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The Spring Semester Slump: What Is It and How Can You Avoid It?

College students fall victim to low motivation often but especially in the last semester.

Illustration by Mel Chinnock

College students have expressed throughout social media that the end of the spring semester is particularly difficult. The stakes are higher and the anticipation of summer break can diminish student performance, inducing stress.

Entering a “slump” is hard to avoid when summer vacation is right around the corner.

Students often fall victim to burnout, stress, and fatigue after completing the previous semester.

Summer is coming!

Women smiling on the beach for summer break.
Enjoy a beach vacation on semester break. Credit: Ground Picture

Why is the spring semester so much harder? With summer break being around the corner, maintaining your responsibilities isn’t easy. The sunshine, the flowers, the heat, the beach, the ice cream, and all of the things you associate with summer are hard to keep off your mind when the weather gradually begins to get warmer…

The lack of breaks can also play a factor in the loss of motivation.

Spring Break is fun and all, but it’s only one week out of the entirety of those 8-9 weeks. Sure, you can enjoy the weather on the weekends, but with the abundance of final projects and exams it’s hard to find the time.

The most stressful semester

Students end up reading and writing twice as much work in a shorter amount of time, which makes the semester seem like it is dragging on.

Danielle Lee, Ithaca College. The Odyssey Online

In this article by Odyssey Online, Lee expresses that she has never wanted to rip her hair out more than during the spring semester of her college experience. These feelings of intense stress can lead to more procrastination; as humans, we are very motivated by our emotions, and the fear of failure can cause us to freeze up. Trill Mag writer Maha Sapre provides a guide on how to avoid this procrastination. The extra pressure due to abundant spring semester deadlines that play a defining role in your final grade, can cause many to crack under the pressure.

For first-year students, by the spring semester, the excitement of starting college has likely already worn off. You have probably already discovered everything there is to learn about the campus and you’ve most likely already formed a friend group. Now there is excitement about getting back to your student lifestyle and being back with friends, but in the spring semester, it might seem only short-lived, as second years are often taxed with the the extra responsibility of moving into a new apartment.

For college seniors, graduation is most common in May, and so the realization that your college days are over might be setting in. It’s time to start that career you worked for, for the last four years. Or maybe it’s not a career but it may be graduate school, medical school, etc. Despite knowing you have so much to do it can be hard to deal with that reality. Unfortunately, growing up is often hard to cope with.

Decisions, decisions, decisions

Graduation Ceremony
College graduation ceremony commemorates your hard work. Credit: hxdbzxy

When surrounded by so many decisions it is easy to ignore smaller tasks.

Alice Boyes of Psychology Today says when we might be faced with a decision the stress of the choice causes us to just quit.

So, you might open up your assignment list and just not know where to begin and give up before you’ve even started. Or, you might look at all of the internships available and find it hard to know which one is best.

Maybe you’re a high school senior and you’re deciding which college is best for you. Decisions like these cause stress and making a decision is often something we procrastinate.

Avoiding the slump: find what motivates you

Student motivating each other to study
Friends get together and motivate each other. Credit: Jacob Lund

Recognizing what your motivators may be helps keep you going. Maybe don’t go straight home after class, visit the library or a study spot. Bring some friends along that you know will keep you in check.

Friends who have the same goals in mind are the best to have around. Even better if they share the same major, so you can prepare for the same final together. Even if you don’t receive the grade you were hoping for, you have someone to share your frustration with. Find a study group through online messaging apps with your college, everyone is struggling this time of year.

Being afraid to fail can often dictate our motivation as well, so try not to place your worth on your academic achievements.

Dr. Alice Boyes wrote a book called Stress-Free Productivity; which explains how perfectionism can keep us from being productive. In this book, Boyes creates a guide that helps diagnose your “productivity profile.” Analyzing what specifically keeps you on track can help you to manage your inner perfectionist.

Boyes is a former clinical psychologist and researcher, and a major theme in her works is recognizing that listening to what works for you is integral to meeting your goals. Escaping that slump and pulling through to reach the end of the semester, strongly, is only something you yourself can do!

Managing your time and personal anxieties can be helped by a psychologist or tutor but it is up to the individual to act.

In an interview with the New Statesman Boyes provides a quote that explains the best piece of advice she has received was a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson. “Finish each day and be done with it”; perfectionism can keep us from enjoying the end result. You’ve got the project done to the best of your ability, now let it go.

Conclusion

It’s easy to let anxiety about running out of time affect our decision-making. But being able to pull through and finish strong is a great achievement. Especially if you’re graduating, be proud of yourself. You just reached a major milestone that not everyone is able to meet. Maybe you’re bummed that college is over or that you have to pack up and leave again but cut yourself some slack. You did it.

The satisfaction of completing those final steps in the semester is a weight off your shoulders. All the work you did in school to start your career is over and a new chapter begins. Overall, there are so many resources to help you recognize your stressors, as well as manage them. It’s important to take the time to find out what best fits your schedule and your needs!

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