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After the sweet bliss of having a few months away from school finally starts to fade and the slowly approaching first day of school comes closer, it’s hard not to lose ourselves in this overwhelming feeling of anxiety as we start a new chapter in the school year. Something that I always find challenging, even as a junior, is the quarter system. The packed weeks quickly transition into midterms and finals and before you know it, you’re done and getting ready for new classes — and then the cycle continues. 

It’s hard to not feel anxious for the new school year when there are so many aspects of our lives that change, whether it’s new classes or housing, that can leave us feeling uneasy about this new step in our lives. I’ve found that fall quarter is the most daunting to me, as it takes a lot more time to adjust to my classes than any other quarter. My expectations for every fall quarter have often left me in a place where I feel like I can’t do everything I want to do, such as hanging out with friends or getting good grades. As I go into this school year, I’ve realized that my definition of “success” has changed drastically from what I initially thought it was during my first year, when I had to attend college online, and my second year, when I had to attend college in person for the first time. I’ve made a list of 5 things I do to ensure that I am setting myself up for success for the start of this school year, as well as the start of any quarter:

1. Plan Everything

Although it might seem like a lot of work at the moment, planning everything helps ensure that there is a set time for certain things, as well as a time set to enjoy life outside of school. When a new quarter starts, I look over the syllabus a few days in advance and make note of all the assignments, readings, lectures, and possible discussions needed per week. I use Google Calendar to organize all the tasks that might need to be done on certain days, as well as put in my lectures and assignments that already have a set date so that they show up for the entire quarter. In doing so, I know what is expected per week and can adjust my schedule accordingly throughout the quarter to accommodate for unprecedented events and make sure that I am still on track.

2. Don’t procrastinate

Although I have constantly procrastinated with my work to the point where I am furiously finishing up an assignment that’s due that same night, I’ve gotten a lot better at staying on time and getting everything done way before the deadline. I religiously follow a routine that keeps me on track: put all my devices on “do not disturb,” have certain time slots set aside for the assignment days or weeks before it’s due, and have study sessions with a friend (or friends) where we just work on that. Breaking certain tasks down helps with actually getting something done, no matter how small it might be. Starting an assignment is the hardest part, so once I’ve started it, the rest comes by easily.

3. Set time for yourself

Having alone time is extremely important, regardless of whether you consider yourself an introvert, extrovert, or an ambivert. Making sure that you are doing things that help destress and relax your mind after doing a lot of work is important, since it’s essential to maintain a healthy relationship with your interests and needs. This means that you don’t have to go out every night, or that you have to stay in every night. Do what feels the most comfortable! Make sure to have time set aside for your own well-being, which might include scrolling on TikTok or taking a relaxing bath with Taylor Swift songs blasting from your phone. 

4. have a study space

Whether it is the living room couch at your apartment or the library, it’s crucial that you have a place where you can do school work without distractions. Finding a comfortable and quiet area without having any distractions around you is important, since you want to make sure you’re maximizing your learning with the time that you have set aside. Whether it’s indoors or quiet, find a place on campus and off-campus that feels safe and peaceful to you!

5. maintain a social life

Being in college makes it both easy and hard to maintain a social life. On the one hand, going to class every day might make it easier to make friends who have similar interests as you, and might fortify friendships with friends you’re already taking classes with. On the other hand, if you’re too busy with classes and aren’t a social person, then it might be harder to maintain your social life. It’s important to set time aside to explore interests in college that might not revolve around your academic life, which can include clubs and/or sports, or even going on discord to meet new groups of people on campus that can make you feel surrounded by a caring community. 

Going into the first week of classes for fall quarter, I define “success” as taking advantage of the opportunities that will best prepare me for my future and surrounding myself with people who make me feel like I always belong in the room. Although grades are important, I’ve recognized that learning is not dependent on what grades I get on assignments. Planning a successful quarter is not all about figuring out the best ways to get an A, and is actually about working towards expanding my education and becoming part of the community around me that is just as eager to connect and learn. By focusing on having a good experience in college, I’ve been freed from the impossible expectations that I used to set for myself, which I now realize only set me up for failure.

Lizzie is currently a third year English and Psychology double major at University of California, Davis. Her interests include reading and writing romance novels, obsessing over period pieces (mostly Jane Austen), and trying to find all the easter eggs in Taylor Swift's music videos. After graduation, Lizzie is interested in pursuing her MA in Journalism.
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