8 Tips to Have the Best Semester Yet

Starting the New Year for most people leads to New Years Resolutions that often get left in the dust a few weeks later. For many college students, the start of the new semester is often the same. After several semester of trial and error I’m excited to give you a list of some of my tips for rocking your Spring Semester.

Find a Planning System You Love 

One of the main reasons my planners always fell off to the side was because I never found one the worked the way I needed it to. Often I would buy a planner with high hopes that it would solve all my problems only to realize a few weeks in that some spaces were too small while others went completely unused. Over the past three semesters, I began experimenting with creating my own planning system and I’m finally beginning to get to a place where there is exactly the amount of space I need. By combining bullet journaling with an agenda format I have found that my new planning system has become my new best friend. Plus as the semester progresses and I start to notice things just aren’t working the way I intended I can turn the page and redesign my system as needed.

Set Goals 

When you set goals you are setting yourself up for success. When you write your goals down you are holding yourself accountable for the things you want to accomplish. At the beginning of 2017, I posted and Instagram post of my goals for the coming year so that my followers could see them. I didn’t actually expect anyone to message me and hold me accountable, but I knew that if I didn’t follow through on completing them I would feel publicly disappointed. As a result, I have already made significant progress towards several of my goals and completed one entirely. With the start of the semester, it is always a good idea to set your goals for the coming 16 weeks.

With the start of the semester, it is always a good idea to set your goals for the coming 16 weeks. Once I solidify my goals I put them in a prominent spot in my planner so I am forced to look at them often and feel a little bit of guilt every time I catch myself not living up to them. You can find awesome printables for goal setting on Pinterest, the Instagram template I used on Canva, or you can simply make your own. Whatever format you choose, make sure it is a format you will see and love because ultimately if you ignore it the purpose won’t be served.

Create a Master Syllabus 

One of the academic perks of being in college is that your professors are required to give you a syllabus at the beginning of the term listing the expectations for the course. Most of the time professors will choose to put the dates (and even requirements) of tests, quizzes, projects, and homework assignments on the last page of the syllabus. While this assignment list may not have every assignment on it, it generally comes pretty close and includes all of the assignments that carry a heavy weight on your grade.

A great way to make sure you don’t miss any of these big ticket items as their due dates approach is to create a Master Syllabus. Gather together all of your syllabi and then write down all of your assignments, readings, projects, tests, and quizzes in chronological order. If you want an even more comprehensive list you can include things such as how heavily each item effects your grade or color coding the list by subject. Once you have finished compiling your Master Syllabus put it in your planner or post it near your study space so you never forget a big assignment.

Shop Around for Textbooks

The price of college is a huge financial burden on most students and it is always best to save money where you can. The University Book Store is usually the most expensive place to buy your books, but not always. Start your search with the website of your school bookstore and check for any editions of your books that may have been printed for your specific college or university. Some publishers work with schools to offer discounted prices on certain textbooks that often have been edited to remove any extra pages your school might not include in the curriculum. If you aren’t going to use the extra pages you might as well save a little bit of money by not paying for them.

For all of the books that are overpriced at your campus bookstore, it is time to look online. The most common places I have ordered and rented textbooks from in the past is Chegg, Barns and Nobel, and Amazon. Shop around and see what books are cheapest from which website and order just the ones that are cheapest instead of just picking one place and ordering all of them. By shopping around you can save sometimes hundreds of dollars a semester on textbooks. All of the websites listed also offer ebooks for purchase or rental on qualifying textbooks (often at a reduced price from the paper copy). However, check with your professor before committing to an ebook as returns on ebooks are often not allowed and some classes have a no technology policy or require assignments to be done in the textbook itself.

Find a Note-Taking Strategy that Works for Your 

If you have ever paid attention to your classmate’s notes during a lecture or while studying together your have probably noticed that no two people take notes in the same way. One of the unique things about learning is that two people side by side can be absorbing the same material in two completely different ways. Unfortunately most school systems don’t teach multiple note-taking strategies, often leaving students confused or struggling to recreate the wheel if the traditional note taking strategies don’t work for them.

I tend to change my note taking strategy based on the content of the class and spend the first 2-3 lectures solidifying a system that works with the way each particular professor chooses to teach. I generally will consult the format of the textbook for the course and spend the first lecture trying to take notes in a similar format. Then I will use the following lectures to adapt my note taking from there. If you are stuck on where to begin YouTube, Pinterest, and Instagram are all great places to search for inspiration on note taking.

Build Your Own Study Guides

Very rarely in college will a professor provide you with a study guide or tell you the material that will be on an upcoming exam. If they do you should always prioritize the teacher’s study suggestions first. However in classes where little or no guidance is given it is a good idea to go ahead and start being independent and self-sufficient in your studying.  Building your own study guides allows you to review your material in an active and engaging way while providing you with the perfect summary to review later. Once you have completed a study guide you can keep it with you for the days leading up to an exam and scan through it when you have down time to keep the information fresh between study sessions.

Download Grammarly 

I originally downloaded Grammarly to help with my blogging and I fell in love. The free version is available as a downloadable browser plug-in that proof reads your writing at a greater depth than the software built into your computer. For offline work you can upload your documents to their website and edit accordingly. I personally am completely happy with the free version for now, but if you have a semester heavy in written work it might be worth your while to look into what a paid subscription has to offer.

Go to Class

Unfortunately one of the biggest traps in college is choosing not to show up for class. If you aren’t in the lecture you aren’t absorbing the information from your professor and at best you are relying on the information second hand from a classmate, if you are even getting it at all. College lets you be fairly flexible with your schedule and while 8ams are going to happen, they won’t happen every day of every semester until graduation. Be thankful for the days you can sleep in and go to class on the days you can’t. Showing up is the most important step and if you aren’t there it will be a sixteen-week long uphill battle.

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