5 Top Hacks to Survive the Academic Year

By the SMU Social Media Team

We’re well into the new school year and things are getting real. Minimise stress and make life that much easier with smart hacks to get you through the academic year and beyond.


Plan your timetable




The very first thing that university students must do is figure out the ultimate schedule. It is critical to familiarise yourself with not only the system, but more importantly the relevant deadlines. Generally, keep a lookout for “gaps” in your skeletal timetable. Is it possible to slot in time for research work and revisions? Or do you need time in between seminars to recharge? It is entirely up to you and dependent on your study style. Also, find some time to slot in activities and social life. These are great opportunities to catch up with friends to take your mind off of your studies, as well as to reset your day.


Digital declutter

With our academic life becoming increasingly digitised, it’s important to do regular digital spring cleaning for greater clarity and focus. Start with your Microsoft Outlook inbox, and learn to create rules to filter emails to different folders so you know where and what everything is. It is easy to lose track of important emails when they are buried. At the top of the taskbar, select Home > Rules > Create Rules and you can sort emails by sender, topic, or even by certain keywords.

Ever found yourself faced with a disorganised mass of notes taken throughout the semester when it’s time to revise for exams? Instead, start taking notes on Google Docs for easy access on any device, and file them according to modules. Next, collate notes from various modules according to months or weeks to ensure that they are chronologically organised.  Finally, clear out your desktop by removing unused shortcut icons and keeping to a minimalist wallpaper.

For those of you who won’t panic at the sight of some coding, try customisable desktop skins like Rainmeter to have frequently used tools within easy reach, and keep tabs on your system’s hardware performance. While this is only available for PC users, Mac alternatives such as GeekTool are also available!



Get nosey

Aromatherapy isn’t just new age-y hocus pocus or a fancy term for air freshener. You might want to try using essential oils to amp up your productivity or control your stress levels. Feel yourself drifting off during lectures? Try placing a few drops of ylang-ylang or mint essential oil in a diffuser bracelet made from trendy wood or lava stone beads and take a couple of whiffs when you feel your focus waning. Or diffuse lavender oil in your bedroom when you need to unwind after an intense study session for a good night’s rest.



Your sense of smell is also linked to your memory, as the olfactory bulb is directly connected to the hippocampus – the part of the brain responsible for memory. Studies have shown that rosemary enhances performance in memory tasks, while a scent that was used when studying could boost recollection of the information during a test when the same scent is whiffed.


Up your note-taking game

Still a fan of hardcopy notes? Take the BuJo route — that’s “bullet journal” to the uninitiated – and up your mindfulness and productivity. The bullet journal notebook makes note-taking more efficient and starts with four simple components: A topic, page number, short sentences and bullets. This system allows you to jot down information rapidly, with smart symbols to provide essential context to your notes for easy revision. Adapt the system for a study plan to keep your entire year on track, and check out this Pinterest feed for specific college BuJo ideas.




If digital is more your thing, you could also try out these useful apps to organise your day-to-day while on the go: 4 Top-pick Apps You Need to Supercharge Your University Life


Make friends and ask for help

University life is all about independent learning. However, this means that learning can be very arduous when you run into roadblocks. SMU’s seminar system encourages interactivity and is a great way to weigh in and bounce ideas off of your peers and lecturers – you never know what new knowledge someone might bring to the table.

It is also essential to get to know your classmates, as well as befriend seniors who have walked the same path. These friendly alliances are key to college survival whether they contribute in the form of study groups, the sharing of notes, collaborating on team projects, or providing emotional support when the going gets tough. Besides, friendships forged in university could often be relied upon subsequently in the workforce especially if you wind up in the same industry as fellow grads.