No matter where you are in your college career, starting a new semester can be intimidating and you will want to know how to stay positive.

As the upcoming spring awaits in the distance, it is important to be able to tackle the task ahead of you with the vigor that comes from a positive attitude.

Here are five concrete steps you should take to learn how to stay positive in 2013.

how to stay positiveMake Time to Work. Plan on spending at least three hours outside class doing homework, reading and preparing for every hour you spend in the classroom. Of course, the actual time you need to spend on outside work varies from class to class, from professor to professor and from week to week within a given course. Nevertheless, setting aside plenty of time to complete all outside work is the best policy, as you will never find yourself spending more time than expected doing homework or writing papers. Instead, you will likely find yourself pleasantly surprised when your planned three-hour assignment is done in 90 minutes, giving you an unexpected break to spend time with friends, watch a movie or just catch up on sleep. This is the first way you can learn how to stay positive.

Stay Ahead of the Game. Most college professors hand out a full course syllabus, including required readings and assignments, right at the beginning of the semester. Rather than taking the class one day at a time, plan on completing the readings and outlining the assignments a full week ahead of time because this allows you to learn how to stay positive. Make a commitment to do this in the first week of classes, when work is often light, and you’ll be amazed at how easily the rest of the semester goes. Staying one step ahead prevents you from becoming overwhelmed or falling behind as work piles up throughout the semester. Furthermore, it enables you to see the big picture and make connections between different units within the course as well as showing you how to learn to stay positive.

Prepare Thoroughly. During the first week of classes, map out a clear schedule for the entire semester in order to learn how to stay positive. Include all of your class meetings, due dates for important assignments, exam dates and any significant upcoming events. No matter what happens during the semester, knowing you have a plan will be a huge comfort that keeps you from getting lost, overwhelmed or discouraged. Remember, of course, that the plan is a tool to keep you sane, not a rigid set of rules to be followed. Be willing to make adjustments during the semester if your schedule is not quite working, but don’t just discard it because sticking to the plan is inconvenient.

Make a Budget. As if the stress of handling all of your coursework and extracurricular activities were not enough, as a college student you need to worry about managing your personal finances in order to learn how to stay positive as well. Start the new semester with a commitment to live within your financial means, and create a budget that effectively provides for necessary expenses and some recreational activities. Though many people view budgeting as a highly restrictive process, there is actually an incredible amount of freedom that comes from living within a well-constructed budget. When you go out to dinner halfway through the semester, you will be able to enjoy the experience knowing that you have already budgeted money for the evening instead of worrying about whether you can really afford the meal.

Take a Break. In fact, take plenty of mental breaks throughout the semester. If your schedule permits, set aside an entire day every week to not worry about schoolwork and other commitments, and resist the urge to work through your day off even during midterm season or finals week. This will ensure that you learn how to stay positive. If it is not possible to take an entire 24 hours off, build frequent breaks into your schedule to take time away from your coursework and just relax. Making a commitment to take time to rest is just as important as committing to wisely manage your resources, pay attention in class and do your best work. Knowing you can return to an oasis of calm every week will make it much easier to maintain a positive attitude all semester long.

how to stay positiveCaitlin Murphy is a freelance writer who writes on how to stay positive on behalf of Westwood College, a higher education institution offering an online MBA 

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