First Day Fury | Arts and Science ONLINE

First Day Fury

It’s the first day of your course. You eagerly open OnQ and read the instructor’s opening remarks. You briefly explore the course content, check out the assignments tab, and make your way to the timeline.

You open the timeline, begin looking it over. Before you’re even half way through, thoughts of: I have to do what?! I have to read how many chapters this week?! I can’t read all that and do a quiz by Wednesday! A group project? Starts on a Monday and due in 9 days… how are we going to coordinate that?! An essay, a weekly challenge, and a forum post due in the same week?! creep through your mind.

At this point, you’ve spent about ten minutes perusing your up-coming expectations and are starting to feel overwhelmed. Can I handle this? Should I drop this course? I have another course… maybe I’ll check out that one while I mull this information over. You switch tabs to your other course only to discover a similar scenario of overwhelming expectations.


Take one giant inhale. Hold it in. Exhale. Repeat. If you don’t feel even a notch calmer, stand up, walk away. Get a drink, eat some food, exercise, do something, anything, to waiver from that state of mind.

Feeling refreshed with a clear head?

Many courses start this way for me. Especially a summer course; a full semester course condensed into six weeks always begins this way for me and has consistently ended in my best mark even compared to full semester course grades. That feeling, when the course is finally over and I realize I’ve now achieved something I considered not even attempting, is indescribable.

How do I handle it?

1)      Commit. Forget that dropping it is an option.

2)      Print the course timeline.

Use the timeline for reference and cross off tasks, readings, and weeks as they pass.

3)      Prioritize.

Look over the entire course. Make note of assignment and quiz deadlines and pay special attention to any group work – address this very early on.

4)      Capitalize on time: Be effective, be productive.

Assignments usually correspond to the material of the week (or previous week) they’re due. I read the assignment instructions prior to the course readings/lectures and make any relevant notes as I go or afterward while it’s still fresh. Even if I have no intention of doing the assignment today, it’s very discouraging to tackle a tough assignment when I’m staring at a blank page; opening a document that already has some thoughts jotted down helps immensely. Recognize when you aren’t retaining information - don’t mindlessly read material or listen to lectures. 

5)      Create good habits.

I actively block time for myself to do school work and keep it consistent. My mornings are my school time because that’s when I have the most energy and feel the best. I check OnQ daily for updates, to read other students’ questions, and anything else that may be relevant (such as flooding my unresponsive group’s forum…)  

6)      Operate on the notion that assignments are due at least one day earlier than posted.

This allows breathing room for any unexpected situations that arise (including technical issues because, yes, they do happen!)

7)      Embrace stress and anxiety.

Sometimes the reason I have the energy needed to tackle overwhelming tasks is stress. Walking away unfinished and frustrated leaves me plagued by this feeling of defeat and I actually become more motivated; thoughts and ideas that didn’t exist earlier begin to form and I’m filled with a feeling of “I need to finish this task” (there’s research to suggest feelings of depression and stress actually serve this adaptive purpose, it’s referred to as the analytical rumination hypothesis*).

8)      Most importantly, take it one day, one week, one assignment at a time.


“Motivation is what gets you started, habit is what keeps you going.” – Jim Rohn, Motivational Speaker.

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