5 Steps to Start Your Semester Strong
It is so tempting to gently ease into a new semester. The first few weeks of a school usually move at a much slower pace than the rest of the term. You may find that you have a much lower volume of homework and assignments to tackle and way fewer events and obligations to attend to.
All of the "free" time is incredibly seductive. You might create a very strong urge to spend most of your time connecting with friends and participating in general shenanigans before the semester gets into full swing.
I get it. You should connect with friends and have all the fun, but I also encourage you to take the time to do these 5 really simple things to make sure you are setting yourself up for success this semester.
I promise that these super easy strategies will help you get oriented, organized, and, dare I say, motivated so that you can actually "do better" this semester.
5 Steps to a Stronger Semester
1. Use an HOURLY Calendar
Every college student needs a good calendar. I don't really care if its an online calendar like Google or Calendy or a good old fashioned paper calendar, but I care deeply that the calendar that you use be hourly. Whatever you select, I strongly recommend avoiding any calendar that only provides each day a tiny little open-ended box.
Although, these are great for keeping up with the big picture. (I totally use a whiteboard monthly calendar in this way.) Monthly calendars are absolutely terrible for scheduling tasks and commitments into specific time slots. This calendar has to allow you to actually plug your tasks into specific time slots or it's got to go!
2. Enter ALL Due Dates and Commitments in Your Calendar
Now that you have an amazing hourly calendar, you're going to take each and every one of your syllabi and course calendars and mark down all the due dates listed on the calendar. Then you are going to take every one of your personal commitments and plug those into the calendar.
Congratulations! You should now have all of your high priority work and events mapped out in one place. You can now anticipate and plan for crazy busy weeks.
3. Introduce Yourself to All of Your Professors
In this step, I want you to physically go to their office hours and introduce yourself. It doesn't have to be anything fancy. You just need to stop by, shake their hand, tell them your name, and that you are looking forward to taking their class. They might ask you some questions...like why you're taking the class, what you're studying, and how things are going for you. Don't freak out. This is a good thing. This is their way of connecting with you.
Introducing yourself helps you begin to develop a relationship with them. It will make it much easier down the road to ask them for help or for a reference. You can find more ideas on what to talk to your professor about here.
4. Start Reading
Hear me out. I know that reading is the lowest priority homework for most students. It's boring. It's time-consuming. It's usually easy to fake like you read. I know all the tricks. I both majored in and teach a subject that heavily relies on reading (history). I get it.
But...the thing is. Reading really does help you learn the information. Taking the time to regularly read the class material when it's actually assigned can transform your academic experience. This step alone will make it easier to focus during class, easier to complete assignments, and easier to study for exams.
I recommend dedicating time each day to reading. Pick a time when you are most alert. Find a spot that isn't too comfortable (i.e. avoid your bed or couch.) And sit down for 40-minute chunks to at least skim your assigned readings.
5. Familiarize Yourself with Campus Academic Support Services
You might think that academic support services are there to help those who are failing and struggling with their academics. The thought of using a service like private tutoring might mortify you, but in college using academic support services should be part of your academic routine.
Most colleges and universities offer private tutoring, supplemental instruction, teaching assistant office hours, drop-in math and writing centers, academic coaching, and much more. I recommend taking a little time to physically visit these services on your campus. Introduce yourself to the staff, get a calendar, scope out the environment. Essentially get familiar and comfortable. This will make it so much easier to return when you need some extra help.
I also recommend actually using these service right from the beginning of your semester. Especially for subjects that have historically been challenging for you. Tutors, Mentors, and Supplemental Instructors can often help you learn how to take notes, prepare, and study for the subject they support.
Remember you have the power to create a better college experience!
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