Setting yourself up for the semester

If you lay a good foundation, it’ll be easier to fall into your rhythm and routine. Here are some basic tips to set yourself up for the semester:

Hold onto your syllabi. I admit that they weren’t very helpful in high school, but in college, the syllabus is everything. You’ll need it throughout the year, and not just when it comes to studying for finals. The extent to which professors rely on syllabi is case to case. Some will only give a timeline of topics they’ll be covering and of course the dates of midterms and finals. Some will also include guest lectures, additional [make up] class times, and homework assignments. Note that your syllabus is subject to change though, so pay attention in class! Look ahead and come prepared for the next class. Compare the syllabi for all your courses together and you may notice a particular week will be especially busy for you. Perhaps you’ll need an extension. The earlier you let your professor know, the more likely they are to understand and give it to you.

If you have a weekly calendar, besides marking in your classes, also mark in lab times, TA sessions, and office hours. Marking it in doesn’t mean that you need to go to every TA session and office hour, but this way you have all your times in one place, and you won’t have to sift through your syllabus or Moodle or your class website to find it. And while we’re talking about marking things in our calendars, it’d be helpful to keep track of when you have to turn in payroll as well. I personally never had a big problem with this, but I know that it can often easily slip students’ minds, especially with so many responsibilities to juggle.

Schedule meetings early. I admit that I’m not always the best with time management. Let’s say I have a weeklong project, or maybe a two-weeklong project. I’ll start with a vague idea that has potential, but then I’ll stop there and productively procrastinate by doing other work, and before I know it, the due date is just a few days away and all I have is my vague idea, and I’m too embarrassed to meet with my professor about it, because at that point in time, my professor will be expecting a finalised idea and deliverable. So schedule meetings early and talk it out with your professor, and more often than not, they’ll help you through the rest and make the process so much easier. With early meetings, your professors won’t be expecting a refined idea, so you don’t need to put too much pressure on yourself.

At the end of each class, take a minute to create an outline of what you learned. One minute. It may be one bullet, it may be five. This is a quick exercise, so don’t write any subheadings–just headings. This will make it easier to navigate through your notes when you’re looking back at them. It’s also a good refresher and can help you retain the new information better. Having a general outline especially helps me, because I’m the sort of person who needs to have context and see the big picture.

Resources to bookmark: I have all of these websites on my Bookmarks Bar in a folder called “School.”

  • BiONiC
  • Webmail: unless you have this linked to your Mail app.
  • Moodle (BMC/HC)
  • Class website?
  • Tri-co course guide: in case you want to pop by an extra lab session or are missing a class and want to attend another session to make up for it.
  • Tripod: maybe your textbook is on reserve or online and you don’t have to buy it.
  • Blue bus schedule: to get to your classes and/or parties.
  • Tri-co van schedule: ditto.
  • SEPTA schedule: reminder that Regional Rail is currently on Interim Weekday Schedule, which is basically just the Saturday schedule every day.