How to Start Your Semester Off Right

Most college kids are now back to school, and if you aren’t I envy you. As any student can attest to, the beginning of any semester is absolutely, ridiculously insane. New classes, new professors, new activities all add up to make the first several weeks of class incredibly stressful. By the time you get to midterms, the grove you’ve just begun to find is completely thrown off by exams.

Before I risk rambling on for too long, let’s just say that a semester is a vicious cycle of unpredictability. If you’re anything like me, this makes it very difficult to stay sane and organized. The worst part of all of this is the end of semester burnout you experience after all of the sanity is over.

But, it doesn’t have to be this way! That typical burnout college students feel mid-semester and end semester shouldn’t be typical and there are many things you can do to avoid it!

1- Get Yourself A Good Planner

Every college student needs a good day planner. I prefer to use the old fashioned spiral bound, paper planners but if you’re more of a techie Google Calendar is a fantastic method to use. You can set alerts for important things and sync your calendar across all your devices I use.

For all of you who prefer a physical planner you have SO. MANY. OPTIONS. You can choose between an Academic Year or a Calendar Year planner. You can pick up a cheap one from Walmart, after all it will end up beat up in your backpack, or you can purchase a higher class version from someplace like Lilly Pulitzer or Erin Condren. I use a cheap one that I picked up from Office Depot. It’s not quite what I need, but I’m still a fan. I’ll probably be upgrading to something like the Erin Condren planner or the Day Designer soon.

The most important thing, is that you get a planner and utilize it to its fullness. It really will help you know what is going on in your life. If you’re skeptical, most colleges offer free or exceptionally cheap planners in their bookstores. Check those out before you make a monetary commitment, and do your research! What works for me, may not work for you.

2- Study in the Library

 It is super easy after a long day of classes to just go back to your dorm and study in bed. While that’s probably more comfortable, it is not more productive. Your dorm room is full of distractions: a roommate, food, television, bed, laundry, friends. While there’s nothing terrible to those things, getting in the habit of spending a couple hours a day in the library will really help you when things start picking up in the middle and end of the semester. Take this time at the beginning to explore your campus library, find your optimal spot, and start the routine of going there. You’ll be amazed at the amount of work you’ll be able to accomplish by going to a place where there are very few distractions. You might even find out that you can work ahead!

3- Form Study Groups or Go to Tutoring

Study Groups might sound counter intuitive to my previous suggestion but they are extremely helpful. I have had the same study group for my calculus classes for over a year now, and I have to say the girls in that group have been an integral part of my success. Study Groups allow you have like-minded peers to review content and do homework with. Even when we don’t have Calculus homework, my study group still gets together to compare notes from our lectures. You never know if one of you missed something, and identifying questions you might have before you get to an exam or a quiz is really priceless.

Now as far as tutoring goes, I can not encourage you enough to attend it! Most campuses offer free tutoring for students so take advantage. Most people have this idea that tutoring is only for those who are struggling in a class but I assure you that is completely and utterly false! Find yourself a good tutor who works well with you and keeps you on track and then set up weekly or biweekly meetings with them. Even if you don’t have a lot of questions about the material yet, meeting often with a person who has a thorough understanding of the content can really help to prevent you from getting lost come midterms and finals.

4- Read the Syllabus

I can not tell you the number of people I know who don’t read the syllabi for their classes. Please don’t be the person who takes a copy from the Professor on the first day of class and then throws it away. The syllabus is your best friend!! I keep all of my syllabi in the same binder as I keep my notes for the class. When I am handed a syllabus, I immediately start highlighting all the important dates and write down exam dates in my planner. Ask your professor if their exam dates are concrete or subject to be moved and pay attention when the syllabus is being discussed. It is the most important course document that you will ever be handed.

5- Exercise

Hitting the gym is great way to work off stress during the work week. I like to go in the morning before class to get myself prepared for the day. The important thing, is not to see this as a “weight-loss goal” but rather a time to work off all the stress and worry from the week. Thirty minutes to an hour of medium to rigorous exercise will really serve to improve your mood, sleep, and grades. In the words of my Calculus professor, Dr. Dora Ahmadi, “No Excuses!!”. No matter how busy you are, you can spare thirty minutes to go on a quick jog or lift weights. Believe me, your body was made to exercise.

6- Get Plenty of Rest

One of my professors once told me that you don’t learn anything past ten o’clock at night. Now, I don’t know if that’s true or not but I do know that getting plenty of sleep is incredibly important. Undergraduates need to get more than eight hours of sleep a night. That number might seem outrageously high, but it really is what your body needs to function properly. Don’t believe me? Read this article, “Sleepless at Stanford” to learn more.

Getting more than eight hours of sleep a night is an overwhelming task for any undergraduate. I normally average somewhere around seven a night, if I’m honest and my Fitbit to be believed. But getting plenty of sleep is incredibly important for cognitive function. If you’re sleeping enough you’ll be more productive, focused, and, pleasant. So take this time at the beginning to get into the routine of going to bed early. All-nighters are not your friend. I promise you. Please sleep.

I hope you are all having a fabulous semester! Good luck to all of my fellow college students. May you study hard, get wonderful grades, and avoid burnout. Let me know if you try any of my tips and how they worked for you! What do you do to get yourself ready for a successful semester?

Love and Happy Reading,




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