And so it begins, the start to another wonderful semester…. Or not depending on the person. I don’t know about you, but to me it always seems like the semester sneaks up on me. And before I know it either winter or summer break is over.
Whether you are beginning this process before classes start or during the first week, if you are like me then you have already begun to think of everything that can go wrong for you during the school year. Are you going to get good grades? Is the professor nice? Will the professor be helpful? Are you going to be so bored that you’re going to fall asleep in class?
These are thoughts that every student has at some point or another during their academic journey, but hopefully by the time you are done reading the tips I’ve got for you, you’ll have a game plan that will have you off and running with a good start.
Here are some of the things that I do in order to feel like I’ve got things in place so that I’m not running around after the semester begins as well as some things that you can do if this is your first semester at college/university (or not… I still do some of these things every semester).
- To get your books… Or wait for them… This is the question Now there are two ways this can go. I’ve always been one to order my books before the semester starts and have them ready for classes. But I’ve also done this and had professors say that we wouldn’t need that book after all… after we’ve opened it of course. So here’s what I recommend for you to do, either email your professor prior to the first week of classes and find out if you really are going to need those books. Or wait until the first day of classes before you hit order. (I recommend Amazon for this because they usually have not only the cheaper price but also can get it to you within a week.)Another way to get these books at a discounted price is to get them used. Sometimes you can even get them for pennies rather than buying a brand new book for upwards of $50. Or find out by looking on the bulletin boards if someone is selling the book you need. Sometimes these will be loose leaf books, because as you will find out if you buy new, the school and bookstores who buy back books will not take these back unless they are unopened.
- How are you going to take your notes? One big thing that you will have to decide (probably after the first day of class) is in what way are you going to be taking your class notes. There are two…ish ways to do this. The first way would be to take your notes by hand (I happen to have a professor that is so anti-technology that she doesn’t even allow them in her classroom).The second what would be if you are going the technology route and use either a laptop or tablet for note taking. I myself have used all three… sometimes in the same class depending on what’s going on.The last way would be to have a recorder going during class so that you can take notes with either of the two previous ways mentioned and also have the lecture saved so that you can go back to it at a later date. (I recommend asking for permission before attempting this, there are some professors who do not like to be recorded and it’s better to ask and be told no than to do it and be discovered and kicked out of class.)If you have never taken a college or university class, then I suggest talking to your peers and finding out how they take their notes and finding a way that works best for you.
- Getting yourself Organized The one thing I can’t suggest enough is to get a planner, or to use some sort of app on your phone if that is more your thing, I myself use both, and use it to get organized.Now I know that using a planner isn’t for everyone, but I can’t tell you enough about how much I love mine. I keep absolutely everything in it. Work – both of my jobs, school – homework assignments and quizzes and exams, my blog – when and what I’m going to post. Everything has a color and keeps me organized. I recommend getting one even if you start out slowly and just use it to contain the mountains of homework that will be assigned to you. This is the one that I use… I found it at Walmart for a grand total of $5.50. This is an amazing price, so know that you don’t have to spend a whole bunch to get a functional planner. You can find it here. Getting organized with a planner either in physical form or on your phone is just one way that you can keep your school work organized. This leads me straight into the next thing for you to do.
- Read your Syllabus/Organize your Assignments, Quizzes and Exams I’m not sure how your classes start, but mine usually begins on a Wednesday so depending on if you have MWF classes or T-Th classes you usually only have one or two days of classes during the first week. So the first thing that I do is to look at all of my syllabus’ after the professor hands them out (or print them out if they don’t hand them out in class… there are those professors so prepare) and begin to make my list of when everything is due. I got this idea of a semester assignment spreadsheet from here. I’ve used this method for the last 3 semesters and it has literally saved me from heartache and tears. (with the exception of when the professor changes the syllabus at the last minute.)Now after you have gotten everything listed on your assignment spreadsheet (to differentiate between classes I’ve color coded mine to match the same color in my planner), The next thing that you should do is to read each of your syllabuses in depth. There is usually something that is hiding in there that you will be wondering about sometime. One thing to remember is that it is your responsibility to read the syllabus, your professor might… might… go over a few points on it, but they won’t always. So read it over and if you have any questions ask them either at the end of class or during office hours.
- Talk to your Professors Now I’m not sure about your classes but when I was in freshmen classes the student population was huge in them. Finding a way to make yourself heard and known in that type of a class is hard, but it is doable.This may seem like a stupid suggestion, but get to know your professors. Go up to them and introduce yourself. This gets you off onto the right foot in distinguishing you from the other students and gets you fresh on their mind. Go to their office hours, talk to them. This is a way to get your professors to not only remember your name, but this gives you a chance to ask question and when they are looking at participation in class, this gets marked as participation.This could be what is standing between you getting an A or a B because believe it or not participation is a big factor for professors. This is also going to give you a leg up when those exams hit or if you have that paper due and you aren’t exactly understanding the assignment.
- Get to know your fellow students… AKA Find a Study Buddy Ok, I understand that for a lot of people this isn’t a big thing to them, but trust me when I say that finding someone to study with and share in the mutual grief will help you in the long run. Not only is a study buddy someone that you can do things with for class but you could end up with a lifelong friend. (This is how I met my friend Jaxine and my friend Rosie… both of whom I am still friends with 4 years later!)Now I can understand that it’s hard for some to just walk up to people and be like “Hi! Let’s be friends!” but you can certainly find an easier way. For example, make small talk with your table or desk buddy. Or ask them if they want to start/join a study group with you. Even creating a Facebook page for the class or group. Or if you’re like me, I pretty much stayed quiet during about half of the semester until I finally got nosy enough to ask the student in front of me what book she was reading. That was the start of my friendship with Jaxine. As I’m a huge bookworm if you’re reading a book, you are someone I want to get to know.Another thing that you can share with a study buddy would is the class readings. Depending on what kind of class you are in there are times when you can have upwards of 50-100 pages of readings a night per class. One thing that my friend Jaxine and I did was to share the readings. For example, I would do pages 1-25 and she would do 26-50. Or if the readings were coming out of several books, we would split the books.Lastly, I know that asking for someone’s phone number right away is sometimes awkward, but asking for their email or Facebook messenger as a way to get a hold of them for class. This is also a great way to get notes to each other very quickly.
So I’m a little late getting this post up, it was supposed to be up on Friday… but I was out of town and didn’t have my laptop with me. Anyway, School for me starts on Wednesday August the 24th. I’ll be starting my 1st year in the Masters Program. I’m a bit scared and nervous, but I’m also excited.
Well that’s it for now, I hope your semester starts of great. Have a great day!
How do you usually prepare for a new semester? Let me know down in the comments!
Until Next Time!