6 Tips for Success this Semester

I pride myself on being a very organized person when it comes to school work. It’s important to have expectations and goals for yourself before you start a new semester to make sure you start off on the right foot. Whether you’re a college freshman or senior, organization and preparation before and during the semester are crucial to your success. Here are a few tips that can help you break the cycle of the overwhelming madness that is college.

Get (and USE) a Planner

This is an absolute must when it comes to organizing your crazy busy, college student life. Put everything in this planner. Make it your best friend. Keep all of your important dates, birthdays, assignments, trips, work schedule, what you eat that day, everything! I usually take it a step further and color code my planner (yes, color code). This way, once I’m able to associate the color with the categories, I can just glance at my planner and know what I have to do that day.

The University of Minnesota Bookstore has an awesome planner, called the Gopher Guide, that you can buy (you lucky freshmen get it for free) but if you’re not a freshman it’s only $5.95! It has all of the important schools dates you need to know, like when the semester starts and ends, but more importantly, the dates of winter and spring break. Instead of a color coding system, this planner uses a sticker system, which is also very helpful when organizing your life. The Gopher Guide planner has maps of campus and coupons for deals in the area, too! 

The key is that you have to keep up with it. You can’t just use it for the first week of classes and then never use it again. When I got my Gopher Guide at freshman orientation, it got thrown in a desk drawer, never to be seen again. Once classes started, I realized that it might actually come in handy, but I couldn’t find it anywhere! The next semester, I got a new Gopher Guide from the bookstore and used it for about a week and back into the desk drawer it went. I got super stressed because I had to try to remember all the things I had to do. Actually using my planner and writing everything down could have saved me many headaches and worry sessions. Stay on top of it. It’ll make your life much easier.

Plan out your weeks.

This is similar to using your planner but is an extra step that you can take to help organize your course work for the entire school year and see it all on one sheet of paper instead of flipping through your planner to see assignments for the weeks ahead.

After you get the syllabi for all of your classes at the beginning of the semester, sit down and figure out what your weeks will look like until the end of the term. It might seem like a pain but it’ll help a lot during that middle of the semester rut.  That being said, realize that some professors do their own thing and go off the syllabus sometimes, so this isn’t an excuse for you to not to pay attention when the professor assigns homework or projects. Usually, this system is effective. Personally, I use Microsoft Excel, but if you don’t know how or don’t want to use Excel, Word is fine (U of M students get Microsoft Office 2016 download for free, in case you didn’t know).

This is a huge lifesaver. We all know that feeling of coming to class and realizing you had homework due. Everyone else has the assignment out and ready. There you are, looking like a deer in the headlights, trying to quickly make up an excuse, that is believable to tell your professor. “My dog ate it. I was at the hospital. I had a family emergency. My computer stopped working. My printer just didn’t print. My roommate threw it away. I forgot it.” Then, the professor obviously doesn’t believe your crazy made up story or doesn’t really care what you have to say and you are stuck there, getting humiliated in front of your entire class. All this because you forgot to do one measly assignment.

Work Ahead

Getting behind in your school work is the worst feeling in the world. It seems fine at the time, but when you have to catch up on top of doing your current work, it gets to be a bit overwhelming. Look at your newly made weekly plans and see when you don’t have as many assignments or projects to do. This is when you work ahead. If you know you have a very busy week coming up in two weeks, start working on a few assignments for that week whenever you have time to. Working ahead will insure you aren’t behind and lessen the amount of work you will have to do during that busy, busy week. Or, if you have any chunk of free time, use a part of that time to work ahead.

Now, working ahead doesn't have to mean completing an entire assignment or project. Merely beginning an assignment will help you immensely! Sometimes starting a paper or project on a daunting deadline makes your brain feel like a mushy mess, and you can’t concentrate to save your life. So, when you get to your unusually crazy busy week, you’ll be happy with your past self for doing some of the work for you, making your week a little less crazy.

Don’t Procrastinate

Need I say more? 

Make School a Priority

My largest tip to any University of Minnesota student, whether you’re a freshmen or a continuing student, is to make your school work a priority in your life. Some students have to figure this out the hard way when they fail a class, get kicked out of their major, or are put on academic probation. We’re paying a lot, A LOT, of money to get an education. Don’t throw it away because you aren’t taking your school work seriously. You’re a student. Contrary to popular belief, your main job while you’re here isn’t to get the college experience, it’s to learn. Sometimes, this means not going to a party when you have a major exam the next day or homework that needs to get done. That doesn't mean that you can’t have fun and goof off, but there’s a limit.

Take Time Off

School’s important, but not as important as your mental health. It’s ok to take time off from your school work when you’re too stressed out or not feeling like yourself. Major mental overload is very common for college students as well as stress and depression. Don’t let yourself suffer. There are amazing resources at the University of Minnesota that can help.

For example, there are Stress Check-ins, where professionals can help you relax and find solutions to deal with stress. There’s also online counseling available as well as a Crisis Hotline, Boynton Mental Health Clinic and Student Counseling Services. I think the best way to de-stress after a grueling week, is going to PAWS (Pet Away Worry and Stress). Basically, you get to pet and spend time once a week with multiple different kinds of animals like dogs, cats, rabbits and chickens. Just seeing their cute little furry faces will melt your heart and melt your stress away. Did I mention that it's free?! You're welcome. 

If none of these tips seem like they’ll fit you or your lifestyle, make an effort to find ways that will. Take your success into your own hands. It’s up to you how successful and prepared you are in the new semester. Your schooling is what you make it. Make it amazing.