14 tips for the start of every new semester
This post is all about preparing for a new semester.
I love the quote that “failing to plan is planning to fail” because it’s so true… ESPECIALLY when it comes to starting a new semester in college.
If you don’t start off on the right foot, it’s almost guaranteed you won’t have a successful semester… at least not without scrambling a TON. And nobody likes to be left scrambling in the middle of midterms.
As a recent grad, I feel like I finally mastered the best way to prepare for the start of a new semester as a college student. Before you head into your upcoming semester, make sure you do these things!!
This post is all about preparing for a new semester.
This post may contain affiliate links, which means I’ll earn a commission if you purchase through my link, at no extra cost to you. Our full disclosure policy is pretty boring, but you can read it here.
HOW I PREPARE FOR THE START OF A NEW TERM:
1. Get a planner – digital or paper!
The first step to preparing for a new semester is having some way to organize all your due dates and keep track of what’s coming up.
You can get a digital planner or a paper planner… It doesn’t really matter, as long as you do what genuinely works for you.
I always get asked what paper planner I used in college, and I honestly just used a very simple, affordable undated planner like this. If you’d rather have a digital planner, you can get my student Notion template here, which is the digital planner I used as a student.
2. Write down important dates
Every school has a calendar that will tell you important dates you should take note of. At the beginning of every semester, I find it helpful to look up my school’s calendar for the semester and take note of any dates I need to be aware of.
This could be dates like:
- Final deadline for dropping a course (if you think you might drop or switch a class)
- Tuition payment due dates
- Events for different student organizations you want to be a part of
- Winter break, spring break, or any days off
- Deadlines for getting financial aid or applying to scholarships
The beginning of the semester is the perfect time to write down these dates to make sure you don’t miss anything.
3. Read through each syllabus
There’s a lot more going on in college than there was in high school… Which is why it’s important to make a habit of getting to know each syllabus before the semester starts.
You don’t want to be scrambling last minute to figure out what classes you’re in and what’s expected of you. It’s important to take a closer look at your syllabus before the coming of a new semester to genuinely understand what you’re getting yourself into in the next couple months.
In the rest of this post, I’ll give you a list of things to specifically look out for when reviewing your syllabus!
4. Write down due dates
Writing down due dates at the beginning is probably the BIGGEST key to ensuring that you remain organized and on top of your school work throughout the semester.
Here are my recommendations for tracking due dates:
- Write it down in the monthly overview section of your physical planner, OR put them into a digital calendar (like Google Calendar) or track them in order in the assignment section of my student Notion planner template
- If you’re using a physical planner, write it down in PENCIL because I can almost guarantee you that due dates will change or be adjusted throughout the semester
- Specifically mark the last day of class or last day to submit assignments so you know when it’s coming up
- If you find it helpful, color code your due dates by class OR make note at the beginning/end of each week about which classes have deadlines so that you know which classes you need to prioritize that week
5. Purchase textbooks or resources
The worst thing ever is starting a class and then realizing that you don’t have a certain textbook you need like… now. In order to get a fresh start on the first day of school in a new semester, either order or go purchase any textbooks, resources, and other materials you need!
6. Get new school supplies (if needed)
It’s always nice to start off the first day of class with all the school supplies you need.
You’ll feel a lot more organized and prepared if you have all your supplies before the first week of school, so make sure you do your back to school shopping ahead of time!
If you don’t know what college essentials you need, read this post where I tell you the top 10 college essentials.
7. Write down your class schedule
Writing down your class schedule is an important aspect of getting back into school mode. You want to have an understanding of what your semester hours will be like in the coming few months.
It usually takes a few weeks to get into the groove of having a new class schedule; especially if you’re relying on campus maps to help you find classrooms you’ve never been to before.
Here are some ways to make sure you know your class schedule and can access it any time:
- Take a screenshot of it and favorite the photo so you can access it on your phone easily
- Add it to your digital calendar
- Write it by hand in a physical planner
- Write it on a white board or chalk board in your room
Think of this class schedule as your semester map. All your time management for the next few weeks will be based on your class schedule!
8. Figure out your schedule for extracurricular activities
If you’re part of any extracurricular activities throughout the academic year, you need to consider your extracurricular schedule along with your class schedule.
If you already know when your meetings, practices, games, or events will be for any of your extracurriculars, then make sure you add these to your schedule so that you know it’s part of your academic calendar!
9. Take note of office hours
Beyond just class times and extracurriculars, it’s also a good idea to know your professors’ office hours from the start of the semester. The last thing you want is to be left needing academic support and you’re scrambling to figure out when your professors’ office hours are. It’s so much better to keep all this information in one place.
Here are some ways you can make this information accessible for your future self:
- Put office hours as an appointment in your calendar so that it’s always blocked out in case you need it
- Or, you can simply write each of your professors’ office hours somewhere in your planner or in your dashboard of this Notion template
10. Plan your evening routine
Even if you don’t have a formal step-by-step evening routine, it can be helpful to at least make note of habits that help you relax before sleeping. Having a relaxing evening routine is one of the most important things you can do in college to lessen your school stress.
You can use this as a journal prompt or just write down an evening routine to-do list. Make a list of small things you can do every evening to help yourself unwind and ensure you get enough sleep.
I also have a post on how to get better sleep as a student.
11. Review late assignment policies
Even if you don’t plan on handing in assignments late, it’s important to understand the policies for each of your classes about late assignments, extensions, and missed classes.
You’ll probably find this in the class syllabus. Understanding the policies around late assignments or requiring extra time is important because it will help you prioritize your deadlines throughout the semester.
12. Take note of social availability
Being in college is not all about the classes. Obviously, you want to have a great college experience as well!
Before you start the new semester, look at your schedule and take note of when you have free time for a study group, events, or social activities.
Keep in mind that you won’t be able to do EVERYTHING… it’s just not possible. But it’s important to spend downtime with fellow students while maintaining good time management, so getting a handle on your schedule and understanding your availability is critical.
13. Map out your work schedule
If you’re working a part-time job while you’re in college, you definitely need to take your work schedule into consideration as you map out your semester.
If you have the same work schedule every week:
- Add your work hours to your planner or your digital calendar as recurring events so that you can always see your schedule at a glance.
- See if you can make any adjustments around exam time so that you have more time to study during finals week.
If your work schedule changes every week:
- Try to calculate how much time you’ll need for class work every week and ensure you prioritize fitting study time into your schedule.
- See if you can take any time off during your final exams to accommodate for increased study time.
Your work schedule is important information to know when it comes to managing your time effectively.
14. Set goals for the semester
One of the best things you can do for yourself as a student is to set long-term goals and short-term goals every semester.
Think about things like:
- What you want to achieve by the end of the semester
- What grades you’re striving for
- How you want your friendships to look throughout the semester
- How you hope to face new challenges
- What personal development goals you can set
- How you can be a better version of yourself than last year
Goal setting is a great way to enter a new semester with positive intentions and get off to a strong start!