17 Tips to Start the School Year
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17 Tips to Start the School Year

Tips I wish I had known when I was a first year student.

17 Tips to Start the School Year

Here are my top 17 (!) tips for being prepared for the school year and beyond. I am delighted to be looking forward to my junior year in college, all of the love, support, and challenges that come along with being a college student. I could not be more exited.

Before Starting the Semester

1. Google Calendar Schedule

This one I already started, I put my schedule into google calendar. I started with just my classes, then I added work, and meals, and finished by adding in some study time throughout the day. I have class or work the majority of the day, and while I am at work, I cannot do homework, like some other work studies can. So, I have very little time during the day during which I can actually study. Every day starts at 8:15, when I leave to get breakfast. Then I am in class for a while, until I eat lunch (everyday but Wednesday, this is not recommended for ANYONE, you should always have a break for lunch, even if it is only 20 minutes). And every day ends at 6, which is when I go back to my room after dinner. I am out of my room from 8:15am until 6:00pm. At this point, it still really stresses me out, how I am going to do next semester. It is very overwhelming at this point.

2. Clean Everything Out

Get rid of any old papers that you will not need anymore. I always save everything from the previous semester, until I get my final grades back (so for fall semester, that means waiting until the end of winter break, and cleaning during J-Term, for spring, it means getting rid of everything when I am repacking for the next semester). After I get my grades (and if I am satisfied with my grades) I clean off my book shelf, and get everything out of my desk. I clear my cork board, and take an inventory of everything I have in regards to school supplies. I know that I have enough supplies to make it through J-Term, but for the full spring semester, I need to figure out what I might need.

3. Get New Supplies

This is my favorite part of a new semester. I love getting new school supplies, granted, I usually buy all of my school supplies at the beginning of the school year when all of the deals are taking place (my favorite notebooks are the ones from Target that are any from 10¢-17¢, I really do not know why). However, at the beginning of every semester I get new pens, highlighters, Post-It Notes, and anything else I might run out of. I also tend to color code my classes. Each class gets a different color, and if a particular class has a lab that I have to take with it, the lab is a different shade of the same color. I find it the easiest way to keep track of my classes.

4. Get an Accountability Study Partner

I have never had an accountability partner for anything really. While I love my boyfriend, I decided not to ask him, because I feel as though he would not take it as seriously as I would hope. Instead, I decided to ask my best friend from school. We do not room together, but she lives next to me. I just asked her to ask me how my studying is going, to keep me honest about my answers, and to tell me to study when she sees me procrastinating. Now, this is not to say that I will not have any free time, but I have someone with whom I can be completely honest about how everything is going, and someone with whom I can sit with and do homework. After asking her, she asked if I would reciprocate, being her accountability partner, and naturally I agreed. We also agreed to draft a contract (really, I asked if we could write a contract, and she said yes, so I am writing one over break, when I am done I will add it to this post so that anyone else can use it).

5. Make a Master Syllabus (as soon as you get all of your syllabi)

I tried doing that this semester, but I did not know enough about my assignments in advance to really put anything down. I wanted specifics, like programming assignment for chapter 4, problems 3, 5, 6, not just chapter 4 programs. I did not want to say paper due, because I did NOT feel like that was enough information for me to really understand what was going on. For some classes, I had assignments that were due every class, such as physics, it was easier for me to say, Webassign assignment 30, because I was listing the specific assignment that would then have questions. My profs would also constantly change the due dates for different assignments. That drove me CRAZY (at least, most of the time, sometimes it was not bad, as I directly benefited from it).

After the Semester Has Started

6. Planning the Day

While I have already planned out my days, it is really only a skeleton schedule for me. When I plan out my day, I list everything that is due, when it is due, and (while it may seem redundant) I write the class for which it is due. I often do this on Post-It Notes, during my first period class. I am kind of weird about how I do it, I will often plan out what I need to do every day of the week, but then change the plan as the week progresses, this way I have some knowledge of what I will be doing the entire week. I have a feeling that part of it changed daily because I often procrastinate, which is probably why I have not been doing as well as I had hoped I would. Moving from high school to college is hard.

7. Read the Textbook BEFORE Class

This one may not be as obvious. I will often read the text book, but not until after class, or until I am reviewing for my next quiz or exam. Even when professors would assign reading for classes, I never felt like I had to read because I was going to be learning the stuff in class that day. Whenever I did read before class, I noticed a difference in how I approached the work. I felt more confident speaking in class, and I felt better about answering, and even asking questions. Even though I am retaking a class this semester, I will (hopefully) (re)read the textbook.

8. Stick to a Schedule

Try to figure out what your daily schedule will be. It can change depending on the day, or it can remain constant, doing the same thing every day. I am more of the "do the same thing every day" type of person, and less of the "everyday has something different." I also tend to stick to the same uniform schedule.

9. Go to Office Hours

Especially when I do not understand the material that is being presented to me, either in textbook form or in class. This might sound obvious, but it is something that I do not do enough. I will stop by an office after a bad exam, but I rarely go any other time. So, at this point I hope to make myself go to office hours more frequently, however, because of my schedule, it could (and probably will) be difficult to make it to my professor’s office hours.

