5 Basic Tricks to Tackling the First Weeks of College

In the first full week of classes, I have almost 200 assigned pages of reading. We get an exorbitant amount of things thrown at us in just a few short days, and it can be daunting. That doesn’t even begin to include our responsibilities outside of class, whether it’s a job, sorority, or club. Generally, it can all end up being quite overwhelming, but there are ways to alleviate that feeling and tackle college head-on.

  1. 1. Review Your Syllabus

    Go over, all of your syllabi in a single sitting. Take note of how many days of class you can miss by highlighting them and what kinds of assignments you’ll have in each class. Also, make a note of the professor’s office hours and how each professor prefers to be contacted (more on this later). Some courses obviously demand more time and effort compared to others. Reviewing all of your syllabi together will give you a clearer picture of which will be more demanding. Also, notice how the professors usually have each class meeting divided into specific subtopics, you can use these to preformat your class notes! It cuts down on rushing to write a section heading; plus, if you have a heavy reading class, you can take notes from your reading in the preformatted sections. That way, your reading notes, and questions are already in front of you during class when the professor questions you on reading. Next, highlight the dates of exams, projects, and papers. Finally, take note of Title IX, disability accommodations, and other sections like counseling services etc,.. All these resources are to help and ensure students the access to equal and fair assistance on campus. women, individuals with disabilities, and individuals experiencing mental health difficulties. Don’t be afraid to use them (especially when these services are free).

  2. 2. Get Organized

    So, you have sat down and reviewed your syllabi. It’s time to break out your planner or calendar. Whether you’re an analog written person (like me) or a digital maven, a planner is essential for organization and success in college. The way I like to do things is to put significant dates on my monthly view, and then primary and recurring assignments in the weekly view. The point is you should make a note of your assignment dates for all classes in your planner for the entire semester. If a professor changes a due date, immediately modify it in your planner. Professors often won’t regularly remind you about assignments like teachers in high school. The next thing is to input all work, sorority, and club dates that you already know of into your planner. You will be able to see if there are any conflicts or multiple assignments due at once to prepare for. Finally, decide on how you organize yourself, whether you use a single multi-subject notebook, loose-leaf paper with a folder or binder, Google Drive, or a tablet app like GoodNotes 5. Just think about what works best for you and stick to it.

  3. 3. You and Your Professor

    GO TO OFFICE HOURS. Literally. Our tuition pays the professors to hold office hours. We are paying them to sit there for hours waiting for us to walk in and talk to them. Go in and ask any lingering questions about the class. Have a conversation about your goals or what you want for your future, they could have fantastic insight or point you in the right direction of people and opportunities. Maybe ask about their research and career path. Forming relationships with our professors is essential to the college experience and can only improve it. If anything, attending office hours can help your grade with many professors counting it as a part of participation. Plus, I’ve found that professors are more flexible with grading and any absences because I often go to office hours. Having taken note of when office hours are and if they conflict with other classes. If that is the case, don’t be afraid to make appointments with them, which is why noticing how they prefer to be contacted is key. But seriously, go schedule an appointment or make a note in your planner to go to office hours now. Don’t wait until finals week to introduce yourself to your professors.

  4. 4. Make a Friend

    In each class, make a friend. This serves two purposes: socializing with peers is healthy, and you have someone for notes. I know that this poses problems of what if my friend never comes to class or what if they don’t take good notes and more. It will be harder in some of the basic required courses because everyone takes those, so taking them with a roommate, friend or sorority sister will help. Once you get more into upper division and major-specific courses, you’ll begin to notice familiar faces in classes and know who can be a reliable friend. Personal academic advancement aside, forming friendships can be tricky. So opening yourself up to making friends with a wide range of people creates more opportunities for lasting friendships for yourself.

  5. 5. Begin Making Healthy Habits

    Although this seems slightly ambiguous and vague, what is healthy for each person is different. What time you wake up each day, how often you exercise, the kind of food you eat, when and how you study is specific to you. But forming a regular habit to these things is vital to reduce stress, get work done and maintain good mental health in the long run. Start your habits early and often to give yourself the best opportunity for success.