How to: Start off your semester on a high note

How to: Start off your semester on a high note

Written by: Chereen

As I’ve mentioned before, I am a seasoned Academic Coach. One of my experiences includes working at an engineering university helping students plan for success. I saw a mix of students, from students who were on probation to those who wanted to ensure that they continued to do well. All the students who came in had one thing in common: They wanted to improve themselves and their academic careers.

I always told them that success starts before the beginning of the semester. It takes organizational skills to be successful. It takes looking at your books and reading notes/reviews written by others so that you have an idea of what you’ll need to do. You simply cannot be oblivious or unaware of what to expect for an entire school term.

Here are three tips that students I’ve coached have found helpful:

1. Buy a journal and a planner. I highly recommend purchasing each of these items if you do not already have them. Purchasing them is half the process; actively using them is the other half. Many people are guilty of slacking when it comes to consistently using their journals and planners. The habit can become tedious, especially if it is left for the end of the day. To avoid this, it helps immensely to fill in your planner as much as you can before the semester begins. If this is not possible, then filling in your planner at the beginning of each week will enable you to begin your week on a productive note.

Review your syllabi at the beginning of the semester. If you are able to look at past syllabi for all your classes before the semester begins in order to get an idea of what your course load will be like, then you will go into each class more mentally prepared. Spend a few hours adding due dates to your planner. Use a separate highlighter for each class and mark your class days, then use a red pen to write out the times for each class. This will remind you of which classes you’ve committed to attending.

Look at your planner often. Check it in the morning, before and after each class, and before you begin your tasks. Make sure to open it before bed, so that you can see what to expect the next day.

Using a journal is also great, because it helps you collect your thoughts. I suggest using a journal to write your task lists, daily schedules, weekly schedules, study schedules, and weekend plans.


2. Talk to your professors at the beginning of the semester and allow them to become familiar with who you are. Developing a positive student-professor relationship lets them your instructor know that you are dedicated to their course. They can advise you in your educational and career paths. With their expertise in the workplace, and their knowledge of the classes you are required to take for your major, your professors can become an incredibly valuable resource.  Connecting with them also helps you gain some references in case you need letters of recommendation in the future.


3. Develop a motto at the beginning of the semester. This is valuable and necessary. It helps you feel more energized when you have a quote to look back on as your semester begins to get tough, or when a particular class gets difficult. There might also be a song that motivates you, or a motivational talk that gets you through a rough week. Having any of these options on hand is helpful, simply because they offer something to turn to when you need that extra push. This motto can also be used for future semesters, because it serves as a reminder of being able to get through a tough semester.


These are just a few tips to help you start off your semester well. Preparing in advance and being consistent is essential if you want to have a successful term. These tools help you keep it together, without sacrificing your sanity by the end of the semester.

Good luck!

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