Getting Ahead Of The New Semester

You made it through the fall semester successfully (hopefully). Now it's time to do it all over again. Here are some tips to help make the long cold winter semester a little bit more bearable.

  1. Use a planner. Paper or electronic, but seriously - use it. Write down the deadlines and the to-do lists, schedule your study time. Add class times, meetings, days off, fun things, everything. Letting your planner do the job of remembering frees up mental space for more important things, for example, the principles of Marxism or the krebs cycle. 

  2. Decide how you're going to study for each class. Right at the beginning of the semester. Like right now. Today. By now you may have realized that studying the same way for every class doesn't work very well. Take some time to reflect on the course to figure out how to best study for it. Is it more important to memorize or conceptualize? How much detail do you need to remember? Will you be tested on information or ideas? The clearer you are about what each class will require come midterms and finals, the sooner you can…

  3. Make study materials. Yes, start this at the beginning of the semester. Nothing is worse than having big plans to make flashcards and summaries, all of a sudden its test day and you’ve only just finished making them, never mind using them. If you know how you’re going to study, you can start making these things at the end of every week, or the end of every unit. Not only will you not have to spend hours upon hours doing it right before the exam, but it will double as reviewing the information and committing it to your long term memory. 

  4. Make a study schedule. I'm not kidding. Its’ the beginning of the semester, why wait for the panic? Determine how much time you think you need to dedicate to each class per week, and put it into your schedule right now. You may need more before tests or assignments are due, but it is truly worth it to set aside time every week for each class regardless of how distant the deadlines may feel. Studying is made easier by turning it into a habit; if, every Tuesday from 2:00 to 4:00pm, you sit down and study for your statistics class no matter what, you eliminate the need for decision making that usually leads to procrastination. And you'll probably be in good mental shape by the time the final comes around. 

  5. Make sure the old version of the textbook is absolutely obsolete before you buy the newest edition. Professors aren't here to put you in debt, ask them if the old textbook is sufficient, they won't lie to you. 

  6. Make goals for your courses that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. 

  7. Get your study space organized. Take everything out, get rid of stuff you no longer need. If it's not for studying, move it. Then put everything away so that each item has its own spot. This will make your space easier to keep tidy and eliminate some of the urge to procrastinate by cleaning. 

  8. Reflect on last semester. Don’t do the same thing over and over and expect a different outcome. Identify which things were especially challenging about studying, going to class, meeting deadlines, etc. Decide what you can do to change it and then actually do it.