Erin Murtaugh: Try these tips to have a good school year

Published 10:07 am Thursday, August 25, 2016

Erin Murtaugh is a nursing student at Rasmussen College in Mankato. She can be reached at

With Albert Lea area schools starting yesterday, and many area college campuses starting this past Monday, I thought I would touch on some things I have found important to me during the school year. For parents of younger children, this can apply to both you and your kids.

1. Get your rest. I don’t get a ton of sleep during the night because I am most focused on my school work later at night, but then I have to be up for work very early. Something I’ve learned helps get me by on busy days is to sneak in 20-minute power naps when I can. If possible, it is really important to get a full night’s sleep. Elementary school-aged students need a recommended 10 hours of sleep per night. Middle school students need almost nine hours per night. High school students should get about the same amount as middle schoolers, however the average for a high school student is about seven hours a night.

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2. Pack lunches — or at least snacks. Food and nutrition is an important part of keeping your brain healthy. Throughout the day, we need to refuel it. If you like food offered at school, then maybe pack a few small snacks to have throughout the day. Packing a lunch is a great idea for both school and work. You can have healthy choices and pick out exactly what you want. I eat a high protein diet, so when I go to work, I often pack nuts, cheese, oatmeal and greek yogurt. Since I am on the road for school and it is harder to keep my lunches cold, I will usually pack a peanut butter sandwich, nuts and applesauce. For snacks, I pack baby carrots and hummus, some sort of crackers and granola bars.

3. Use a planner. Without my planner, I would be totally lost. I write my work schedule and my school schedule in it, along with due dates for assignments and appointments that I may have. Before I go to bed, I sit down and make a list for the next day in my planner on what assignments I plan to get done. This helps me stay on top of my homework so I don’t fall behind in school. Using a planner is a great way to help with time management. There are lots of options out there. My favorite planner right now is called the Passion Planner, which is available to order online.

4. Make time for family. Between sports and other extracurricular activities, school, work and seeing friends, it can be hard to a student to find the time to see their families. It is even harder to do so when you are a college student who lives in a different town or state from family. For me, I try to make an effort to see my family in person at least once a week. I always take the time to check in with my dad over the phone at least once a day, even if it is just a quick message saying hi. If you are a parent with children at home, or a student still living at home, take time to sit down around the dinner table every night, or if that isn’t an option, once a week. Utilize weekends to take outings as a family and spend extra time together. Family is an important support system when going through school.

5. Make time for yourself. I am working on a project for nursing school which is evaluating my school/work/personal life balance. Every few weeks, I am supposed to check in on eight different categories and see how I am doing. One of the categories is personal time and development. I made it a goal to take time for myself every day for at least 15 minutes. During this time I detach from my phone, computer and tablet, and  I might take my dog for a walk, sip on a cup of coffee, or just rest and reflect on my day. I also am challenging myself to try a new hobby before the year is over. Personal time is an important step to take during your day because it can be a time to destress, unwind and reflect.

As this school year starts, remember to find balance in your life and take care of yourself. Wearing yourself down or not staying healthy will only be deter from the success of schooling. Have a great school year!