Setting the Groundwork for a Perfect Semester
If you can beat the temptation to blow off the first few weeks of school, it’ll be a lot easier to enjoy the last few.
By Jessica Peña, University of Texas at San Antonio
As easy as the first couple of weeks of school may seem, they’re vital in setting the tone for the rest of the semester.
Starting your classes off on the right foot will help set you up to succeed later, not only because you’ll have a strong start, but because you’ve established responsible habits that will break less easily when things get rough later in the year.
Although it’s tempting to treat the first few weeks as a joke, look at the people who take them seriously—they’re the ones all the first-week slackers will be going to during midterms to see their notes. It doesn’t take much work to establish a good foundation for the semester, but with a few simple tips, you can have your best year in school yet.
Here are the five Do’s and Don’ts of the beginning of the school year.
DO: Go to class every day—even the syllabus days/study days.
DON’T: Skip, ask for notes, then fail anyway.
Having the first week of a semester be completely (or at least mostly) about covering the syllabus is seriously close to hitting the college jackpot—which would be having a non-cumulative final—and as rare as a Pikachu.
With that said, even if you find yourself to be that fortunate, it’s still important to show up.
One of the biggest mistakes any college student can make is skipping class, no matter how easy it may be or how comfy the bed is.
On average, a student will basically throw away approximately $2,400 of tuition on hours of skipped classes ($6,600 for private universities), an amount that alone dissuade students from skipping in order to work or shirking homework to pick up a shift—yes, even boring, old History.
Besides the stacks of wasted cash, skipping class early on in the semester will only make it that much easier to slack off toward the end when things get real. That’s when grades start to slip, and it can be difficult to get them back up with just a couple of weeks of class left and finals approaching.
DO: Speak with each of your professors.
DON’T: Be too afraid to have a relationship with the faculty.
And while you’re being the good, little apple who attends every lecture, make the time to meet your professors.
Although they may seem intimidating, they’re people, too, who were in your same shoes at one point in their lives. And even though it can really (really, really, really) seem like it sometimes, they’re definitely not out to make your lives difficult or to get you to drop out of college. They’re just doing their jobs.
Having a good relationship with a professor, especially one in your chosen field, can have a significant positive impact on your course experience—as well as your future. Meeting and having productive conversations with your professors will ensure you make it through the class smoothly and can even earn you some meaningful letters of recommendation later on.
DO: Get the necessary textbooks.
DON’T: Ignore the list and copy other students’ books.
Even getting on the professor’s good side won’t save you from the struggles of not purchasing/renting the required reading material and textbooks for the course.
As expensive as it may be (not as expensive as cutting class), getting your hands on all those thick books will really pay off in the long run. Your teachers require them for a reason, and they will most likely be incorporating the texts into their course. More often than not, those pesky books will actually be pretty essential in doing well in the class.
Sure, some professors may be generous enough to share certain chapters or pages that are super important, but relying on others to provide you with materials you really should be responsible enough to get on your own isn’t cool. No one wants to be bothered every class by someone else who needs to take pictures of the text or borrows the book.
Plus, resources like OpenStax make skimping on textbooks totally inexcusable. And while you may not be able to find every single book you need for free, renting is still a viable option for most books and classes.
DO: Take detailed notes.
DON’T: Turn your notebook into a sketchpad.
Besides having the books, taking your own notes is the most important thing you can do to ensure a good grade.
During a lecture, it’s safe to assume that every word that comes out of your professor’s mouth is important and can be used on an exam. But, unfortunately, it’s impossible to write it all down in time and still pay close attention.
Still, it’ll pay off to jot down the main ideas and important points for future reference and studying purposes. Having that as a guide will help you remember everything else your teacher had to say on that subject, and may also serve as an outline for what to read twice and study up on extra.
And I know that it can be incredibly tempting, but scribbles, doodles and grocery lists will not help you get an A in any class. Always keep your mind on the lecture and your pen and paper on task.
Going to class and having the books matter, but the only way to fully thrive in any given class is to give the professor your undivided attention and take meaningful notes.
DO: Form study groups for difficult subjects.
DON’T: Be too shy to make friends at school.
Now that you’re going to class, know the professors, have the books and take good notes, it’s probably a good idea to make some study buddies.
While I’m sure everyone is totally capable of striving in any class completely on their own, having friends to study with (especially in the more demanding courses) can really come in handy when mid-terms and finals roll around.
Striking up a conversation with the students around you is pretty easy because you’ve all got at least one thing in common – the class you’re all sitting in. Getting a group of just a few students together to share notes and study can definitely be very helpful. Sometimes going over things with others who have different points of views can provide a totally new understanding of any subject.
Even for those of you on the shyer side, making friends in an academic setting for academic purposes doesn’t come with all the pressures of being social and outgoing.
Getting through college is difficult enough, but these tips have the potential to make your journey just a little bit easier.