secrets to a strong semester start + Create determination and clarity
If you start your semester strong and follow-through, you have a path designed for success. Before we break down a strong start, think about where you’re at right now. How do you feel at the start of your semester? Determined, in control, and ready to succeed? Or are you more panicked, stressed, and afraid you aren’t going to make it this term?
Know where you’re starting from and then use these four secrets for a big boost and strong start.
1. Consider Your Stress Level
First, let’s talk about stress and anxiety. Stress is a part of being alive, and it serves a purpose and can be protective. But stress can go too far and degrade our health and wellbeing.
Balance is key, my friend.
When it comes to school, there will be stress. A little bit of stress is good and pushes us to do our best. We all feel anxious about taking an exam, turning in a big paper, or raising our hand in class. If you find you feel stressed and anxious about your semester before it begins, it is a good indicator that stress may be getting the best of you.
It is worth a few minutes to examine why you are stressed about the semester. Sit in a quiet place, turn off your phone, and ask yourself:
- What do I think will happen this semester?
- If this does happen, what will it mean?
Stay with the questions and keep asking them until you have an answer. The goal is to try and understand why you feel stressed about something which hasn’t happened yet. What you think will happen is only part of your imagination right now.
Our imagination can really stress us out!
Instead of allowing your imagination to have free reign, take a few minutes to examine what is going on in your mind and decide if you want to hold on to it or let it go. A strong start to the semester will be much easier without fighting against undue stress.
2. Quickly organize the Semester
On the first day of classes, you are handed a wonderful and underutilized document: your syllabus. This is the roadmap for your course. Right away you should use the information for each course to create a big-picture plan for the entire semester. Do these things right away, and also consider taking your semester planning more in-depth to ensure you complete everything on time:
- Transfer your syllabus dates to a calendar so you know exactly when things are due.
- Outline your class schedule so you never forget to show up.
- Online students, make time each week to “go to class” and work through the material.
- Create a folder on your computer for each course to save documents later on.
- Create a notebook for each course so you are prepared to take notes.
In less than an hour, you should be able to completely outline your entire semester for each course and have a framework for success already started. If you need some help planning, grab the semester planner.
3. Understand What’s Expected of You
In addition to noting important dates and assignments on the syllabus, you also want to understand what each professor expects of you for their course. This is a great time to introduce yourself or email your professor to ask key questions, like:
- Are there open office hours or do you need to schedule an appt?
- Which part of the course is most challenging for students?
- How should I focus on my studies?
- What do successful students do in this course?
4. Begin The Way You Intend to go On
The beginning of the semester is the time to start your semester strong. It’s tempting at first to slack off and not put forth your best work because there aren’t lots of assignments due and major deadlines. The workload is easiest at first. Don’t let the laid-back pace set you up for failure down the road.
As you start the semester, think about what habits you want to maintain throughout the entire semester. What habits are going to help you earn the A+? The right habits are so important! If you aren’t sure which are the best habits of successful students, here are a few to start:
- go to class every day
- set up a note-taking system, like OneNote
- study independently every day
- get focused (a.k.a., turn off the TV, phone, and try noise-canceling earbuds if necessary)
- stop multitasking and do one thing well
With a little bit of reflection, planning, and strong habits you can start your semester strong and be prepared for the best semester yet.