School starts tomorrow, at least where I am from. And whether or not you have taken college classes before or this is your first semester, there are always things that need to be done when getting started with your semester. I have went to college twice, once when I was seventeen and now. Going back this time I have really paid attention to the things that help students succeed, and it all starts in the first week.
I have narrowed it down to five simple things that you can do in your first week to help you gain an upper hand and succeed this semester.
1 | Talk with your professors
This is a give in for a lot of people, but for some it doesn’t seem so obvious. There is one thing to understand about college, the number one thing perhaps, it is not high-school or a job. You are not supposed to walk in to a college class room and just accept everything that is being fed to you, if you have a question then ask it, if you don’t agree with something then ( politely and intelligently) have a little debate. Your professors are a learning tool for you to use, they will challenge you, make you question things, and teach you the things that you need to know to graduate. Your professors want you to question, it is the mark of a good learner.
Aside from talking with your professors in-class, you should also talk to them after class the first day. All professors will give you a syllabus, some will give you a final project, but it is important to understand that even if you just have a test at the end of the semester and not a full-blown project you need a game plan. Your teacher can help you develop one for their class, they want you to succeed so take as much advantage as you can of that. Ask about the things that you can do to study more efficiently for their class, about what kind of topic would work best for your project ( if you have one ), and ask to see if they will offer any kind of extra credit during the semester because you don’t want to wait until the last minute for any of these things.
2| Establish a game plan
While I mentioned this above, it deserves its own section. Having an idea of how you plan on making it through the semester will have you an advantage over the ones who choose to just roll with each day. So, how do I set up my “game plan”?
- Take your syllabus, which everybody gets and has access to, and read it ( multiple times ). A syllabus lays out the entire class, what assignments will be worked on, what tests will be taken, how everything will be graded, what needs to be done for finals/projects…ect…
- After having an understanding of what each class is going to be like, get a system for your note-taking down. Some classes will have more notes than others, but whether you have one notebook with sections or several separate notebooks, you need to keep things organized. It really sucks to lose track of your notes.
- Figure out how and when you are going to study and sleep. Both are extremely important and the first week is going to show you best when you are going to have time for these things. You do not need to stay up all night and study, the best way that I have found is to study in-between classes and for 30 min to an hour at a time. Another really helpful thing is to do your homework when it is assigned, and not wait! It will pile up very quickly and you will drown in it even quicker.
3 | Use Your Planner
Again, this is a give in, it needs to be said. After you have your plan for the semester in order then it is time to fill in your planner and follow through. What am I using? Well, if you are a regular here then you know I love to use the bullet journal system. It is versatile and perfect for college. Only you will really know what works best for you, so I will just give you an idea of some things that I will be using.
- Time management bar
- Color-code to go with the time bar, matching tasks with time. 🙂
- A visual schedule of my week. One that lays out time related tasks and helps remind you what each day should look like. I recommend creating one that helps you create your ideal week, and then a small one each week with your homework and tasks.
- A Calendex, to mark down all future events and due dates for the semester. I am new to using it, but I already love it.
4 | Find something to keep you motivated
In the first few days of classes you are usually excited and motivated and ready to conquer your grades, after a few weeks that feeling kinda wears off. To keep you focused and motivated, find something that you can hold onto or reward yourself with for working hard. The reward could be something that you do for yourself each week for doing good, or something that you want really badly that you will treat yourself with for passing all of your classes and getting good grades.
5 | Find a good study partner
Or two. In college, your friends can make or break you. I know how that sounds but just listen. If you have someone that you are studying with and they are the type of person to always be late, talk non-stop, gossip, and do everything except study then you probably shouldn’t study with them.
Don’t get me wrong, it is OK to talk and be friends and share things while you study. In fact, making study time fun can help your mind connect the topic to something fun and memorable. But, you need to actually do some studying and if someone is constantly being a distraction then it is time to move on. Be friends, sure, but don’t risk your grades, graduation and future for someone who isn’t taking it as seriously as you are.
Traits of a good study partner include good note taking, focus and attention, and asking questions. Everybody takes notes a bit differently and by trading notes on the same lecture you can gain a different perspective and a better grasp on the topic. Focus and attention is an obvious one, and like the note taking asking questions can raise other good questions in your mind, which then sparks conversation, ideas and other intellectual things that can help you create good essay topics and be more prepared.
I hope that you have a good and productive semester! Good Luck!