Elizabeth Anne Guthrie

A quick stroll through Target or Staples is a glaring reminder that it’s almost back-to-school season.  Although a new semester may not incite the same excitement as all the colorful school supplies you bought as a kid (Lisa Frank, anyone?), it brings a new type of excitement - one paired with stress that a 64 pack of Crayola crayons just can’t solve.  College can be stressful, but these tips will help you find peace in the madness and make college what it should be: the time of your life.


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Write down your goals

Make lists!  Lists are one of my survival tools for college.  I like to start short term with a ‘goals for first semester’ list.  Stick to specific, tangible goals that you know are achievable.  Instead of writing ‘make good grades,’ write, ‘make at least a B in stats and As in everything else,’ or whatever goals work best for you.  Instead of saying, ‘work out more,’ write, ‘work out three times a week before class.’  Visualize what you want your semester to be like and write it down.  Having a written list will encourage you to hold yourself accountable and stick to your goals.  Most importantly, have fun with it!  You could write down goals about exploring your city or getting to know different social circles.  The possibilities are endless.

Make as many lists as you could possibly need - one for the end of the school year, the end of college, five years from now.  It can be scary to think about the future, but it can also be fun to get creative and imagine what your life could be like.  It’s helpful to visualize your goals for the future, even if you change your mind about them.

Stay organized

Organization looks different for everyone, but with a busy college schedule, it helps to have some method to the madness.  Have you ever bought a cute planner that you were sure you would use, but it ended up blank halfway through the semester?  I’m guilty.  Before you buy that cute planner, think about what will actually help you stay organized.  Will you actually write in a planner everyday?  Would you rather use the reminders on your phone and computer for your daily activities and the digital calendar for longer deadlines?  Maybe you want to dabble in bullet journaling.  Figure out what works for you before school starts so that you have a plan in mind.  Don’t wait until you’re overwhelmed with course work and clubs. A little proactive organization might keep you from feeling so overwhelmed in the first place.


Taking a little time to focus on your mind each day will help you stay in control of the rollercoaster of emotions that can occur in college.  You don’t have to be a boho yoga girl to start meditating.  Use the app Simple Habit and you’ll find out just how easy meditation can be.

Schedule time for yourself.  With a busy schedule filled with classes, homework, meetings, extracurriculars, and social activities, Sunday often comes quickly and you realize you’ve spent another week with barely a minute alone.  Sometimes you just have to schedule time for yourself to make sure you get it.  Choose something that will make you happy with no strings attached - nothing that you feel like you have to do, nothing that will cause you stress.  Read for fun.  Watch Netflix with your favorite snack.  Spend some time journaling.  Go to the gym.  Whatever it is that makes you happy, look at your schedule, and pencil in time for it.  If you need some extra tips on how to make time for yourself, check out this article written by bSmart blogger Madeline Wilson.

Make a plan for handling stress

Sometimes, when you have two papers to write, hundreds of pages of reading, and a quiz the next day, you just feel like you need to have a breakdown.  And that’s okay.  Sometimes you just need to take a break, breathe, and maybe cry a little bit.  But when you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s helpful to have a plan for how to handle that stress.  If you allow yourself a break to relax, it’ll be much easier to finish the rest of the workload.  For example, when I’m overwhelmed, I might stop, take some deep breaths, drink some tea, and watch a quick funny video to brighten my study session.  Once I feel calm, I’m ready to get back to work.  Think about what might help you, then write it down.  Make a list.  (I said lists are one of my survival tools!)


Whatever it is that makes you happy, look at your schedule, and pencil in time for it.


Treat yourself

Buy yourself one nice thing that you need for the school year.  Maybe it’s new bedding, a nice planner, or a cute winter coat.  No matter what it is, having something nice and brand new will give you that same excitement that you used to feel as a kid buying all your new Lisa Frank folders and dog-shaped erasers.  It’s good to start the year off with a reminder that you deserve to treat yourself.

Unfortunately, we won’t be starting school with the confidence of carrying a Lisa Frank backpack, but luckily, we can start the semester with an even better type of confidence - the confidence that comes from knowing we’re prepared to take care of ourselves.


Elizabeth Guthrie is a student at Northwestern University pursuing a degree in journalism with a minor in sociology and a Civic Engagement Certificate.  You can often find her exploring a new neighborhood of Chicago, reading Harry Potter in a coffee shop or meditating by Lake Michigan.


Comments (6)

  1. Sara Klimek

Great article!

  1. Laura L. Smith

Great advice for overwhelmed college girls (that's all of us or was all of us at one time, right?)

I think it's also important to remember every single girl is stressed, overwhelmed and trying to figure it all out. You're not alone. Talking...

Great advice for overwhelmed college girls (that's all of us or was all of us at one time, right?)

I think it's also important to remember every single girl is stressed, overwhelmed and trying to figure it all out. You're not alone. Talking about some of your apprehension will help others sigh with relief, "You too?"

Read More
  1. Meagan Hooper    Laura L. Smith

Great advice Laura!

  1. Angelina Eimannsberger    Laura L. Smith

That is so true!!!!

  1. Madeline Wilson

Thanks for the tag girl!!!

  1. Angelina Eimannsberger

Love this advice! Makes me wish I was about to start another year of college!


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