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The Complete Guide to Starting Your Semester Off Right

Whether you’re a first year college student or a returning upperclassman, getting off on the right foot will make the rest of your semester easier and more enjoyable. There are a few things you’ll want to make sure you do to get the most out of your classes.

Pay attention to the syllabus

The most boring part of any class is the syllabus, but it can also be the most helpful. Make sure you have it printed out the first day of class when your professor is likely to go over class expectations and the important details of the course. Bringing a highlighter is also really helpful so you can remember important test dates and highlight that part about the extra credit opportunity!

Visit your professors’ office hours

This is a tried and true way to start off a class on the right foot. Professors usually really enjoy getting to know their students and saying “Hi” within the first week or so will make it easier for you to go to them with questions later in the year when you need help. Just knock on the door, introduce yourself and tell them why you’re taking their class. Ask them about what else they teach or what they are involved with on campus and any advice they have for you.

Create a plan for taking notes

Some like to take notes by hand and others with a computer. Find what works for you and keeps you most focused on the lecture. Computer notetaking systems like Evernote can help you stay organized and coordinate with your phone for studying on the go. But don’t underestimate the power of a notepad. Invest in some colorful pens to make it fun and figure out what system works best for you.

Make friends

Easier said than done, right? The first week is actually prime time to reach out and make new friends. Ask someone about where they are from, what they are majoring in or even what they think of the professor so far. And, smiling goes a long way. Putting yourself out there is hard, but it’s worth it, especially when you need a study group before the first exam.

Don’t buy your textbooks for the first day in class

Many college students have come pencils sharpened and books at the ready eager to attend class just to find out that they don’t need the $200 book after all. As a general rule of thumb, don’t buy the book until after the first day of class unless your class syllabus says you should.

Plan ahead

Yes, it may be syllabus week, but that’s the perfect time to plan out your test dates and get an idea of how you’ll need to study. Are some of your papers due around the same date of your exams? That means you’ll need to start writing your paper earlier than normal. Take advantage of this calm time in the semester before all your commitments start to collide. Here is a great resource for free pintables that will keep you organized all year long.


It’s tempting to stay up late to hang out with friends and get some extra fun into the day, but losing sleep is not good for your attention span in class lectures. You can’t catch Z’s and take notes. Get on a schedule and stick to it!

Dress to impress

What you wear is a simple way to tell your professors that you care about doing your best in everything. No, no one expects you to look fabulous every day, but be sure to dress nicely for the first few weeks and keep sweats to twice a week later in the semester. When you look good, you feel good, you do good work. Save the yoga pants for study sessions and actual yoga.

Put away your phones.

You heard it in high school and you will hear it a thousand times but you can’t focus on both your ex boyfriend’s complicated relationship status on Facebook and the intricacies of the cell at the same time. Set your phone on do not disturb or silent so it doesn’t tempt you.

Map it out

Not knowing where your classes are when you first get on campus is the worst. Get the online map of the campus and save it to your phone, then use that to navigate. Also, make sure to know what room your class is in. Don’t be that student who sits in the wrong class for 15 minutes only to find out you’re in Spanish Culture when you should be in Psychology! Find the UWF map here.

Come prepared

Don’t be the person who asks to borrow a pencil the very first day of class. It’s always smart to bring a couple pencils, pens and highlighters to complete your note-taking arsenal.

Remember why you’re here

You came to school to learn, to prepare for what you hope to do post-graduation. There is no other time in your life where you will simply be able to focus on learning in the way that you will these four years. Write down your goals on a sheet of paper and remind yourself of them when you have rough days. Remember, there is nothing you can’t accomplish!

Abigail is a Journalism and Political Science major minoring in Spanish. She has a penchant for puns and can't go a morning without listening to NPR's Up First podcast. You can usually find her dedicating time to class work, Her Campus, College to Congress, SGA or hammocking. Her dream job is working as a television broadcast journalist on a major news network. Down time includes TED talk binges, reading and writing. You can follow Abigail on instagram and Twitter @abi_meggs
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