How to Have Your Best Semester Yet

You've made your Target runs, put the finishing touches on your DIY picture collages and made it through the first days of classes—in other words, your semester is off and running (fast!). The school year is in full swing, and this year you’re determined to have an even better time than last year. It’s not that last year wasn’t totally awesome, because it was, but this year? This is your year.

To make the fall semester more incredible than you ever even thought possible, you don’t have to rent expensive party buses to get to frat formals or bust your butt at the library every single night to score that much-deserved A. Sure, a few of those things here and there are swell, but having an amazing time this fall can be the result of much simpler decisions. Wondering what we mean? Here’s your answer: the best tips for making this semester fantastic without having to go overboard. We’re talking making the most of every moment, killin’ your classes and making more friends along the way!

1. Decide what really matters

One of the best ways to de-stress your life is to edit your closet. This means keeping the items that you really love and donating the items that are, well, just taking up space on your hangers. This mentality doesn’t only apply to your inherited cashmere sweaters or your favorite riding boots—committing only to activities, classes and friends you seriously can’t live without will de-stress your life too.

Did you take a leadership position last semester more out of obligation than a true passion for the role? Then let it go! Wandering through a minor that you’re realizing you don’t have much time for or interest in? Then why are you still doing it? College is one of the few times in your life where you get to focus (mostly) on the things that you want to do. Edit your school life like you’d edit a closet: if you aren’t obsessed with your major or extracurricular activities, then let ‘em go. You’ll give yourself extra time to pursue what’s really important to you, which will, in turn, make you a happier camper. Or poli sci major. Or drum captain.

2. Chill, dude

We get it; you’ve got a lot going on. Running from classes to club meetings to study sessions is just a day in the life for a college gal, but don’t forget that at some point you’re going to have to blow off some steam! Scheduling time for constructive relaxation during your week is the key to staying sane when all you can think about is when the heck you’re going to finish that lab write-up.

What exactly do we suggest? Try scraping together an hour for a daily workout, one of the best stress busters out there—and as a bonus, your six-pack will start showing! (Eventually.) If breaking a sweat doesn’t suit your fancy, put together an awesome, calming playlist and listen to it while you take a long shower or when you walk to class. It’ll put you in a good state of mind for taking on your classes and other activities!

Related: 7 Ways to Motivate Yourself to Use the College Gym This Year

3. Channel your inner Jim Carrey

We’re talking about Jim Carrey in the admittedly mediocre 2008 movie Yes Man. Though the film itself wasn’t exactly an Oscar-worthy smash, the plot made a point that we’d like to reiterate: say “yes” to something new! Whether it’s joining a new club, hanging out with a cutie from American lit or taking a spontaneous weekend trip, saying “yes” to something you’re not totally sold on can end up being one of your favorite experiences of the year!

Making the most of opportunities you’re given can totally change your college experience. So the next time your roomies suggest a trip to the beach or the quiet cutie from chem works up the courage to ask you out for coffee, say, “why not?” and get ready for some unexpected fun!

4. Get outta here

As much fun as it is to hang out on campus, sometimes you’ve gotta get out of the university bubble to experience the real world. If your college town has lots to do off campus, take advantage of the awesome shopping, restaurants or museums at your fingertips.

For collegiettes whose schools are a far cry from “urban,” take a Saturday to go hiking, camping or apple picking this fall! Simply getting out of your routine can do wonders for a tired student. Sometimes all you need is a breath of fresh air—literally!

If you’re super ambitious, you could even consider taking an off-campus internship! Visit your school’s career center and ask which companies in the area are hiring—bonus points if you find a gig that’s paid. Interacting with adults in the workforce will not only help you prepare for post-collegiette life, but also give you the chance to collaborate with people who aren’t in your comparative politics course.

“I took a part-time internship near campus during the spring of my junior year,” says Sarah, a senior at the University of Minnesota. “I loved it because it gave me a chance to get off campus and spend some time in downtown Minneapolis during the week. It was only about 10 hours a week, but was just enough to give me a change of scenery and some work experience.”

5. Take astrophysics...

…if you’re a music major. If you’re usually slaving away in chem lab, pick up a theater course. Use the extra slots in your schedule to take a class in a subject you know literally nothing about. Religion, philosophy, sports management… the possibilities are endless.

Sure, college is a time to figure out what you want to pursue as a career, but it’s also a time to experience new things! When’s the next time you’ll have a chance to take music theory from a world-class musician or biology from a highly regarded scientist? That’s right: probably never. Maybe you’ll realize that you’ve fallen absolutely in love with a subject you’d never even considered.

6. Make an older friend (like, wayyy older)

After you’ve established a solid friend group consisting of roommates, classmates and intramural teammates, there’s one last group to conquer: your professors. College professors are a school’s greatest assets, and they’re there to teach and mentor Y-O-U! Teachers are vaults of knowledge. They’re experts in their respective fields, they have years of experience to draw from and they’re networking gold. Not only do they know tons of people in the career field you want to end up in, but they’ll likely be more than happy to connect you with friends or former colleagues who can help you get a job after graduation.

Making connections with your professors will only make your college experience easier and more enjoyable. They are the ones putting your grades in the books, after all! By making sure your Psych 101 lecturer knows your name, the chances it’ll have an “A” next to it by the time finals come around will increase.

Related: 22 Reasons to Be Excited to Go Back to School

7. Learn your school’s fight song 

You know those kids in the front row of football games who paint their chests and make it on ESPN? We’re willing to bet that those mega-fans know every bleeping word to their school’s fight song. We’re also willing to bet (some of us from experience) that they’re having a blast! Having school spirit is an awesome way to get involved on campus, make friends and enjoy your college days.

Does that mean you need to strip down to your skivvies in 20-degree weather and paint up to cheer on your football team? Well, if you want to, we won’t hold you back! For you gals who don’t have an undying love for the cold, there are plenty of other ways to show your love for your school. Attending a music or theatrical performance or a debate match to support your fellow classmates are all totally legit ways to show your school spirit. Just don’t start the wave in the middle of Hamlet.

You’re on your way to having the best semester of your life, girl! Just remember to follow your heart and do what feels right for you. After all, who knows you better than yourself?