By Nathan Peterson

How to Let Classes Become a Nightmare of Burnout & Exhaustion (and How to Actually Do Well in School)

You’ve heard college horror stories: stacks of books to read, professors with high expectations, vague directions and having to wing assignments. These things might definitely happen in college. But it doesn’t have to result in extreme burnout and stress.

Don’t Do It

“You have to get good grades. If you don’t, you’ll be a failure. You’ll let yourself and your parents, even God, down ...” —Overachieving anonymous freshman (possibly you???)

This may sound extreme, but it’s the perspective many subconsciously live by in college. Those of us who lived our college lives like this missed out. On a lot. Late-night hangouts, deep conversations, building strong friendships, and growing closer to God.

We don’t want you to miss out.

This isn’t justification for never cracking open a book in the next four years. We’re called to do our best, like we’re doing it for God (Eph 6:7). But classes and grades aren’t everything. For most of you, your GPA will play little to no role in you getting the job you want post-college. So our biggest tip for doing well in classes is to not let them completely consume you.

Tips for thriving

Below are some tips to help you find a healthy balance between school and fun, laughter and discipline. (Maybe you’ll even discover that school itself can be fun too ...)

1. Find What Works for you

Some people love studying with friends while some find it more distracting. Tons of people need background noise, like music or a show playing or coffee shop ambiance.

Each of us is different, and it’s important to figure out what works best for you. If you’re not sure how to do this, start by asking yourself one or two of these questions each week:

  • What have you been enjoying learning?
  • What have been some challenges? What can you do to work on this?
  • On a scale of 1–10, how would you rate your study focus level? How can you improve?

2. Get Organized

You can’t ace an assignment if you don’t know it exists. Stay on top of homework. Here are some different approaches. There’s nothing like the satisfaction of crossing off another project!

  • Use a planner to write down what you need to do each week.
  • Make a to-do list on your phone where you can check off completed assignments.
  • Print your class syllabus and cross things off every time you finish a paper or reading.

3. Plan Ahead

Don’t forget to budget time for upcoming major assignments to avoid a string of caffeine-induced all-nighters at the end of the semester—unless you’re into that kind of thing.

4. Ask for Help

Professors assume you’ll ask for help if you need it. Even though it can be intimidating to walk up to your teacher, do it. Your fellow classmates can also help, and study parties can be fun!

5. Rest

Do your best to take a Sabbath day each week. That may sound crazy, but try having a day where you just spend time with Jesus, friends, and doing things you enjoy.

The theme of Sabbath rest is found throughout Scripture. Taking a Sabbath lets you and others around you know that no matter how big your problems seem, you believe that God is bigger. Productivity isn’t everything. You can rest confidently in him.

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Nathan served as a writer for InterVarsity for five and a half years. He currently works for a ministry serving adults with disabilities. He enjoys writing and drawing and staying in shape.