With the winter semester coming to a close, I thought it would be a good time to reflect and talk about what we can do to make next semester more successful. Better grades, better time management, less stress. It’s all achievable. If this semester left something to be desired, read this post to see how you can get on track early next semester. Whether you want to get better grades or stop feeling overwhelmed with assignments, this post can help you.
If you are planning on taking summer classes, you should be able to put this into practice right away. Since summer classes will likely be online, things may look a little different but that’s ok. To be honest, I loved online classes when I was in university and I took them whenever I had the chance. If you aren’t taking classes again until the fall term then hold on to this information and use it when you’re ready.
Things to Do Before your First Day of Classes
You can never start preparing too early in my opinion. This section contains things that you can do before you even start classes for the year.
Buy A Planner
I don’t care who you are or how much you hate planners. I am strongly suggesting that you buy a planner. At the very least buy a big calendar that you can hang up and write all of your important assignments and other due dates on. A planner is a better option in my opinion (or buy both) because you can carry it around everywhere and whenever you are trying to make a decision about what you are going to do with your time you can refer to your planner. Did you get asked out for drinks this weekend? Before you say yes, open your planner and see what you have going on. Oh right, you have a paper due on Monday morning that you haven’t even started. I guess drinks will have to wait. Your planner, combined with your syllabus, will be the recipe for success next semester.
What to look for in a planner
Format: What is the layout of the planner? There are so many kinds to choose from it can be hard to know what is going to suit you best. You can choose a weekly layout or something with a page for each day. Also think about whether there is a monthly overview at the start of each month.
Class Schedule: Some planners will have a section for your class schedule. I know that everything is digital nowadays but it never hurts to have it written down on paper. What if your phone dies?
Pocket: It can be helpful to have a planner with a pocket at the back for loose papers. If you get a business card from someone or have a receipt you need to save you can just slip it in here and you won’t have to worry about losing it.
Size: There are so many different sizes of planners which means you need to determine what suits your needs. I always went for a medium sized one (not pocked sized but not as big as an 8.5 x 11 paper). It was the perfect size because it had lots of space for me to write things down but it wasn’t so big that it was taking up a ton of space in my backpack.
Plan Your Schedule
Success starts with your schedule. You won’t be able to succeed if you load your schedule with more courses than you can handle. Determine how many courses you can handle. Do you have a job? What is your commute like? What other commitments do you have (clubs, student groups, side hustle, etc).
For maximum productivity, I would recommend scheduling your classes on two or three days of the week and leaving the rest as dedicated study days or maybe just having a lab or two on those days (depending on what degree you’re doing). At my university, the maximum amount of courses that you can take per semester is 5 but almost no one does that. I did it for my first two years of school andI thought it was fine but as your courses get harder and more demanding, the reality is that taking 5 courses is probably unrealistic.
Once you have determined how many courses (and which courses) you are taking, it’s time to pick days, times, and locations. Look at the different days that each course is scheduled on and try to pick sections that are on the same days. If you can take classes that only run on Tuesdays and Thursdays, you can leave Monday, Wednesday, and Friday open for studying and working. Alternatively, you could try subbing out a lecture for an online class.Like I said, I am a huge fan of online classes so I would recommend it . However, if you are not an independent learner, online classes may not be for you.
Set up your Study Space
Break is over and you’ve moved back into dorms (or maybe you commute from an apartment or your parents house) and you’re ready for the new semester to start. I know dorm rooms are small but chances are, yours came with a desk. Wherever you live, no matter how small, you need to make a dedicated study space. Studying in your bed will promote a wandering mind and does not lead to productivity. Invest in a good chair and make sure your work space is clean and organized so you won’t have any distractions while you’re trying to study.
Determine what kinds of things you need to buy for your work space? Do you want a whiteboard or cork board to pin things on or write on? Are you out of your favourite pens? What are some things that worked for you last year when you were studying?
Don’t clutter your work space but make sure you have all of the things you need accessible so that you don’t have to get up and grab things during your study session. This includes textbooks, pens, pencils, hi lighters, note cards, and anything else you think you need.
Things to do On/After your First Day of Classes
Gather your Syllabi
Let’s be real, the first week of classes is usually a joke. You go into lecture and sit for 15 minutes while your professor goes through your syllabus and then they let you out early because they know no one is prepared to learn new material on the first day.
Your professors will either hand out the syllabi in class or post them online for you to read along with in class. When I started university, I got hard copies of almost all my syllabi but I think that is less common now.
As I mentioned in a previous post, you need to keep your syllabus in a safe place so that you have it when it comes time for finals. I used these note binders from 5 star to keep mine safe and to store assignments and other papers for classes. They are pretty pricey (I think they were a lot cheaper when I was in school) but I really liked them. I still have the two I bought in 2015 so they hold up very well.
Fill your Planner
You bought a planner right? Good, because you’re going to need it right now. With all of the extra time between lectures during syllabus week, you should have lots of time to read through your syllabi and mark down all of the important dates. Assignments, quizzes, tests, anything that you need to do in a certain time frame. If, for some reason, your lecture doesn’t end early, make sure you read that syllabus at the end of the day and mark all of the dates down. Don’t wait. Live by the syllabus.
Write your Notes by Hand
I know it’s a lot easier to take notes on you laptop but it is proven that writing your notes by hand facilitates better memorization. Leave the laptop in your bag and bring out a notebook and a pen to take notes in class.
Re-read your notes after class/ at the end of the day.
Don’t just take notes and never look at them again. If you have some time after your class, read over your notes and star anything that you had trouble understanding or need more clarity on. If you don’t have time right after class, do it at the end of the day.
Do your Readings Every Week
Get ahead early and do your first readings during syllabus week. I know it seems early to be doing readings but you’re going to have to do them eventually anyways. Whatever the syllabus requirements are for week one, complete them now! You have more time right now than you will all year. If you can get ahead now, you have a better chance of staying ahead for the entire year.
Something else you can do is plan out when you are going to do which readings for which class. Write all of the required readings down in your planner to make sure you do them on time.
That’s it for my post on starting the semester off right! I hope that this gave you a little bit of insight in to how best prepare for the new semester to kill it for the whole year! The most important thing to take away from this is that you need to keep up with your readings from the start of the year. Don’t fall behind! Thank you so much for reading. If you enjoyed and would like to see more content please subscribe!
What Are your Tips?
I’m interested in hearing from my readers about the tips that they have for preparing for a new semester! What are some things that you have done in the past or are planning to do for the upcoming semester that you think are beneficial and help you start the year off right? Please comment below and let me know!!