I found out my grandfather had cancer, so my mind and focus were not on school; at one point, I was failing three of the five classes I was taking.

Regardless of the cause, here are five tips to help you survive your semester from hell, and hopefully, pass your classes.

1. Healthy Body, Healthy Mind

First things first, make sure you’re eating, drinking and taking care of yourself. While self-care might sound a little ridiculous, you’d be surprised. Everyone handles stress differently—some people eat, while others tend to not eat at all.

When everything came crashing down, the thought of eating made me nauseous, and I spent two weeks living on nothing but smoothies and water. Luckily, my roommate finally forced me to eat (she’s a lifesaver), and I was able to start eating regular food again.

2. Break It Up

One of the best pieces of advice I got came from my boss (after I spent two hours in her office having a breakdown), who told me to take things day by day, and set small goals for myself.

I went and bought a white-board for my room, and every day I would write down anything from “get out of bed and go to class” and “make sure you do your homework,” to “instead of watching TV, study for your test.”

It might not sound like much, but writing everything down put things into perspective for me and helped me bring up my grades. In the end, I raised two of the failing grades to C’s, the other to a D, and passed my other two classes with flying colors.

3. Work-Life Balance

Another piece of advice that I have is if you’re working, make sure your job isn’t controlling your life. Yes, money is important, but if you’re in college, you should be there to learn and focus on your schoolwork.

I was working two jobs, totaling almost fifty hours per week, along with taking sixteen credits. Not only was working so much affecting my study time and my grades, but it was also wearing on my friendships. I cut my hours down to forty per week, but I still found myself struggling. I barely knew my new roommates because I was either always at school or work, only coming home to shower and sleep.

During finals week, I realized I had had enough, and I up and quit one of my jobs; it was such a relief, and I wish I would have quit so much earlier in the semester. Maybe I wouldn’t have struggled so much.

4. You Do You

Something else I’ve learned: Some “you” time is totally okay. If you can’t stand to look at your book for one more second, or your homework is making your head spin (my philosophy problem-sets killed me), close the book up and take a break.

How I Survived My Semester of Hell (And How You Can Too)

Image via College Admissions

Go watch TV (that’s why Netflix is a thing), go out for a couple hours with friends, call your parents—do whatever you need to do to unwind. Video games were my getaway (I went and bought a PS4 mid-semester) and seriously, finding (and ruining) an ancient lost city and beating up people trying to kill me was such a stress reliever.

After you unwind, your homework will still be waiting for you, just make sure you finish by the deadline. If you don’t think you can finish in time, email your professor and see if they are willing to give you an extension. Just don’t make late assignments a habit, because eventually, they’ll see you aren’t trying hard enough.

5. Choose Your Friends Wisely

My last piece of advice: Surround yourself with people who will motivate you. I never realized how important motivation was until I started the new semester.

Last semester, my roommates were my motivation. We all had similar schedules, so we would motivate one another to get out of bed, and with my busy schedule, I would just keep going until my day was over. I work better under pressure, so being positively peer pressured to sit down and do schoolwork helped me get everything done.

But, this semester, I cut down to thirteen credits in hopes of having more time to focus on each class and raise my GPA (last semester’s grades totally killed me), and since I’ve also gone down to working only one job, I’m finding I have tons of free time, which, in theory, is great. My roommates’ schedules seemed to have cut back as well, and now we all just lay back and binge-watch “The Office” and play PS4.

While the roommate bonding time is great, other than going to our classes, there’s no motivation for us to leave the apartment, and there’s even less motivation to get our schoolwork done. While the relaxation is what the doctor ordered, now the laziness is kicking in, and I know I need to stop and get back to a normal schedule so I don’t make the semester of hell turn into a year of hell (and so yours doesn’t either!)

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