Starting a new academic year is one of the most exciting, yet nerve-wracking experiences. It is exciting to have new classes, professors, and classmates. Whether you live on campus or off-campus, take classes online, hybrid, or in-person, as a new or returning student, it is a great idea to plan for the best college experience during the first weeks of the semester. By making a few wise moves, it can set you up for success for the entire semester. Below are some success tips from a professor’s viewpoint on planning a successful fall semester.
1. Read the Syllabus for Success.
At the beginning of the semester, read the syllabus for each one of your classes. The syllabus is like a learning contract between a student and a professor. In each syllabus, highlight or put a “star” on the things that you like about that particular class to build anticipation. It could be a learning objective, an assignment, or activity. And, put a question mark next to things you are unclear about so you can ask questions during the first weeks of class.
2. Use your Time Wisely.
Time management is one of the most valuable skills to develop. It’s important to get an alarm clock and a planner to divide your days and times, to have a healthy work life balance. For accomplishing tasks such as studying or completing an assignment, try the Pomodoro Technique. This website allows you to set specific academic or work tasks and it encourages you to complete them in short chunks of 25 minutes, instead of cramming daily tasks at the last minute. This approach will make you are more productive and it will reduce your stress and procrastination habits.
3. Practice Single-Tasking.
Students are often tempted to multitask, or to do multiple tasks at the same time. However, this approach backfires by making us inefficient and less productive. The reason is that people feel overwhelmed, powerless, and disorganized. Our brains are maximized when we do single tasks in specific periods of time. For instance, a student can spend 20 minutes reading a book chapter and another 20 minutes working on a course assignment.
Breaking single tasks into management chunks will make it easier to accomplish many tasks during the day. By practicing single-tasking you will develop self-discipline skills, which will make you have a productive semester.
4. Make Class Buddies.
It’s important to get to know your classmates whether virtually, or in-person. You can initiate these interactions during the first week of the semester before or after class, or via informal virtual e-mail exchanges. If you miss a class, you can pick up on their notes, and also get caught up in the class. During exams, you can better prepare by holding review and study sessions. Students can learn new ways of studying, ask questions, and motivate each other to do well in the class. With class buddies, learning becomes more fun and engaging.
5. Connect with your Professors.
Students sometimes shy away from interacting with their professors. In part because they feel that professors are just there to teach. However, from a professor’s perspective, we actually prefer students who wish to connect with us at a more personal level. Professors are actually very friendly and open-minded people. You can connect with your professor by visiting their office during their office hours, or meeting with them virtually.
Students can send professors an electronic message as a “heads up” to let them know that you want to set up a time to ask questions. You can ask questions about how to be successful in their class, why they enjoy teaching their classes, or about their hobbies.
Professors are typically interested in learning about your background, interests, current major, and dream job. If you’re interested in internship or job opportunities, the odds are high that the professor will point you into the right direction.
6. Find a Part-Time Job.
Students can get a part-time job at the Office of Career and Professional Development located in the Classroom Center’s Student Success Center (Suite 113). The office provides many opportunities to find part-time jobs on campus and off-campus with local companies in the Panhandle. You can attend the job fair and the career expo by registering via Handshake (an online system that connects students with jobs). If you are a virtual student, you can still reap the benefits of the office by making virtual appointments and attending virtual career activities.
7. Join Student Organizations.
At the college, we have several student clubs relevant to your major or interests. Students who join student organizations tend to have more friends, more networking opportunities, and also report having a better college experience.
Because of the real-world skills and professional development experiences gained from becoming a member or leader in a student organization, students become more marketable to get hired for internships or jobs. And, they are more likely to get admitted into competitive graduate programs with scholarships.
If you missed the Herd 2.0 event last week, you can still join any student organization. Most chapters will continue to market their events to potential members. If you are a virtual student, you can still participate in the virtual aspects of student organizations such as webinars and virtual meetings.
8. Select Study Spaces.
Make it a routine to find quiet study spots to make it easier for you to focus and accomplish academic tasks. This may be at a local coffee shop, library, empty classroom, or a study lounge. Whatever location you select, make sure it’s comfortable with good lightning. The key is to avoid distractions such as constant disruptions. If you prefer to study in your bedroom, make sure to put a “do not disturb” sign outside your door, and avoid checking your social media pages or cell phone during study sessions.
9. Get Help When Needed.
During the semester, times may get tough. It could be that you missed an assignment, or did poorly on an exam. When that happens, it’s not the end of the world. There are many resources available to ensure that you are successful, especially if you are having a hard time. If you struggle with writing, you can use the resources at the Writing Center, which does online and physical tutoring sessions, and they also help to proofread papers.
If you struggle with any topic, you can request a tutor via TAP. Or, even ask the professor to set up a time to get you back on track. At the Engler College of Business, we have Ms. ">Diana Baeza, who is our student success coordinator, who loves to help students become more successful. Lastly, you can drop in and learn a variety of success habits and strategies at the Student Success Center at the Hub.
10. Take Care of Yourself.
It’s important to treat yourself with self-care and compassion during the semester. Make sure to get your full 7-9 hours of sleep per night to feel energized and focused. Sadly, most college students skip hours of sleep, but then suffer the consequences of feeling tired, even when drinking caffeinated drinks. Also, while it is tempting to eat pizza and hamburgers every day, ensure to eat your fruits and vegetables whenever possible to provide your body with the nutrients that it deserves.
Exercise is also the key to maintaining a sharp mind and a positive mood. The endorphins from just 15 minutes of exercise makes a big difference. If you are at the campus, take time to walk outdoors, enjoy the trees, and get fresh air. Go to the Vigil Activities Center, take a fitness class, or join a sports club. Off-campus, you can take a walk at a local park, go to the gym, or walk around a shopping center.
Overall, these tips encourage you to take charge of the fall. The fall semester can be a positive and enriching experience. Practicing even some of these tips can make you into a great success this semester.