Tips and Tricks to Ace Next Semester

’Tis the season of new year’s resolutions, of getting organizing and getting ahead. But for college students like myself, it’s the season of preparing for another semester of classes and clubs that can often feel overwhelming, especially as summer internship applications loom.

After the holiday frenzy has subsided, after the cookie cutters are put away and my relatives, along with an oddball uncle who won’t stop talking about what he caught on his last fishing trip, have finally left town, I have a few days to get organized for the spring semester. And this year I’m not fooling myself into believing that vague resolutions like “work harder” or “study more” are going to be effective (other than making me feel good about myself). To start off this semester, I’m focusing on a few concrete steps to get ahead.

My first step? Not paying for expensive textbooks.

As I’m sure every college student knows, money matters, and textbooks are just another way college can feel like a giant shredder for your wallet. But avoiding those 500-something-page monoliths—that will eventually either be sold off or become a post-graduate, over-priced paperweight—is a great way to make college just a bit more affordable. The first step is to look towards your university library.

Most universities have at least some of the books you need in house. Taking pictures of the pages you need for class or just checking the book out can be a great way to avoid the university bookstore—which is great when you need a book ASAP, but horrible, if, like me, you’d rather not pay twice the value of a book you’ll open a grand total of six times.

I was able to find three books at my university library, and two more through Interlibrary Loan (ILL). ILL lets you order books from different libraries, which you can rent out for whole semesters at a time. It’s important to find books in advance though, as books are shipped all over the country in some cases and requests can take a long time to process.

And finally, buy used, buy digital, or rent! Used and digital copies tend to be the cheapest purchase options. Renting books from amazon is surprisingly easy, but university book stores tend to have similar, and sometimes less expensive, rental options. Lastly, free books do exist. Searching the title of a book along with “PDF” can, though rarely, get you to a free online copy.

Now that I saved just over $400 on textbooks, I can buy myself a planner to start bullet journaling!

Bullet journaling is a great way to stave off the constant threat of procrastination, which for me, presents itself as watching an entire new season of Daredevil in three days. Bullet journaling is essentially keeping a planner, but designing it yourself to be neat, organized, and yes, artsy.

Brought to you by the same people who design studyblrs on Tumblr, bullet journaling can seem cheesy at first but I find it incredibly relaxing. It’s a great way to incorporate a little bit of creativity and art into your daily routine, and it keeps you on track to meet your goals. For some reason, the satisfaction of checking something off a list is a powerful motivator, be it the ability to tangibly see your progress or simply the ability to use a nice pen.

Finally, this brief but wonderful break between holiday festivities and another semester is a great time to focus on health. I love my university, but in between classes and clubs there’s not a lot of time for making sure I’m taking care of my mental and physical health. And though I know that “new year, new me” often translates to “new year, new diet,” I try to see it as an opportunity to focus on living a healthy lifestyle overall.

For some, this might mean taking a break to detach from work and school by spending time with friends, family, or yourself and your Netflix account—I know I often choose the latter. For me, it meant figuring out what activities were good de-stressors when I need a break and finding some daily vitamins I could take to make up for the plentiful but nutrient-lacking dining hall food. And finally, it meant remembering that the new year is a fairly arbitrary date where people feel the need to change something that bothers them. It’s important to remember that every day is an opportunity to recommit to your goals, and a chance to start again.

Also published on Medium.