Don’t Get It Twisted, Just Get It Done

The sudden and unexpected switch to virtual learning has left many students feeling a little overwhelmed as you attempt to complete your end-of-term academic work. If you can, resist the urge to strive for perfection right now. Instead, cut yourself some slack, focus on staying healthy and safe, and do your best to complete your courses.

Editor's note:

R.J. Jenkins is the lead instructor of University Studies for Student Veterans, an online resource that helps military-connected students maximize their success in the college classroom. R.J. has been teaching and advising college students for over a decade.

R.J. Jenkins
May 06, 2020

Let’s be real – the end of an academic semester is never a walk in the park. It’s more like… a sleep-deprived, caffeine-fueled sprint through the academic equivalent of an American Ninja Warrior obstacle course. Assignments stack up, final papers and exams loom, and it never feels like there are enough hours in the day to study. I was a decent student in college, and still, finals were inevitably a three-ring circus. I once pulled an all-nighter to write a 10-page paper on Boccaccio’s Decameron the night before my 3-hour primate skeletal anatomy lab final. I drank an entire 12-pack of Diet Coke that night. Not cute.

But this semester, of course, isn’t anything like other semesters, especially for on-campus students. The COVID-19 global pandemic seemed to catch the entire world off guard, and colleges and universities were among the institutions earliest to respond – namely, by sending students home. Face-to-face learning became online learning almost overnight, not only for students, but also for faculty. Lecture halls, seminar rooms, laboratories, and libraries went virtual. Now, instead of sitting in class, you’re tuning into lecture from your laptop in the living room, and instead of attending office hours, you’re commenting on your professor’s Facebook Live stream. One minute, everything was business as usual; the next, we were all neck deep in Zoom world. And that’s where we’ve been ever since.

These sudden changes in the landscape of higher education are far from the only – or indeed the most poignant – changes we’re facing. The seemingly ubiquitous threat of illness, an economy increasingly in trouble, continued partisan vitriol, the corrosive effects of social isolation – all of these things, each of which would be challenging enough on its own, have come together in something of a perfect storm, mutating the very feel of everyday life.

In short, times are tough. And that fact, understandably, has made completing the spring semester even tougher for a lot of college students.

I could give a lot of tips and tricks and hacks that might help some of you manage your time more efficiently or make your finals studying a little more effective (check out my edX course if I’ve peaked your interest!). But instead, I want to focus on a single piece of advice, one that I think should precede all others in the coming days and weeks.

Don’t get it twisted, just get it done.

Here’s what I mean. The situation in which we all find ourselves is hard enough already. Try not to make it harder by beating yourself up because you’re having a hard time motivating yourself, or because your academic work has taken a back seat, or because your idea for your final paper isn’t the best idea you’ve ever had, or because you started the semester off strong and now you feel a little (or a lot) behind the eight ball. All of those things, especially right now, are both completely understandable and totally okay. Try not to let them derail you. Give yourself some grace.

Remember, your professors and instructors are living through this global pandemic too. They’re at home too, they read the news too – they get it – and they want nothing more than to see you complete the semester. I’ve had conversations with dozens of college faculty in the past two weeks, and never before have I seen such a pervasive feeling of sympathy for what students are going through. They really want to help you. Help them by turning in your assignments, even if you’re not particularly proud of them. Help them by writing and submitting your final papers, even if they feel half-hearted or a little inarticulate. Help them by completing your take-home finals, even if doing so feels like the last thing that really matters at the moment. Help them by reaching out to them and communicating with them about what you need.

I know it sounds like I’m asking you to cop out, but I’m not. I’m asking you to be pragmatic. I’m asking you to set realistic, humane expectations for yourself. I’m asking you to be kind to yourself. And I’m asking you – if you can – to give your future self the gift of bringing this semester to a close.

I know it may not be pretty, and it may not be perfect, but it will be done. And done is going to feel awesome.

And if you can’t get it done – and there are many good and valid reasons why you might not be able to – that’s okay too. Just make sure to be in good communication with your instructors and advisors. Again, they want to help you – and they will – but they cannot help you unless they know you need help. If you can get it done, then get it done. If you can’t, then make sure you’re connected to the folks who can help you. Everyone is rooting for you.


University studies for student veterans

University Studies for Student Veterans on edX

This course helps veterans transition smoothly from military service to college, and helps them maximize their success once they arrive.

Join FYC on edX