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Going back to school after break

January 29, 2014


Going back to school after break, like over summer or the holidays, can be hard. You might be sad that the days of sleeping in and having extra time on your hands are over until the next break. Or alternatively, you might be really excited to get back to school, catch up with all your friends and start your new classes.


No matter what you might be feeling, here are a few tips that can help you get back into the right frame of mind to go back to school and get motivated for the new semester or quarter.


How going back to school might affect you

At the beginning of the semester or quarter, it’s not uncommon to feel:


  • Stressed or anxious;
  • Excited to see friends again;
  • Sad or down that break is over;
  • Pressure or expectations-from yourself or others-to perform well in school;
  • Concerned about your course load.


If you’re experiencing these feelings, take time to ease back into school and do things that can help you be less stressed out. For example, even if you don’t feel like it, exercising and eating well can help.


Suggestions for easing the transition back to school


It may help to remember you’re not alone; a lot of other people are just as likely to be anxious about returning to school as you are. Here are some suggestions for making going back to school as stress-free as possible:


Set some goals for the year or even just the semester. A good way to get motivated for the new semester or quarter could be thinking about the things you’d like to achieve. These might be school-related goals, like getting good grades in certain classes, or personal goals, like joining a club or volunteering.


Once you’ve set your goals and subgoals the next step is to put your goals into action. It’s likely that having your goals broken down into smaller steps, or subgoals, will make it a lot easier for you to achieve your goals in the long-run.

Develop a plan of action

Write a step-by-step plan for achieving your subgoals, and ultimately your main goal. This includes planning deadlines for each subgoal and writing down all the “nitty-gritty” small things you can do today, tomorrow, and later on this week in order to achieve your goal and subgoals.

Case study: Liam’s plan of action

My goal: To be a competent soccer player within one year.

How I will benefit from achieving this goal?

  • I love soccer. I will enjoy it.
  • It will help me stay fit.
  • It’s sociable, and something I can do with my friends.
  • It’s a skill, and mastering it would give me a sense of achievement.

Subgoals (specific steps to achieve this goal), plus target dates for each step

  • Ask mom and dad to pay for new cleats as part of my birthday present. Target date: tonight.
  • Join a local soccer team. Target date: by Tuesday, May 2.
  • Practice with Dan (my brother) who is good at soccer, and get him to give me some tips. Target date: regularly, starting May 4.
  • Play at least three times a week (at least two afternoons after school, and once on the weekend). Target date: Starting May 24.

The nitty-gritty (things I need to do this week)


  • Talk to mom and dad about cleats.
  • Talk to Dan about practicing with him.


  • Call the local team coach and find out about membership.


  • Sign up for the team by Friday of next week.
  • Tell Nick and Steve that I want to join them when they play pick up games on Mondays and Fridays once I’ve got my cleats.

Give it a try

Choose something that you would like to achieve. Describe it as a specific goal, and include a deadline for its achievement. Then describe the benefits that you will gain, your subgoals and the steps you need to take this week in order to work towards your goal. You can do this by filling in the spaces next to the following headings:

Plan of action

  • My goal;
  • How I will benefit from achieving this goal?
  • Subgoals (specific steps to achieve this goal) PLUS target dates for each step;
  • The nitty-gritty (things I need to do this week).

Identify the obstacles

Once you’ve defined your goals and worked out subgoals and a plan of action, you’re well on your way. But keep in mind that it’s not always smooth sailing from here.

Sometimes, in spite of the best intentions and thorough planning, obstacles get in the way. Obstacles are the things that can stop you from getting what you want. They can be practical problems like lack of time, or psychological blocks, like fear of failure.

Common obstacles

Here are some practical problems you might face:

  • Not having enough time;
  • Not having enough money;
  • Not having enough knowledge or skills;
  • Stress and fatigue;
  • Parents or friends who don’t approve of your goal.

You might face psychological blocks as well, like

  • Fear of failure;
  • Fear of disapproval or rejection;
  • Lack of confidence in your ability to succeed;
  • Frustration;
  • Lack of motivation;
  • Short attention span;
  • Lack of well-defined goal.

Obstacles don’t necessarily stop you from achieving your goals, but they present a roadblock. They challenge you to devise strategies to overcome them.

It’s often helpful to anticipate any obstacles that are likely to arise while you are working toward your goals, and to plan out how you can deal with them.

As an example, let’s take a look at how Casey planned to overcome her obstacles in relation to regular exercise.

Casey’s goal: To exercise at least five times a week.

Casey’s plan for overcoming the obstacles

Possible obstacle: I’ll get bored.

Strategies to overcome the obstacle:

  • Vary my exercise. (For example, try different running routes; run sometimes on the sand at the beach; take an aerobics class at the gym, etc.)
  • Talk to Dad and Sasha about training together in the mornings.
  • Listen to good music while training.

