It’s that time of year for college students! There’s nothing like the rush (read: anxiety) that a new semester brings you. The start of a new semester can be a bit of a struggle as you get back into your routine with new classes, but that can be difficult if you never had a routine to begin with. If that sounds like you, don’t worry! Here is a step-by-step guide to preparing for a successful college semester.
1. Make sure you’re ready to take classes.
There is a little more to think about than simply signing up for classes.
- Are you mentally and financially ready? Committing to a college degree means taking on academic and financial responsibilities. Don’t go to college because you feel like you have to; go because you want to. It’s okay to take some time to figure out where you want to be! If you’re sure this is the path for you, have you gotten your finances lined up? If you are using federal aid, make sure your FAFSA application has been completed for the year. Check with your bursar’s office for payment plan options if needed, and don’t be afraid to ask questions about your tuition statement if you’re unclear!
- Have you checked in with your student adviser? Your student advisor is there for you. Whether you are in your first semester or your final one, check with them to see that you are on the right path and taking the classes you need to graduate.
2. Go shopping for school supplies.
Time for a little retail therapy! I’ve always loved shopping for school supplies. Here is a list of essentials:
- Required textbooks. If you are purchasing these online, order ASAP to avoid getting them after classes start!
- Software. If specific software is required for your course(s), check that your laptop or computer is capable of running it. Don’t forget that college discounts exist! Did you know that students can get Microsoft Office 365 for free? Take advantage of these offers!
- Other required material. Some classes, such as art, may require other supplies. Check your syllabus to see if that is the case.
- Writing utensils. Pens, pencils, and highlighters are a must!
- Something to write on. Without paper and notebooks, what are pens for?
- Organizational tools. Folders and binders are also a necessity!
- A planner. A paper planner or an electronic calendar is essential for keeping track of everything.
Before you check out at your university’s book store, see if you can get textbooks for a cheaper price online. Amazon and Facebook buy and sell groups are great places to start! Just be sure you have the right ISBN. Textbook buyback rates might break your heart, so I recommend buying them cheap. (Seriously, I’ve purchased brand new textbooks for around $100 only to be told that they’re worth $1 after only four months.)
3. Track deadlines in a calendar as soon as possible.
Whether you use a paper calendar or an electronic one, here are some things you absolutely need to keep track of as soon as you know the dates:
- Midterms and finals
- Individual assignment due dates (quizzes, tests, papers, etc.)
- Travel dates
I recommend having everything from school to your personal life in one calendar because you can see conflicting events right away. To keep things organized, try color-coding different types of events. Staying on top of deadlines is a guaranteed way to have a successful college semester!
Check your syllabus for assignment due dates! Many times, professors will list assignments for the entire semester in the syllabus, along with other useful information and resources.
4. Create a routine.
So you have your supplies and you know your deadlines. Now is the time to create a routine that works for you. Start off by taking a look at what things are consistent.
- Is your work schedule the same every week?
- Do your classes meet at the same time/day each week?
- Do you have any assignments that are due weekly? For example, you might have chapter quizzes that are due every week.
This is where having a planner comes in handy. Once you know what events and tasks happen on a regular basis, you can plan your day easily. For example, my work schedule is consistent; I work the same days and hours every week. Because of that, I plan my study time in the evenings and do the bulk of my schoolwork ahead of time on the weekend when I am free.
5. Stay in touch with your support system.
By this point, you have almost everything you need to have a successful college semester. The last and one of the most important tools in your arsenal is your support system. Believe it or not, there are people everywhere ready to help you.
- Your university resources: Your professors and student advisor might seem like the most obvious resources right off the bat, but don’t forget about any academic services your university provides. Tutors are available just about everywhere, but some universities also offer mentorship between older and newer students. Let’s not forget your peers and student activities as well.
- Your inner circle: It should go without saying that your friends and family are there to support you even if you are studying out of town.
- Yourself: Let’s face it. No one is available to you 24/7 except yourself. People have their own commitments to take care of and can’t always respond right away. Don’t forget to take care of yourself mentally and physically throughout your journey as a college student.