Today officially marks one month since the 2016-2017 academic year began for us TAMS students, so now is probably a pretty good time for a retrospective review of these last four weeks and what this all means going forward. Because you are all very busy, I will try to keep this blog as concise as possible (no promises), and to hopefully help you control any potential stress, I will try to also provide you with ample motivation to persevere!
Part 1: Academics
There are pretty much two types of people: those who came into TAMS expecting that each class would be an intimidating uphill battle and that exams would be formidable obstacles designed to throw you off course, and those who wandered into TAMS assuming that these supposed "challenges" would be easy breezy. No matter what your presumptions were beforehand, you should now know more or less how well you are able to handle the academic course load of TAMS. Naturally, the content of your classes will grow more difficult, and the amount of homework you need to complete will increase, but if you feel like you can handle everything now, then I wholeheartedly believe that you will find success this year, so don't doubt yourself. If you currently feel overwhelmed by your classes, do not panic; you have several options. First off, try new ways to study, such as working with a group and talking through the material if you have always studied by yourself and found that you aren't remembering essential information come test time. Also, always feel free to talk to anyone on the staff, but most importantly your RA and your academic counselor, Ms. Wendy. Every staff member here at TAMS is committed to the wellbeing and prosperity of each individual student, therefore making them an invaluable resource when you find yourself in difficult times. Even if you have always been a straight A student with little to no studying required, everything can change once you get to TAMS, so don't beat yourself up over the one B you got on that test or paper you thought you deserved an A on. The absolute last option you should consider is leaving TAMS, even if it feels like your only choice. You will make it through any difficulties that come up if you put your mind to it and use the resources available to you -- I promise.
Part 2: Social Life and Clubs
I have said this before, but I will say it again: what students remember most about TAMS are the memories they made with their friends, not the time they got a perfect score on their Biology test. I'm not trying to say that studying isn't important (because it is), I'm just saying that you should not forget to enjoy TAMS while you are here because you got distracted by the schoolwork. If in this last month, you felt like you never made time to see your friends because you spent every waking hour stressing about that first Chem test or the upcoming English paper, challenge yourself to relax and socialize more. The same goes for clubs: if you thought that you would be too busy to allow yourself to go to a club's GA, even though it was something you were really excited about, try not to limit yourself so much. Going to GAs and seeing your friends can even be beneficial towards your academics, at least it is for me. When I give myself time to take a break and see my friends, it helps me stay much more focused once I get back to studying because my brain just needs a break from reading textbooks sometimes. Essentially, the most important thing to take away is that balance between your academic and social lives is vital.
Part 3: Volunteering
It may seem easier to put off your community service hours until you have nothing else going on in your academic life, but what you will find is that you almost never have nothing at all to do. The key to successfully completing your community service requirement is to begin early and participate regularly. One of the best ways to do this is to sign up for a regular volunteering event, such as through one of HOPE's many wonderful committees, so that you have a scheduled time each week where volunteering is your one priority. The optimal time to start volunteering is right now, so don't hesitate to comment your name on a post when you know full well that you would otherwise be sitting in your room watching Netflix from 4-6 PM this Thursday. Also, don't think of volunteering so much as just another hassle to deal with; try to find something you are passionate about so that you can genuinely enjoy your time while making a positive impact on the community.
Part 4: Random Tips
- If you are planning to take go home every weekend to spend time with your friends back home or your family, at least consider staying at TAMS for a whole weekend. Some of my favorite times last year were with my TAMS friends when we had nothing to do on a Friday night.
- Don't treat your RA or the other RAs like they are people who are just their to doc you and to make sure you don't die; the TAMS RAs are some of the coolest and funniest people you will meet, so you should talk to all of them whenever you can and truly get to know them. The same goes for all other members of the staff, such as your academic counselor or the front desk workers.
- Take care of yourself! Try your hardest to get enough sleep, even though it may not always be the most convenient or fun aspect of your life. Sleep is super important, especially the nights before big tests and presentations. Also, make sure you are eating three meals a day (and not just ramen three times a day), even if that means getting up a whole 15 minutes earlier to grab a quick breakfast at Bruce. Taking good care of yourself is the best thing you can do to ensure that you will stay healthy, physically and mentally, throughout the school year.
Although a lot of this information may seem obvious, it's always important to remind yourself what you should be prioritizing, especially when you are all in a completely new environment surrounded by lot of new people and challenges. I hope that you all keep your goals in mind and that you never fail to keep trying. You will make it through this year one way or another, and this blog should just serve as a reminder to those of you who may face a struggle at some point this year (i.e. everyone) that you always have options and that finding a balance that works for you is the key to getting the most out of your TAMS experience.