Let me tell you a short story about my journey with an Honours Degree that I never ended up obtaining. Thereafter I would like to offer some advice to my younger self regarding my studies which you can tune in for as well, dear Reader.
A Brief Tale of (What Felt like) a Miserable Failure
It started in my final year of undergraduate studies. To realise my dream of an eventual PhD in English Studies, I had to get into Honours first. To qualify for entry, my average mark for the year had to be 75%. Seeing as I almost failed my first semester, I needed to work day and night to make up for it.
Cut to a year later and I’m in Honours, passionately trying to earn the degree I had worked so hard to qualify for. Sometime during this year things went wrong for me (for various reasons – financial, personal, and otherwise).
I had come to a place where I fell behind on my studies – I struggled to meet deadlines, I couldn’t stay ahead of classwork, and my research was nowhere near where it needed to be. Long story short, the pressure became so much that I opted to drop out of university.
Years later, I wish someone had imparted the following bits of advice on me:
Don’t Bite off More than You Can Chew
You’ll save yourself massive amounts of grief if you take stock of what you are capable of and the timeframe it will require. Plan what you need to do, when you need to do it, and how long it will take. Most importantly, and I cannot stress this enough, stick to this plan.
A little bit of forethought goes a very long way.
You Think You’re Full, but You Can Eat More
You will reach a point where you are staring at your study materials and the words will start swimming. You can’t make them out anymore and panic will slither up your chest like a snake. More than anything, you’ll want to quit.
Don’t – you will regret it. If it isn’t financial constraints or a major life event holding you back, you need to carry on for your own sake. The temporary relief of quitting now will not outweigh the realisation that you shot yourself in the foot later.
Don’t Bite the Hand That Feeds You
Don’t turn away a helping hand. If there is someone extending aid – whether it be a friend, tutor, fellow student, or mental health professional – take it. There are some things you simply can’t do alone and taking care of your mental health is one of them.
Remember, sometimes it’s okay not to be okay.
Eat that Elephant One Bite at a Time
This seems obvious, right? If there is a problem that’s too big to deal with in one go, break it up in manageable steps. There is an art to this, though. It takes perseverance and big-picture thinking. Above all, however, it takes practice. It will get you nowhere to plan and never act.
Are your studies running away with you?