With Winter Break coming to an end, I’m preparing for a new semester. Typically, I have a few weeks of “new semester” energy before I lose interest in academia again. With that in mind, I try to put as many measures in place as I can while I still have said energy. That way, once the crash comes a-knocking, I’m prepared to deal with it.
If that sounds at all familiar to you, here are some of my suggestions for preparing for a new semester.
- Reach out to people in your classes.
I’m lucky enough to be in small programs where I know people in all of my classes. While this may not be the case for you, especially if you’re still finding your feet socially in university, try to reach out to people while you still have the energy. Meeting people in online school is particularly difficult, but do your best to take advantage of the opportunities you do have to connect. Most people could use a friend in class to ask for notes and assignment details.
- Structure your days.
Again, difficult with school being mostly online, but having a schedule is so important. It doesn’t have to be anything extreme. Just designating time for having meals three times a day and going for a walk around the block is enough to give your day some structure. Read more about this technique here.
- Save those skip days.
Skipping class is so tempting, especially now that it feels like there are fewer consequences to not showing up to Zoom lectures. Ask yourself, am I skipping because I want to or because I need to? If the answer is the former, you should probably attend. That said, it’s not always easy to tell the difference, so be kind to yourself, okay? If you find yourself needing to skip regularly, consider applying to the Centre for Accessible Learning or dropping a class, which are both things I’ll discuss more later.
- Work ahead.
If you know that you’ll probably have a week where schoolwork will be impossible at some point in the semester, try to get ahead while you can. This is definitely easier said than done, especially if you’re already struggling, but try to log an extra hour here and there for your schoolwork (while still making ample time for breaks!). Having a little bit of wiggle room with deadlines is never a bad idea.
- See a counsellor or therapist.
Don’t make the same mistake I did back in first year. I couldn’t be bothered, it was too stressful, and so on and so forth. The UVic health plan covers $600 worth of counselling in a year. Check out UVic’s mental health resources and the BC Association of Clinical Counsellors’ guide to finding a counsellor, which allows you to specify your search by gender, accessibility and areas of practice, among other specifications.
Alternatively, if you’re already seeing someone that you like, go regularly. Try to make an appointment immediately after the last one has ended. Your mental health is worth it!
- Apply to the Centre of Accessible Learning.
I cannot stress this one enough. While you need a letter of recommendation, it’s worth it to have that extra support in place. I don’t use the accommodations I have very frequently, but just knowing that I have CAL to back me up if I need them makes this one worth it. I’ve written another article outlining the process, so check it out!
- Consider dropping a class.
There are no rules about how fast you should finish your degree. You might feel like you have to take four or five (or even six) classes in a semester, but giving yourself more time is never a bad thing. It’s worth it to take fewer classes and be happy in the long run rather than taking too many and burning out. If you’re worried about maintaining full-time status for scholarships and such, CAL has resources that can help.
If 2020 taught me anything, it’s that mental health should be your top priority. Take care of yourselves this semester!