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With college always moving at such a fast pace, and so many responsibilities to juggle at the same time, it’s easy to fall behind before you even realize it. From my experience, I’ve learned that the best way to avoid this is by making sure you have a game plan before the school year even begins (or as soon as you can after reading this anyway) and trying your best to stick to it. Keep reading for my advice on how to absolutely crush this school year.

Work starts before the first day of class

It’s all too tempting to avoid doing any kind of work until you absolutely have to, A.K.A. the first day of class. Do yourself a favor and get some things out of the way before the whirlwind of the school year begins. Of course, knowing your class schedule and where your classrooms (or Zoom links) are located is a good start. Get all the materials and supplies you’ll need or at least make a list of them so you’ll be ready to purchase them all in an efficient way. Compile all of your professors’ office hours into a single document for easy reference later. Familiarize yourself with the syllabi from your courses if your professors have provided them ahead of time. Take some time to figure out a weekly schedule for yourself, making sure to block time out for class, studying, meals, club meetings, and any other activities that are important to you. 


Journal opened to September
Photo by Estée Janssens on Unsplash

Put in the effort

This might sound like an obvious one, but attend all of your lectures! Whether they are online or in person, recorded or not, don’t let yourself get into the habit of skipping class. Playing catch up on class material is no fun, and it builds up quicker than you would think. And although it might be possible to watch 7 recorded lectures in a day, your brain will simply not be able to soak in all that class material. Coming from someone who has tried to pull this off in the past, I highly do NOT recommend. 

Aside from that, previewing and reviewing lectures will help you learn the information faster and retain it for longer. Look over any tests or assignments as soon as they are graded and passed back to you. That way, you can learn from your mistakes and also check that the grade you were given is accurate. Lastly, remember that every point counts. Some smaller assignments might not seem like a big deal in the midst of the semester or quarter, but they might end up being the difference between one letter grade and another. 


Two women looking at laptop
Photo by mentatdgt from Pexels

Make the most of your support network

Build relationships with your professors by going to their office hours early in the term, even if you don’t necessarily have any questions for them yet. Having them know you will help you in the long run. Seek help from tutors and teaching assistants; they are there to aid your success in your classes. Make at least one friend in each class and exchange contact information in case either of you needs help with an assignment or getting notes from a class you missed. Go a step further and set up ongoing weekly study dates with them. And, of course, when things get stressful, it always helps to reach out to your loved ones, whoever they may be for you.

Cultivate a healthy mindset 

Practice being an active learner, as opposed to a passive one. Embrace the growth mindset and reject the fixed mindset, especially when it comes to tougher class material. Be mindful and intentional about how you spend your time, and also take time for yourself to avoid burnout. Figure out what works best for you in terms of studying at a time and place that will maximize your focus and productivity. And find a specific strategy for both note-taking and studying for each course. You might need a different approach depending on the types of classes you’re taking.

And finally, remember to truly value this time in undergrad—you’ll never have an experience quite like it again!

Macarena is a senior at UC Davis pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in Biopsychology and a minor in Professional Writing. When she's not stress-planning her future, you can find her going to local river swimming holes, binge-watching Ted Talks, or playing tennis with her friends. She hopes to combine her skills in photography and writing, along with her academic background in science, to report on topics such as psychology, environmental science, sociology, culture, and social justice.
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