Starting Your Semester Out Strong

Gabriel Hawthorne, student, New York University  |  September 2, 2022 in Pearson Students

A screenshot of a student’s color-coded weekly digital planner.

As students return from summer break, it can be challenging to re-activate one's mindset to a productive mode. Personally, I usually struggle with returning from summer because I have spent several months not thinking about school. However, not getting a strong start to the semester can make things harder in the long run, especially during midterms and finals. Here are some tips and guidance on easing your brain back into an effective mindset.

Get Comfortable with Your Class Schedule

Whether it is a course you've been excited about taking since you got admitted to college or a core curriculum class that you've been putting off, it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with your schedule. Not only knowing where and when your classes are, but what you anticipate your experience will be like in these courses.

Review the syllabus to see if the workload is longer than you've been anticipating. The time commitment may require you to alter your schedule for other activities. If the class seems very challenging and requires a lot of work, you may want to consider how much time you plan to allocate completing that work on top of other classes and activities.

For instance, I noticed that one of my classes required us to hand in reading assignments before each class. As someone who sometimes pushes their reading off until the last minute, I decided to make sure I had no activities before the class so I could do the assignment if I got too busy to do it beforehand.

While it’s impossible to predict exactly how your semester will look simply based on the syllabi, reviewing your courses and schedule can help set reasonable expectations so you are not surprised by the workload.

Plan Out Your First Week Back

I usually like to schedule out all my activities for each week as soon as I can. This helps prevent me from overbooking my schedule and allows me to mentally prepare myself for the week ahead.

Some activities, such as classes and meetings, have set times that cannot be changed. The gym and any time spent with friends can easily be rescheduled. However, allowing yourself time to relax is imperative to not burning out from work, so make sure to allow yourself some time to exercise or see some friends.

After I have planned out my first week back to the best of my ability, I try to keep it consistent throughout the semester to build a routine for myself. Some people may not want to schedule out their entire week, however it can provide you with an understanding of what you have coming up and when. Create your own format that is comfortable for your success.

Set Some Short-Term and Long-Term Goals

When the semester begins, I usually reflect on my previous semester's academic performance and personal growth. There are times when I have felt I need to revise my study habits, so I try to make that happen early in the semester. Other times, I've noticed that I am happier when I exercise 2-3 times a week. Therefore, I prioritize adding the gym to my schedule. Making these adjustments early on in the semester can help you develop positive habits for the semester.

I figured out these tips through repetition and listening to what my mind and body felt was right, which changed each semester. These are simply some tips that I have personally used and found very helpful as I start each semester. Obviously, everyone's experience will be different. If you are going to take anything away from this, let it be that you are the one who decides what works best for you. Trust your instincts and let yourself feel free to find your way of getting ready to have a great semester.

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