The beginning of each semester is a special and precious time, because in just a few days your world will be turned upside down. Your schedule will be hijacked and your normal habits of eat, sleep and exercise will be threatened.
I promise, you will make it out alive! (I didn’t think I would either, but I did. Whew!) To help you towards your victory, here are 9 super important tips to help you prepare for a new semester and get started on the right foot. I’ve created a summary checklist for you to keep handy as a reference. You can click HERE to download it from the KOG Math Success Library.
Also here’s a video if you’d like to hear and watch me explain it instead of reading it all.
1. Register for classes before the deadline.
In my first year of college, I somehow thought that my classes would just be registered for me and I’d be mailed my schedule. That doesn’t happen in college! You have to register yourself.
Go to your school’s website and find the semester calendar.
BEFORE THE DEADLINE schedule an appointment with your academic adviser or the registrar at your school to register for classes.
Review the program for your major and choose exact courses that it requires
Make sure that you are registering with enough credits to meet your financial support requirements (see #2)
Go to your appointment with your course list and complete your registration
Ask for a print out of your course schedule.
***You may be able to reserve your spot in a class online, however you probably have to get this approved by your academic adviser.
2. Make sure your courses meet your financial support requirements.
This is crucial because if you don’t have money for school, then you can’t go to school. Your financial support is usually through government aid, grants, scholarships and loans. The contracts for these will tell you your obligations as a college student. Usually, they want you to be a full-time student taking 12 credit hours or more. Make sure you consider this when registering for classes.
3. Make sure your School Email Account is set up.
Every college student has a school email account. Set it up with given your school email (usually in the format of email@example.com) and password so that you can email your professors and other administrators. This is important since some professors won’t accept emails from you personal email account in an effort to keep things professional.
4. Buy or Rent your books and tools. Contact your professor to verify.
Contact Your Professor
It would be best to email your professor asking if the book suggested when registering for classes is the same book (or edition of the book) that he/she will be using for class. Also ask if there are any other tools or software you need to purchase. If they take a while to respond, go ahead and order the book suggested by the school, but DON’T BREAK THE PLASTIC SEAL in case you have to return it. Be aware that you may need to make another purchase for this class after it starts.
I tutored a student who had trouble logging into the online portal of his math class. He spoke to his professor after class every day and emailed him every week. His professor said that he would fix it BUT NEVER DID. By the last few weeks of the semester, the student had had enough and spoke to the dean of the school. The dean was able to help him, but wondered why he waited so late to see him.
If anything like this ever happens between you and your professor, contact the dean immediately! Don't let your professor's carelessness stop you from passing your class.
Renting is Best
For books, renting is the best option since you can get them for cheaper prices. You just have to return them by the deadline or else fees will incur. You also have the option of buying and reselling your books. When in college, I did this through Amazon and Chegg.com.
If You Want to Buy
For some courses that interest you or that will be useful for your career after college, you may want to buy the book. In this case you can shop around for the lowest price. You may also consider purchasing from fellow students who may have taken the course last semester. My school had bulletin boards for those who wanted to post flyers about the books they were selling. Don’t forget to check social media. Search and use hashtags for buying and selling.
5. Find out the Withdrawal Deadlines.
This is a deadline that a lot of students overlook because no one really thinks they’re going to drop out of a class. However, sometimes you NEED to drop or withdraw from a class (usually math) because you may be failing it. You don’t want an F on your transcript!
Go to your school’s website and find the semester calendar.
Store the Withdrawal Deadline date into the calendar in your agenda book and on your phone and set a reminder for 2 weeks in advance.
When you get that reminder, evaluate your current grades and see if you will be able to catch up. Then decide whether you need to withdraw from some of your classes.
It may sting to withdraw because you spent so much time and money on this course, but you’ll have to take it over again anyway if you fail.
6. Review the Syllabus
By the time it's the week before the semester, your professors should have emailed you the course syllabi (plural for syllabus lol). Print and Review all of them. Make sure you have made arrangements to get all of the supplies mentioned in each syllabus, and that your work schedule does not conflict with your school schedule.
Don’t forget to make note of deadlines for:
The next important thing on the syllabus is your professors’ Office Hours. These are times when your professor is available to instruct or advice you one-on-one. Go to these often with all questions.
7. Locate Learning/Tutoring Centers and Library on campus.
It’s always good to know where the learning/tutoring center is in your school. However, if you are taking a course that you know will be difficult, you need to put it in your schedule to be there every week.
Here are some things to find out about your learning/tutoring center:
Learning Center location
The name of the tutor(s) for your course subject
The hours that your tutor is available
Hire a Tutor
In case there is no tutor for your course at school, or maybe the learning center is not the environment ideal for your study routine, you may want to hire a tutor. There are plenty of websites that will allow you to tutor online or in person on countless subjects. If you need a math tutor, you can book a session with me here.
The library is usually a quiet place for resources. There you will find computers you can work on and print from, books you can borrow and copy pages from, even magazines and newspapers. There are also private rooms for groups of students to meet in for studying in most libraries.
8. Organize your Semester Agenda Book and Notebooks/Binders.
Semester Agenda Book
This is a planner with a calendar designated specifically for your current semester. Your school may even sell some in the bookstore. These books are great for organizing your study schedule for assignments, tests, quizzes and projects due to the various sections for to-do lists and notes for each day. Anything important goes in your Semester Agenda Book.
Notebooks vs. Binders
I’ve learned that using binders for college was the best way to organize my notes. I got so tired of buying a notebook for each class and using all the pages before the class was over. Then I’d have to buy another one and carry two notebooks. I ditched that process and just went with binders. Binders allow you to add much more paper than notebooks give you. You’re also able to include separators with tabs, stickers and folders for class handouts and packets. You can even put your Semester Agenda Book in your binder.
9. Create a Study Plan.
Along with making sure your work schedule does not interfere with your school schedule, you need to set aside lots of time for studying and working on your assignments.
PSA: Cramming is not the way to study!
I know you may think “I can get to it later” or “I remember better when I cram”, but that’s a dangerous way to think when it comes to proving your knowledge on a test. Proper studying catered to your learning style gives you the chance to say "I know the concepts" instead of "I memorized everything". YouTuber Thomas Frank has a great video on study tips called “How to Study Effectively: 8 Advanced Tips”.
Here are some More tips on studying more effectively and efficiently:
Study according to your learning style. (find out yours with this test)
Pick an ideal environment for optimal focus.
Study in increments of 25 minutes, then take a 5-10 minute break for better memory.
Create goal(s) for each study session with smaller goals for each big goal.
Review you notes every day.
Study with a partner.
Get 6-8 hours of sleep.
But Wait, There's a Checklist!
I know this may seem like a lot to even look at. That's why I've created a checklist for you to use as a reference as you go along throughout the semester. Put it in your Binder next to your agenda book! Click the black button below to get yours.
The Study Plan Schedule Strategy (That Actually Works) by Developing Good Habits: https://www.developgoodhabits.com/study-schedule/
Learning Style Assessment by How to Study: https://www.how-to-study.com/learning-style-assessment/