10. Cheat…

Due dates that is. I would never actually cheat. I would not be able to live with myself if I cheated. By “cheating my due dates” I mean that I will have a majority of my assignments completed before the due date by at least 1 day. If something is due on Wednesday, I will (hopefully) have it done by Monday night, so that all I have to do on Tuesday is print it, or see a prof or tutor for questions. When I have a list of questions I use my “Need Help” file on my computer. It is just a table where I have 5 or so different columns, each one that correlates to something different. First, I list the question number with which I have the problem. Then, the problem I have with the question, followed by how to do it. If I received help, and if I still need more help. It is very simple, and not very glamorous, but it streamlines the entire question process, and I find it helpful when I approach a professor or a tutor with the questions that I probably won’t remember by the time I make it to my appointment.

11. Find a Study Place

This is one of those things that I have already figured out. I have a couple of study places, but my favorite by far is in my best friend’s room. Sure, she lives right next to me, but the change in scenery from my room is important, plus, it is harder for me to fall asleep in my room. I have my own little corner in which I study, it was established over finals this past semester. She has this half deflated bean bag chair, which has been designated as my chair, that I put betwixt (one of my favorite words) her bed and her desk. I then plug in my computer, and phone or whatever else I need to study (that is electronic). I bring all of my pens, Post-It Notes, highlighters, textbooks, my teacup (and any tea that she might not have), and whatever else I might need with me. She and her roommate do not care how much I “move-in” to their room (so long as I eventually move out). I find it easier to focus, and I have the accountability of other people there. I usually bring headphones to listen to some music. I can also study in the lounge, the study room, the library, or in my own room, although, I would rather study somewhere other than my room. I find it harder to keep accountable to myself in my own room.

12. Find an Optimal Study Situation

Sounds funny, I know, it goes along with finding a study place. I find it easiest to focus while listening to music, not something heavy, but something with a light airy sound, and something that I do not know. As I am constantly singing, when I am listening to music that I know I find it almost impossible to focus on what I am reading. Every few weeks I find a new Pandora station and listen to the music. My boyfriend makes fun of me for using Pandora, as he is a Spotify person, but Pandora, for my purposes is perfect. Headphones are one of God’s greatest inventions, best way to study with other people around, while still being in your own little world. I also almost always have tea with me. I do not always have a tea cup, but anywhere I study, I have access to teacups, or travel mugs. As previously mentioned, I always have all of my pens, highlighters, and Post-It Notes that I could possibly need, but I always, ALWAYS bring my planner with me. I do not write my homework assignments in my Google Calendar, but I write every assignment (or nearly every assignment) in my planner. I actually have 2 planners, I have a giant one, that I have previously posted about getting (I absolutely love it, but it is kind of big), and I have a smaller one that I carry with me everywhere, mostly because I never leave my room without my backpack.

13. Find a Stress Reliever

My stress reliever just so happens to be crafting. I am an avid crafter, so much so that both of my brother got my crafting materials for Christmas. I have a constant supply of crafts in my room in case I ever get too stressed to do anything else. Crafting is how I focus myself, but I did not learn this until I was so unfocused that I did not know how to do anything. I reached a point where I was so overwhelmed with school that I started seeing a therapist who told me to craft until I was feeling better about, well, everything. One of my friends relieves stress by writing, my roommate paints, my best friend reads and drinks tea (although, we all drink tea to relieve stress in my friend group).

Every Day

14. Plan the Day

While I have already planned out my days with classes and work, it is really only a skeleton schedule for me. When I plan out my day, I list everything that is due, when it is due, and (while it may seem redundant) I write the class for which it is due. I often do this on Post-It Notes, during my first period class. I am kind of weird about how I do it, I will often plan out what I need to do every day of the week, but then change the plan as the week progresses, this way I have some knowledge of what I will be doing the entire week. I have a feeling that part of it changed daily because I often procrastinate, which is probably why I have not been doing as well as I had hoped I would. Moving from high school to college is hard.

15. Plan Tomorrow’s Outfit

I started last semester planning every outfit that I would wear the next day, the night before. This was fantastic for the morning when I was frustrated that I had to wake up in the morning (I am really not a morning person, I am writing the blog post at 1 am). Towards the end of the semester, I was not doing this anymore, but instead wore leggings, or jeans to class every day with a sweatshirt (usually my favorite Seahawks one). When I was planning my outfits, my mornings were easier, as I did not have to worry about what I was going to wear the next day. This could simply be thinking about the clothes you have and deciding mentally what you want to wear, or if you are like me, it can be hanging your clothes out on a hanger, and pick shoes and socks the night before so everything is already out and you know exactly where everything is.

16. Pack Your Backpack

This goes along with planning your outfit for tomorrow. I try to always pack my backpack the night before. It makes it so much easier to just leave in the morning. Also, if you have to remember to bring something out of the ordinary for the next day, you can pack it the night before, when your mind is a little clearer. This is especially important for me, as I do not have time to run back to my room between classes. I have classes back to back to back and then I work, and because I have medical supplies I have to carry with me, I do not want to forget anything in my room when I do not have time to get them between classes.

17. Take a Break

I am usually really good at this one. Sometimes, too good. Other days, I completely forget to take some time for myself. It is really easy to just binge watch Netflix, and other times I feel so much pressure that I forget to eat (a.k.a. spring semester freshman year during finals, I kind of, sort of forgot to eat… that was a problem). This kind of goes along with keeping a schedule. Remember to take some time for yourself. You do not need to spend an hour pampering yourself, but short breaks is always a great thing to do to refocus yourself. Even taking 30 minutes to watch an episode of Scrubs (my current obsession, yes I know it is old), or some other TV show, just remember to watch only ONE episode, or however long you have allotted for your break. Depending on the length, you can take more than one break a day, but if you take a 3 hour break, then you might have an issue.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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