How to Start Off the Semester Right: A Senior’s Perspective

I’ve experienced six semesters of college! Some were grueling (I see you organic chemistry)! Others were full of fun experiences both in and out of the classroom. One of the keys to a successful semester is the way you treat it from the start. Having a negative outlook from the get-go will lead to “this is my worst semester ever” feelings for the entire four months, especially if you’re a pessimist like me. After six trial and errors of how to start a semester on the right foot, I’ve compiled three helpful tips to keep in mind in order to have a positive semester.


1. Keep a planner but it doesn’t have to be physical!

Since high school, I have been an adamant hater of keeping a planner. Call it laziness or being disorganized but I hated having to log things down on a notebook I’d most likely lose or stop caring for. The one time I tried keeping a planner, I wrote on it for one week and locked it in my locker until the end of the school year.

When I came to college, I realized it was a lot harder to keep track of what I had to do for homework, when my meetings were, what time were my exams. That’s when I started to keep an online planner. I carry my laptop with me everywhere. I’m addicted to my screen which, I know, isn’t very healthy but I used my addiction to my advantage. I started using the Reminders app on my Mac (it’s also available on iPhone) to jot down important meetings and assignments. The Reminders app will alert you of an event with a notification on your screen. You can even set a location for the event! The app has saved me countless of times where I had completely forgotten about a staff meeting or a project deadline.

For those who prefer to see a visual of the entire week or month (or if you don’t have an apple device), I recommend Google Calendar. Google Calendar allows you to create recurring events such as classes or work and shows a holistic view of your schedule. You can even set appointment times if you want to be super professional about your socialization time. It’s basically like having an in-depth planner right on your laptop. Another great feature about Google Calendar is it’s sharing option. I like to share my calendar with my friends so it’s easier to find times to hangout.

Setting up some kind of planner; whether it be virtual, physical, or even both is essential to a less stressful semester.


2. Stock up early!

It’s the most annoying thing when you realize during midterms week that you’re out of notebook paper. Or maybe you ran out of coffee k-cups the morning of an exam. Finding time to take the shuttle or an Uber to Target gets so much harder after the first month of school. Trying to buy things during the middle of a busy semester is basically a grocery speed-run where you’ll probably end up forgetting a few things.

I recommend making a shopping list early in the year. Jot down things that you use a lot and often and place those at the top of your list. Examples may be toothpaste, coffee, notebooks, pencils, tissues, etc. Then put non-essentials closer to the bottom of your list. Things like candy bars, soda, and colorful pens could probably stay at the bottom. Buy your essentials in bulk at places like Costco or Sam’s Club so you won’t need to make a cumbersome trip during the middle of the semester. If you don’t have a membership to either one of those places, you could also try ordering in bulk on Amazon! Just keep in mind the time for shipping. This was the first semester I decided to stock up early and life has been a whole lot less stressful not having to worry about picking up groceries in between classes.


3. For the love of all that is good, the college triangle is real!

But it’s easier to conquer than you think. Don’t know what the college triangle is? Here:

(Image courtsey of Layla Ghiai)

The myth behind the triangle is that you can only pick to have two of the three things above. The myth is only true if you don’t truly know yourself. To conquer the triangle, you’ll need to do a little self-exploration in order to figure out your values. Are you someone who has a lot of friends? Do your friends study the same subjects as you? What environment do you like to study and at what time? Are you someone who likes to nap?

Good grades and social life can be combined in a lot of circumstances. Studying with friends is one example on how to combine those two aspects of the triangle. Another way is meeting new people in your class and making a study group. If you’re someone who’d much rather study alone, try making time blocks. Block out a time or times to study and intermingle some short blocks of socialization time in your schedule. Having socialization time in between your studies will also give you time to regain your concentration and attention.

Unfortunately, sleep can’t really be combined with the other two aspects but a useful strategy to get some Z’s is taking naps. Although naps can’t recover for a full night’s sleep, they help improve concentration and alertness. Concentration and alertness will then improve your social life and grades.

Conquering the triangle within your first month of the semester will help you tremendously throughout your semester. Learn about yourself, take observations, and form some new habits that will help you overcome all three aspects of the college triangle.