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I have a confession…I didn't really research quarter and semester terms when I applied to colleges. With factors like cost, location, and academics (and deadlines!) taking up my mind, the difference between a quarter and semester term seemed minimal.

But now that we've entered week 8, I've realized that living in the quarter system is much more significant than I anticipated. Frankly, it's amazing how quickly the days go by. And why wouldn't it? The difference between a 10-week and 15-week term is more than a month of living and learning at college. We learn an entire course in two-and-a-half months. Different big events can happen on the same day, and one week is chock-full of them. My experience with the 10-week quarter so far has been defined by, believe it or not, the need for more time and the reassessment of my priorities.

The need for more time

When there's so much to do each day, one naturally wishes they had more time in the day. For more than a couple of times, I've found myself shocked after looking at a clock and noticing that an hour had already passed since I sat down to study. The hours seem to go by faster here. Maybe it's because the homework takes longer to do, or because walking from building to building takes time, or because walking and waiting for meals takes up time as well. In any case, I found that cutting down on the areas where time gets sucked up helps me a lot in getting what I need to do.

For example, to save time walking from building to building, I'll often go to the closest study spots to my next classes. Since two of my classes are in Thornton Hall this term, I choose to walk to the Rauner Library in between those classes to study, since it is closer than the Baker-Berry Library.

Saving some time also allows me to spend some time enjoying cool stuff too!

Reassessing my priorities

With less time to invest in different activities, no one can say yes to everything. Webinars, social activities, guest lectures, and club meetings flood my mail inbox, and it's hard to sort through what I'd want to do and what I'd want to do. On top of keeping up with academic work, keeping my dorm clean, and getting enough sleep, it ends up a daunting task. Without a strict schedule to determine what to do and when, I realized that I needed to decide what I would invest my time in.

Some things I've decided to prioritize are…

  • Studying: making sure I have time to complete all my homework and review
  • Playing music: making sure I have the time to practice piano at least a little each day
  • Health: through exercise, healthy eating habits, and rest

Because every moment counts in the quarter system, I've realized that there is no point in spending my time on things I don't want to do. Priorities will be different for everyone, and they will be different for me in future terms! But knowing what I prioritize informs my choices when I'm met with the plethora that exists at Dartmouth.

I use Notion to help organize my days, but many students also use Google Calendar or other calendars—it's different for everyone!

These experiences are applicable everywhere, but I found that living in the quarter system so far has highlighted them as a learning experience. I really like the fast pace that keeps me moving and growing, but since no one can go at that pace forever, I always try to schedule a time to breathe.

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