This week I began the second semester of my junior year. While I wouldn't call myself an expert, this is definitely not my first go-around. Starting a new semester can be filled with so many different emotions--excitement to begin new classes, nerves about what to expect, and just feeling overwhelmed about the workload. Second semester is also kind of a weird concept because it doesn't really feel like a beginning, rather you feel like you're just kind of thrown right back into school and expected to adjust perfectly. We also have now been doing online classes for almost a year now, and although I still struggle with it sometimes, I am already finding this semester to feel a bit more manageable than the past. There is no perfect method to staying organized and perfecting the balance of school to social life while in college, but I thought it could be helpful to share some of the things that I've learned from the last two and a half years and how to navigate the challenges of beginning a new semester...
1. Go into the semester with a positive attitude
Beginning a new semester is always so exciting because it feels like a fresh start. Finishing a break is always super depressing for me, but I always feel so much more rejuvenated and productive as soon as I begin my classes. All new classes, new professors, and new things that you're learning. I remember being really annoyed about some of the classes I had to take last semester and was pleasantly surprised that the courses I thought I was going to dislike the most ended up being my favorites! Do the best you can to be openminded as something may surprise you in a way you never expected.
2. Putting all important due dates into a calendar
I will admit, I am not so great at doing this normally. I am always the kind of person who begins the semester with an assignment notebook but eventually stops remembering to fill it out because I eventually get used to the routine. However, now that all of my classes are online and knowing the due dates of all your assignments falls mostly on you, I find it really important to make a plan to remember them. Once you get your syllabus, start putting all of your assignments in a calendar so that way it is out of the way and you won't have to worry about them later. It can also be helpful to make sure you set a reminder for that assignment so that you don't forget to do it. For a planner like me, this is a great way for me to ensure I'm prioritizing all my work properly and staying on track.
3. Create some sort of method to stay organized with your day-to-day tasks
Between the zoom links, homework, due dates, and any other important tasks I need to complete, this has been crucial for me to make sure I am on top of my work. At the start of the school year, I created a "note" on the notes app on my computer that has just about anything I need for my classes each day. I created a table organized by day that has all of my zoom links on it and also created checkboxes for all my assignments so that I can cross them off whenever I finish. I know this is not the most innovative method, it is really nice to have all my information stored in one place so that I can refer back to it and know exactly what I need. While this has worked really well for me and would definitely recommend it, I suggest figuring out a method that works well for you and implement it!
4. Not being afraid to reach out if you need help
As someone who thrives off of independence and pretends like I can do everything on my own, it is definitely a good reminder. Funny story: I thought I had a class on Thursday but had yet to hear any information on it. I spent all week being super anxious that there was nothing posted for the course like it had been for all the rest of my classes. Finally, it was the night before I was supposed to have the class and I still had yet to hear anything. I began freaking out and tracked down the professor's information so I could email them and ask if I was missing something, but still heard nothing. It took until 8:00 in the morning, an hour before the class was to begin, for me to re-log onto the course registration website and find out that it was only an 8-week course and didn't begin until March. I wish I had tried to reach out or utilize all my resources earlier so I could prevent myself from being as stressed as I was.
The only person that will really advocate for YOU! So that being said, when it comes to schoolwork, don't hesitate to reach out to professors, TAs, classmates, etc. It is always a bonus too to find someone that you know in one of your classes or even attempting to make a friend one of the first days so you can exchange information and reach out if you have questions. More often than not you will find that they are more than willing to help you and you will feel so much better by doing it. And no question is a dumb question especially if it helps you in the long-run. This is something I am really going to try to work on in the upcoming semester, not just with my school work, but with anything else I may need.
5. Taking time for yourself
Beginning a semester can definitely get overwhelming, especially after you just had a period of time where you had nothing on your plate. However, it is super important to get rest, take care of yourself, and do things that make you happy. I remember my AP English teacher in high school saying to us, "If the work for this class is going to prevent you from doing things such as working out or sleeping, you should go workout or sleep. Your mental and physical health is so much more important than a grade." That quote has really stuck with me (clearly since it's been four years now), especially coming from such a work-intensive course and a teacher who had such high expectations for his students. It can be so easy for students to start of the semester strong and slowly burn out, so it is so important to not put so much pressure on yourself in the beginning to prevent that from happening. More than ever we are going through such a stressful and anxious time, so don't forget to put the work away and take time for yourself.
I hope these were some helpful tips or reminders to ensure that you start off the semester on the right foot. Wishing you all the most amazing rest of your school year, good luck!