The school year is rapidly approaching and along with it, all of the responsibilities that come with being in college.
These responsibilities can range from actually getting yourself up for class, finding a healthy balance in the dining hall, managing a job schedule with your studies, and creating priorities for yourself socially and academically.
I am approaching my first semester of my senior year and have learned what tools can be the most beneficial for incoming or returning college students. I looked for a lot of guidance when I was an incoming freshman and I try to be the person I wished I could have spoken to before my first semester. So, without further ado, here is my complete guide to having a successful semester of college (and who knows? Maybe making the Dean’s List!).
Plan, Plan, Plan
My very first (and most important) piece of advice is to find a planner and actually use it. At the beginning of my college career, I found a cute planner at Target and left it to rot in my backpack. I filled some dates out at the beginning of the semester and never opened it again. This led to a lot of last minute essay writing and some assignments that were just never turned in.
This past year, I bought a planner from ban.do and really focused on writing everything in it. I was honestly surprised at how tremendously it turned my academics around.
I’m not going to say that the ban.do planner is the reason I made the Dean’s List last semester…but I’m not not saying it.
When you get your planner, go through the academic calendar on your school’s website and fill in all of the holidays and breaks, as well as tuition and scholarship deadlines.
I normally wait until after the first week of classes to fill in my weekly class schedule, since some schedules have to be adjusted, with classes dropped or added.
The biggest thing with your planner, is once you’ve received your syllabus, put all of the dates on it in your planner. This helps so much for forgetful people such as myself. Turning your planner page to remind yourself of a task and seeing that you have a test next week can really help you actually schedule study time (instead of cramming before the professor comes in!).
I did this last semester and I was the person everyone came to when they had questions about deadlines.
On the same topic of planning, I also really recommend buying a dry erase calendar for your room. This allows me to see my entire month and plan things accordingly. I don’t really put deadlines on my calendar, but I include my work schedule, social events and important dates like birthdays, anniversaries or travel plans! Seeing it all laid out in front of me reminds me that I can take everything day-by-day and it may not be as overwhelming as it seems.
In high school, all students are told exactly what school supplies you’ll need for each class. I had a binder with specifically labeled binder tabs for several of my classes, as requested by my teachers. In college, I have been met with no such guidance.
So I’ll give you some of my own guidance. I recommend grabbing a few one-subject notebooks and dividing them by your class days (either Monday/Wednesday or Tuesday/Thursday). Some classes you will take pages and pages of notes and in some, none at all. A one-subject notebook is ideal, since it’s so light and at the end of the semester you can ultimately rip out your old notes and start using the notebook fresh again.
You may say, “but Madison! I just bought a new laptop for college. Why in the world would I buy a notebook?” And to that I say, while I also believe that a MacBook and a notebook can essentially do the same thing, I have taken several classes where professors do not allow you to take notes electronically. Many of them have a zero tolerance policy and will not accept any argument on the topic.
I recommend buying at least one notebook, just in case.
This has got to be on everyone’s college advice list. My freshman year, I got away with paying for no books at all. Many of the classes that required them, didn’t actually use them or used so little from them, that actually purchasing them would have been a waste.
I’ve had many professors let us know on the very first day that we wouldn’t actually even need the “required textbook” on the syllabus. Many times they have said that they just needed to have one there because the university required it.
One thing I always check before choosing a professor, is RateMyProfessor. You can see ratings from other students, and one of the questions on there is about whether or not the instructor actually uses the book that is required.
If you end up needing to buy them, I definitely recommend renting them from cheaper online retailers, so you’re not paying $700 for a book that you won’t ever read again.
However, everyone’s experiences with this are different. Depending on your degree program you may have to buy all of your books. If that is the case for you, I would recommend finding a study buddy and splitting the cost of books and sharing the copies.
If possible, befriend students that are further along in your program.
This has become an essential tool for me in my time in my program. Not only can these students give you great insight on professors, classes and ways around campus, they can help you utilize your time to the fullest.
These students that may become friends or mentors to you, will help you avoid mistakes that they may have made in the past whether that be academically or socially. They can help you in tough times and help you maneuver being homesick, difficult roommate issues, or just choosing classes.
Ultimately, your professors and counselors are always there to help you succeed so if you ever feel as if you need more support, definitely reach out. There are more people concerned with your success than you think. If you have any other college tips, definitely tweet them to us at @MetizaMag!