For any readers who are Douglas Adams fans, the words “Don’t Panic!” will bring a smile of recognition. The phrase is an integral part of the “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” series of books published beginning in the late 1970’s, but it is very fitting to use at this point in Fall Semester as well.
Library staff don’t really need to look at an academic calendar to know what week it is, since student traffic in the library is a reliable indicator that “it’s midterm” or “it’s the last week of classes” and students are frantically working to complete assignments and write papers. Many of these are (supposedly) semester-long projects, assigned by instructors weeks or months ago, but ignored by students till now. Instructors vent their frustration with students to us, wondering why students don’t see the benefits of working on something intermittently throughout the semester. Students also vent to us, wondering why instructors are so thoughtless and inconsiderate when making so many assignments due at the end of the term.
My advice to students is always some version of “Don’t Panic!” Often they just need someone to listen to them talk about feeling overwhelmed. Others need some organizational assistance, which might be the question, “Okay, what do you need to do first?” and some suggestions for what to include in a research paper. Still others realize, after hearing it come out of their mouth, that they are the ones to blame since they really have had fourteen weeks to work on the project and then, feeling sheepish, they buckle down and get it done.
My hope is that students remember this terrible panicky time NEXT semester, when the assignments are made and they think, “Hey, that’s not due till April! PLENTY of time!” Time management is one of those things learned in college that has wider applications than cell division, polynomial factoring, or the date and impact of the Magna Carta.
By, Sue Andrus