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How to Succeed in Your Classes This Semester

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Bentley chapter.

On college campuses across the country, it is now the infamous “syllabus week,” when professors introduce themselves and the class, pass out syllabi, and the only assignment is to make a name tag for yourself (oh, and read the syllabus if you haven’t done that yet). In the words of my professor, “It’s a cardinal sin to do anything meaningful on the first day.” After class, your schedule is unbelievably open, so you take your time to decorate your dorm room, remember how dining hall food tastes, reunite with old friends, and by the end of the week, your social battery is close to dead. You’re tired, but it’s a “good” tired. 

Oh how we wish this was every week of college. Unfortunately, midterm season will come around (sooner than we’d like it to) and all of a sudden you find yourself daydreaming about an hour of open space in your calendar. Despite the busy and often stressful nature of college, it is absolutely still possible to score high while still maintaining some semblance of a social life. Here are a few tips on how to succeed this semester.

  1. Use apps to your advantage

I don’t know what I would do without my digital calendar. In my eyes, if it’s not in my calendar, it’s not happening. Every minute of my day – from when I wake up to when I go to sleep – is scheduled religiously. You don’t have to be as extreme as me, but organizing your classes and personal life into a calendar can be very helpful in making sure everything gets taken care of, and that you are balancing all aspects of your life. Some of my favorite apps for organization are Google Calendar, Todoist, Google Keep, Pomofocus (Pomodoro timer), Quizlet, Blackboard, Evernote/OneNote/Notion, and OneDrive/Google Drive. I always note down assignments on Google Keep on color-coded notes, then transfer them to Google Calendar so I ensure I make time to complete them. This system works well for me, but everyone studies differently, so try these out and find what works best for you.

  1. Use syllabi as to-do lists

Another useful tip is to use your syllabi (you know, that thick packet your professor handed out on the first day of class) as to-do lists. I prefer to print out each syllabus as soon as I have access to it, then highlight all my assignments for the semester, and check each one off with a red pen as I go along. Trust me, there are few things more satisfying in this world than checking a task off your to-do list.

  1. Create a study routine

This tip is crucial. Remember supervised studies in high school? Those one-hour periods when you have dedicated time carved out in your schedule to work on homework? You spend an hour in the same classroom at the same time on the same day each week. I like to take that approach to studying in college. In my digital calendar, I block off two or three one-hour “study” periods when I head to the quiet area of my school library and spend that time strictly on homework. It might take some willpower the first couple of times, but before you know it, you’ll find yourself naturally walking to your designated study space at your designated study time. It’s kind of like going to class – it becomes a natural part of your day-to-day routine.

  1. Make at least one friend in each class

If you are like me, and you are an introvert at heart, this tip may seem intimidating to you at first, but trust me, it will pay off when exam time rolls around and you need someone to study with, or if you get sick one day and miss a lecture, etc. A quick “hi” to the person sitting next to you in class can go a long way. Not only can a friend be a good resource for notes or clarifying questions, but I’ve also met some of my good friends because of casual conversations made during class!

  1. Make academic and personal goals

Setting short-term and long-term goals can help you set your focus for the semester and keep you motivated after the “fresh start effect” of the first few weeks wears off. These goals can be as long-term as “Finish the semester with a 3.7 GPA” or as short-term as “Complete essay by Wednesday at 5pm.” Whatever goals you set, make sure they are SMART goals – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. To illustrate the importance of each component of a SMART goal, think about how unfruitful it would be to spend 30 minutes each day learning how to sew, for example, when it has nothing to do with your business major (an irrelevant goal).

  1. Take care of your health

I’ve learned the hard way that you simply cannot expect yourself to perform at your best academically if you don’t take care of yourself physically and mentally. Whether it means taking 30 minutes each day to go on a walk, or spending a little extra time to prepare a salad instead of eating whatever’s at the dining hall, or even seeing a counselor at your university, take those steps to maintain your health. Even if you implement just the first example I gave, there are countless studies on physical activity and academic performance proving that exercise improves cognitive performance. You (and your GPA) will thank yourself later.

  1. Take breaks!

This final tip has been a difficult one for me to implement in my own life. I used to think taking breaks was a sign of weakness, or something to be frowned upon. But now I approach breaks with the mindset that by taking a few minutes away from my work, I am “recharging” my mental energy so that I can perform better once I return to studying. In other words, breaks are actually productive! 

I hope you’ve found these tips helpful, and good luck this semester!

My name is Mia Ichimura and I'm from Greater Boston. I'm a fourth-year student at Bentley University majoring in Corporate Communications with a minor in Marketing. Following my graduation, I plan to pursue a career in public relations. In my free time, I enjoy reading, photography, listening to music, and spending time with friends and family. I joined Her Campus because I love writing and wanted an outlet to share my ideas and experiences. My favorite topics to write about are productivity and wellness!