Academic Success: Finding Academic Happiness

Have you ever wondered how to balance academic success with your overall well-being? This month, the QSN theme is Academic Success, and guest blogger Alejandra Mendoza (Columbia ’19) is kicking it off with her insight about academics, happiness, and the important balance between the two:

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Alejandra Mendoza, QuestBridge Scholar, Columbia ’19

As I was sitting in my Contemporary Civilization class today, my professor asked our class what happiness was. According to Aristotle, happiness is an activity, a progress. But we didn’t approach happiness the way he did. We listed nouns instead of verbs. We said health, money, love, instead of “living well.” Amidst our definition of happiness was academic success.

While academic success does have the capability to provide happiness, success does not happen overnight. Success, much like happiness, is a progress – it happens because we’re willing to work for it.

In order to attain academic success, Aristotle would say that we need to practice – we can only be the best through preparation. It means figuring out what type of student you are – whether you study best late at night, in a library, or on a laptop.

img_4117Healthy study habits develop through practice. During my freshmen year, I found that I studied best when I was alone and listening to music. Some of my friends studied best when in groups. What we did agree on was that self-care came first. We would take study breaks or hang out in the lounge for an hour if we had spent the whole day studying. During the week, we would sit down for dinner, talk about our days, and return to studying only when all of us had finished a complete meal.

It’s important to take a break and stretch every hour during studying. Grab a drink of water or a snack, and look away from your book or device for a small amount of time. If you’re in the library for a long period of time, go with a friend and when the time comes that you need a break, leave your things with them and take a walk. Go to the cafeteria and grab a piece of fruit – stay away from coffee – and step outside for a breath of fresh air. Trust me, it helps a lot.

And nothing is more important than sleeping. It might seem like a competition of how little sleep one can run on, but it’s not worth it. Sleep when you need to – take naps less than 45 minutes if you need to get to work immediately after waking, or 90-minute naps if you want to sleep longer and have the time. Try your best to develop a sleeping schedule that allows for you to socialize and study in equal measure.

Remember that there are resources around you: the librarian knows what book you need before you do; the cafeteria lady is kind; your professors and TAs are there to help you, and they are more than willing to do so. There are study rooms you can book when you need a whiteboard to write on, and there are reference books for everything in existence.

And when it gets too stressful, remember that you are not alone. There are friends in your shoes, places on campus to help you, and a whole world outside campus to explore. Don’t forget to take a step back and admire all that you have achieved. Your accomplishments have already proven that you are well on your way to succeeding.

– by Alejandra Mendoza, Columbia ’19