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Starting Your Semester Off on the Right Foot

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

No matter how long I’ve been going to college, it always inevitably takes me time to get back into my routine. At the start of every semester, I almost feel like a freshman—figuring out where my classes are, how long it will take me to get to each one, and overall just overwhelmed by the information and expectations thrown at me during the first week. Somehow my past three years of college have not made the transition between breaks and semesters any easier, and if you’re finding it difficult to jump back into the schoolwork routine too, here’s some things that have been helping me lately that might come in handy!

Take a look at your courses before the semester starts

While you may be tempted to ignore any Blackboard notifications you get before the first day of classes, when your professors open courses early on Blackboard, try to take a quick glance through the materials that they post. Most professors will post at least the syllabus, and hopefully a course schedule too, and looking through these will help to give you an understanding of what the course will look like. Knowing what type of workload you can expect will help you not only feel less overwhelmed when reviewing the syllabus on the first day of class, but to also have a better idea of how much time you’ll have to dedicate to the course’s homework. Speaking of which… 

Block out time for homework and for personal time

Once you know your course dates and times, I recommend writing them all out on a sheet of paper or whiteboard in a daily schedule format. This can look like the days of the week as the headings on the top, and times by the hour down the side, so you can physically see how much time your courses take up each day. You can also see how much time you have available, and block it out accordingly. Scheduling when you’ll do homework, and even setting alarms at those times to remind yourself to actually do it, will help you to set aside enough time to complete it all. But, while it’s important to schedule time for studying, it’s equally important to set aside time for yourself as well. Constantly working without rest or properly taking care of yourself can result in burnout and less productivity (not to mention less happiness!) overall, so be sure to dedicate time each day to do something you enjoy and to relax. 

Write a list of materials you’ll need for your courses

It’s a great idea to wait until classes start to see if you’ll really need the required materials for them, but once you know what materials are truly required, it doesn’t hurt to make a list! This will help you remember what you need, as well as remind you to go get them. Including deadlines is also helpful for accountability and to ensure that you have everything you need before an assignment is due that requires those materials. I like to use Thriftbooks for any books that I need, as they offer a wide range of used books at affordable prices. It also doesn’t hurt to talk to your classmates and friends to see if they can lend you a book you need, or if you can lend them a book too! 

Create a spreadsheet of your deadlines and test dates

Thanks to social media, this tip spread like wildfire amongst college students looking to get their deadlines organized. If you haven’t heard about this yet, you can create a spreadsheet and write down all of your assignment deadlines in it, then organize the sheet by date. You’ll have all of your deadlines in one place, and by organizing them by date, you’ll know which assignments to dedicate your attention to first, helping you to work more optimally. You can color code each deadline based on what course it’s for, and I like to make the color of each lighter or darker as well depending on how many points the assignment is worth. The darker and more saturated the color, the more an assignment or test can affect my grade! 

Prepare now to make your future life easier

If there are any ways I can get ahead before the semester starts, I take full advantage of them! For instance, I cook my own food, so I try to plan out meals for the whole first week of classes. This could mean having ingredients and recipes lined up, meal prepping the weekend before, or having quick and easy options on hand like frozen meals or, you guessed it, ramen. After taking a look at the weather, I also try to plan my outfits for the first few days of class, that way I have one less thing to worry about in the morning. I try to make sure any materials I’ll need for class are all in one place and that my laptop is fully charged. 

If you want to get even farther ahead, you can take a look at the books required for your classes as soon as they’re released, usually a few weeks ahead of classes, and try to read through some of them! I’ve found this is especially helpful for English courses, as when the semester ramps up towards midterms, I have less and less time for required reading assignments, so reading them when I do have time during break gives me less work to do during the semester. 

Take some deep breaths every day, and remember—you’ve got this!

Taking on new courses each semester is exciting and nerve-wracking. It can be difficult to know what to expect until your first day of class, how difficult the work will be, or what the professor will be like. You can do your best to prepare ahead of time to help your first week of classes go smoothly, but most importantly, you should be ready for a few bumps in the road. Have some self-care options available to you, and know that whatever is thrown your way during syllabus week, you can handle it. Treat yourself with kindness and patience, and you’ll get back into your routine in no time!

Allyson is currently pursuing a Bachelor's degree at SUNY Oswego, and is a double major in English and Broadcasting with a minor in Spanish. She is the CC of her college's chapter of Her Campus, as well as the Secretary of the Women's Club Ice Hockey team. She hopes to one day become an author of fiction novels and collections of poetry. When she is not writing or on the ice she enjoys spending her time reading, hiking, and watching anime.
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