Try it out

List all of the possible obstacles that might get In the way of achieving your goal, and strategies that you can use to overcome them.

  • My goal;
  • My plan for overcoming the obstacles;
  • Possible obstacles;
  • Strategies to overcome them.

Attaining your goals

Focus on the rewards

You might feel motivated if you focus on rewards rather than the pain involved in achieving your goals. For this reason, it’s always a good idea to write down all the benefits you hope to gain.

Try to think laterally when you write your list. Besides the direct benefits of getting what you want, you might also feel the additional satisfaction of being in control, which can increase your self-worth and self-confidence.

Visualize success

Many people know the benefits of visualizing their goals—it’s a technique that many elite athletes use. Focusing on the image of swimming, or running or winning in front of a cheering crowd helps many athletes stay motivated while they’re in training. In a similar way, you can create an image of the things that you want to achieve and use it for inspiration.

Other tips

Be flexible.  There’s never just one way to achieve something. Have multiple options in mind to achieve your goals. It’s important not to put all your eggs into one basket. Investigate and plan other ways to get to where you want to get, whether it’s a college degree, job or vacation.

Get support.  It’s important to reach out and get support from others who can help you achieve your goals. This could be practical support from teachers or coaches, or moral support, from those like friends and family.

Try it out

Setting goals can keep you focused and motivated, and can increase your chances of getting the things you want. You can set goals for different areas of your life, such as your career, lifestyle, friendships, attitudes, interests and health.

In order to achieve your goals, you’ll need to clearly define what you want; set subgoals that you’ll need to achieve along the way, and follow through a step-by-step plan of action.

Perhaps people fail to achieve goals because various obstacles get in the way. Obstacles can be psychological (like boredom or a lack of motivation) or they can be practical problems (like not having enough time, money or support). When setting goals, it’s important to consider the potential obstacles and work out a plan to overcome them.



Get involved. A good way to get back into things at school and possibly make new friends is to become involved in activities or clubs. You may have been overwhelmed during your first semester or first year, or may not have been interesting in joining a club or other activity. Even if you have already made friends on your own, this could be a great time to meet some new people who share common interests with you. You might want to try a sports league, debate team, volunteer activity, student council, or fraternity or sorority. Now that you are settled into college and might feel more comfortable exploring your school’s social scene, it could be fun to get more involved.

Break the ice. It’s possible that you will find yourself in classes with people you don’t know. Other people often feel nervous about making new friends or being in a situation with strangers. Try breaking the ice by asking someone in your class to hang out after class, have coffee or join a study group. You may have gotten used to your classes and classmates in the previous semester or quarter, so you’ll have to introduce yourself to your new classmates to feel the same this semester.

Don’t stick to stereotypes. It’s often easy to identify different groups at your school: common stereotypes are jocks, hipsters, business or international students, for example. However, interacting with anyone (no matter what group they hang out with usually or what stereotype you think they fit into) can help you expand your circle of friends and become more open-minded.          

ImageExpress yourself. Expressing yourself can help you keep in touch with how you are feeling. It can also help you release a lot of tension that you might be carrying around. Sometimes, when people lose touch with how they feel, their feelings burst out in situations or ways that are embarrassing or inappropriate.

Everyone needs some time alone to reflect on feelings. Being able to express how you feel might help you make better decisions about what is right for you now.

Ways of expressing yourself

Finding out the best way for you to express yourself can be rewarding. You might find that you enjoy expressing yourself in a particular way, like painting, playing a sport, singing, drumming or even yelling into a pillow. If you don’t know which way works best for you, try some of the following suggestions.

Write about how you feel. Writing can be a useful way to explore your feelings. Some people keep diaries or journals, while others just write down whatever comes into their head at a particular moment. You might want to write a story about what is happening in your life now or make up a story based on some past event in your life. Writing poetry works for some people, too.

Play a sport.  Playing sports lets you express yourself in a physical way. There are plenty of opportunities to yell or curse or feel elated when things go well. Team sports allow you to express yourself with others and use your mental and physical energy.

Draw or paint. Even if you don’t think of yourself as an artist, drawing and painting are useful ways of expressing yourself. You might just want to experiment with abstract lines, sketches or colors.

Sing, play music or shout. Singing along to your favorite songs or playing a musical instrument is another way of expressing yourself. Sing in the shower or in your car. If you play an instrument or sing regularly, you might want to start writing your own songs or music to express how you feel.

Dance.  Dance is a form of self-expression, and you don’t have to be a ballerina to do it. Put on some music at home or go out and dance as much as you like in whatever way you like.


Have something to look forward to. Sometimes it can be helpful to plan ahead so that you have something to look forward to. It can change your mindset completely. You may want to plan to catch up with friends after school or do something special over the weekend. And there’s always next break to look forward to!




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