No matter how long the school break is, it can be hard to leave the relaxation of Winter or Summer to go back to the old school schedule, and since many students spend their school breaks occupied with internships, traveling, visiting family, or just some well-deserved relaxation, it can be hard to remember everything that needs to be done before and during the start of the new semester. After all, with so much going on in the first week, it can be hard for any student to keep track of all the “to-dos”, no matter whether you are a first-semester freshman or a well-experienced senior!
To help every student start the new semester off right, I have created an easy-to-understand guide on some of the key steps that every student should follow to ensure a stress-free start to the semester.
1. Know Where Your Classes are Ahead of Time
One of the scariest situations a student can be in is having their first class of the semester starting in just a few minutes, yet they have no clue where the building or classroom is, much less how to get there.
To minimize as much stress as possible, print out a campus map and mark the buildings where all of your classes will be held ahead of time. Or, even better, take a walk with friends to visit the classrooms a day or two before the semester begins. Not only will you re-connect with your friends after a break, but you will also figure out where the classrooms are and how long it takes to get to them.
2. Pay Your Student Bill/Set Up Your Payment Plan
It is so easy to overlook paying your student bill at the beginning of the semester, especially with the chaotic and emotional mess of preparing for move-in. Before you head back to campus, make sure you pay your student bill and/or set up a payment plan, and write down the deadlines in your planner or in your phone’s calendar.
3. Compare Your Schedule with Your Friends’ Schedules
One of my favorite parts of the new semester is comparing my schedule with that of my friends’. Comparing overlapping free time in our schedules allow us to plan when we can meet up for lunch, take study breaks in the library, or other times throughout the day for us to hang out.
I cannot overemphasize how important time with friends is, and starting the semester by knowing when you’ll get to hang out with your friends gives you something to look forward to throughout the year.
4. Clean Out Your Backpack/Locker/Dorm Room
I’ll going to admit that I’m terrible at keeping up with this, but I make sure to do at the beginning of each semester so that I don’t start my new classes still carrying around papers from my old classes.
Once you’ve emptied your backpack of old papers and supplies, fill it back up with new notebooks, pencils, and pens so that you’re prepared for your new classes, and clean out your locker (if you have one at college) and dorm room so that you won’t feel as cluttered. Not having clutter around makes me feel a lot less stressed, and this can help when going into a new semester.
5. Organize Your Thumb Drive
I have a thumb drive specifically dedicated to my college classes, in which each semester has a folder, which contains others folders for each class that I’m in. Whenever I have an assignment, I save it to the class’ folder, which ensures that the assignment isn’t misplaced, and makes it easier for me to find a specific assignment later on in college, in case I need it for a portfolio.
The start of the new semester is a good time to begin organizing your thumb drive, and it will save you a lot of time later on in the semester when you’re trying to search for an assignment, especially if you’re supposed to be presenting something to the class!
6. Read Over Your Syllabus
Some professors will post their syllabus before the first day of class (if so, go ahead and print it out and read over it), while others will wait until the first day. Either way, reading over the syllabuses the first week of class is crucial because it lets you know the class expectations, how assignments and quizzes will be set up, the textbook readings, attendance policies, and more.
When reading over them, highlight key material and make notations of them in the margins so that you don’t forget them, write down any important dates in your planner, and place the syllabus in the front of your binder. You’ll want it in a place that you can easily refer to throughout the semester, so keeping track of it is a must.
7. Organize Your Planner (or start one)
A good time to organize your planner is at the same time that you’re going over your syllabuses, because you can mark down any class cancellations, test/quiz dates, and homework assignments.
But needless to say, you need some sort of planner in college to keep track of your assignments. You do not want to be that one student who shows up on a day that class is cancelled, or who comes to class unprepared for that major test. So whether it’s a paper planner or just your phone’s calendar, find what works for you and set it up during the first week of class.
8. Exchange Contact Info with New Classmates
No matter how organized you are, there’s going to be at least one occasion in the semester when you’re unsure about an assignment’s due date, need an additional explanation over a lecture, or to find out whether the professor said they cancelled the next class or next week’s class. (You don’t want to get that mixed up!) That’s why being able to ask your classmates is so important. But to do that, you’ll need their contact information first! The first week of class is the best time to exchange contact info with your classmates, so that you won’t forget later on.
9. Rent/Buy Your Textbooks
One of the best pieces of advice you can receive in college is to not buy/rent your textbooks until after syllabus day; this is because you may not need all of the textbooks on the syllabus, the library might have them, or that your professor may show you a resource you can use to get them for free.
In my very first semester of college, I made the mistake of buying all of my textbooks ahead of time, which cost me hundreds of dollars. It turns out that one of the textbooks I bought (which cost $300) was only needed because a website access code on the inside cover, which I could have bought separately for much cheaper. If I had waited to find this out, I could have saved myself a couple hundred dollars!
The start of a new semester can be exciting, but it can also be a stressful and overwhelming experience, especially when there’s so much to do. But by following these tips, you’ll make sure that your syllabus week is a successful one.
What are your tips for starting the semester off right?