As you prepare to start the new term, you will need new college semester success tips whether you are coming back or are new to college. Getting ready to start the semester, you are filled with optimism and you are maybe a bit nervous. If you are starting out you feel that you were well prepared and made the right choice and are ready but nervous about all that will be new.
If you are coming back you may be basking in the glow of a great last semester or you may be filled with resolutions to do things differently and better. Remember first grade when you got the new school supplies and clothes? Getting ready to start the semester in college is a bit like that.
You want to start with a clean slate. New notebooks for each class or new folders in your computer—ideally both. You will need to save the syllabus for each course. Review the syllabus carefully and use it to do the following things:
Order or access books and reading material needed for assignments so you have all you need when you need it. Books may be expensive, but they are where the information is. Ideally your instructors will not simply recite in class what you are expected to read, but more likely they will comment on and discuss the texts that have been assigned.
They will ask questions that assume you have done the reading, and if class participation is required, then you will be in trouble if you are called on and don’t have a clue about what is being discussed. The midterm or final exam will likely include references to the lecture or seminar discussion and to the readings. You can cut costs by renting, using e-books, taking them out of the library or getting them second hand
Next, one of the best new college semester success tips is to fill your calendar or planner or PDA (and you must have at least one if not all of those to organize your time as you are getting ready to start the semester.) Time management is one of the toughest things that students face and it is a key life skill. You use the planner for planning. Planning is not simply recording when you have a dinner date or a paper due. It involves looking ahead and also back.
You look ahead to see, for example, when your paper is due, then look back to see where you have blocks of time to work on the paper. You should put tasks requiring long stretches of time, such as writing, in time blocks of an hour or more. Set a goal for a first draft and put that on your calendar. Make a date to show the draft to your professor. You not only impress your teacher, but keep yourself from procrastinating. Other assignments, such as reading a novel for your literature class, may be done in small time chunks.
Always have that book with you for the times when you’re on the bus to school or in line at the grocery, or just have some moments available. But do put the reading on your to-do list for the day.
Find out when and where you can find your professor. You want to get to know them so they can be helpful to you. Use office hours. The students who do the best also have the best relationships with their professors. Faculty enjoy the interaction with interested students and helping those who may be struggling to get better. Getting ready to start the semester begin by making a friend of your professor.
Find out how the grades are structured. Sometimes there may be quizzes, papers, exams, projects or class participation. If class participation is 20 percent of the grade then sitting silently in class will lose you lots of points unnecessarily.
See where you are going to have to apply the most effort to get the grades you want. If you know you will need help plan to schedule time at the tutoring or writing centers. Sometimes they are first come first serve and so making an appointment while you are getting ready to start the semester is smart.
Doing all these things at the beginning of the semester will assure a good outcome at the end.
Marcia Y. Cantarella, Ph.D, is the founder of ICanFinishCollege, consultant and the author of I CAN Finish College: The Overcome Any Obstacle and Get Your Degree Guide. She is also an expert on new college semester success tips. See chapter 8 of I CAN Finish College for more detail on this topic. Find out more about Marcia Cantarella at her website and CollegeCountdown