How to set yourself up for a successful semester.

Thank you to Office Depot Inc. and Her Campus Media for partnering on this post!

My first week of classes is officially over and I’m feeling good! The class I thought I would hate is actually super interesting, and there are a few classes that I’m actually looking forward to attending. I’m sure we all have a similar goal of having a super successful semester (if not, make it one of your goals!) and I thought it might be beneficial if I shared with you how I plan on making this my best semester yet!

Get organized!

So this is going to be a common theme in this post – organization is key. And organized person isn’t going to lose papers, forget due dates, or have to scramble at the last minute. And even if you (like me) aren’t and organized person by nature, there are definitely ways you can fake it.

  • Use a a 5 subject notebook. If you keep all of your classes in one place you’re never going to grab the wrong notebook when you’re in a hurry. I picked up the Office Depot and OfficeMax Brand Stellar Notebook before I left for school – and it’s amazing! There are reinforced folders before each subject, plus translucent sticky notes built in in case I need to mark a question down! (There will be more on how I use this notebook later!)
  • Utilize folders – rather than stuffing everything into your backpack at the end of the day (guilty!) take a moment to pack them into a folder and you’ll be much better off in the long run. I have really cute file folders from the Divoga® Gold Struck fashion collection that not only keep me organized, but they look super cute on my desk, too!
  • Use a planner – don’t fight me on this – it’s so important! In college I started to use a planner and it reduced my stress levels by so much and I haven’t forgotten a single due date because they are all written down in one convenient place.
  • Paper clips and binder clips are unsung heroes – seriously I have a handful in my backpack, in my purse, and on my desk. You never know when you’re going to need to keep a bundle of papers together! And even better? Mine match my file folders because they are from the same Divoga® Gold Struck fashion collection at Office Depot and OfficeMax!

Take good notes.

I’m actually really quite proud of my note taking system this year and I thought I would share it with you! It’s actually a combination of systems meant to accommodate each professor’s teaching style.

  • For the fast talker: I have one professor who talks way faster than I could possible write – so I use my laptop in his class. I hate bringing my laptop to class just because it is a bit harder to stay focused, but I’ve had him before and his exams are based on what he says in class. His slideshows are mostly blank and he fills him in during class so I don’t want to miss a word.
  • For the slow and steady professor: So this is where most of my professor’s fall and it allows me to take notes by hand which I love. I’m using the Office Depot and OfficeMax Brand Stellar Notebook that I mentioned earlier, and I’m quite happy with how it is working out.
    • I am using the first page in each section as a ‘quick ref’ page. In addition to my planner, I have any and all due dates here with any other relevant information. Additionally I added a table of contents I can fill out after each lecture. I have the upper right hand corner of each page labeled and after class I just go back to the first page and write what topics were covered, and on what pages. This is going to make studying infinitely easier!
    • I am also using a two column system so each topic is in a block rather than a long stretched out row. For me this is just better aesthetically, and it leaves me room to add extra notes and arrows as  I make connections.

Use your syllabus!

If you’ve been here a while, I probably sound like a broken record because I’ve talked about this again and again and again. But for good measure, let me summarize how you can use your syllabus now to guarantee success later. I’ve mentioned before that syllabuses are literally guides that tell you exactly how to pass that professor’s class yet so many people still just toss them to the side! Taking a few steps in understanding the format of your classes, how the exams will be given, and what your overall grade is going to be made up of is going to help you have a less stressful semester.

  • Go through each syllabus and highlight every single due date, exam date, and quiz date. Now copy all of these dates into your planner and if the information is provided, also add what percent of your grade that assignment or exam accounts for. Knowing the percentage can help you prioritize your time if you have two papers and an exam all in one week.
  • Find out when office hours are – and go! Even if it’s just to say, “Hi, I’m really looking forward to learning a lot in your class! Do you have an recommendations on how I can best study for your exams?” Introducing yourself and making yourself seem interested and eager can go a long way.
  • Start prepping way before hand – you have all of your upcoming due dates written down – so you have no excuse for last minute cramming! At the beginning of every week look forward to the next week and see what you can start doing now to make things easier on yourself later.
  • Find out about extra credit opportunities. Not all classes have them, but if they do it’ll likely be in the syllabus. Know about them early so you can get them out of the way before the stress of the semester starts to build up. And if there are none, it doesn’t hurt to go to office hours and ask anyways. It’s good to ask early so that it looks like you’re just trying to get the most out of your class experience as possible, rather than it being a last ditch effort to save your grade.

Learn how to relax.

I’m very much guilty of overworking myself because I am really bad at just doing nothing. Whenever I snuggle in to a bubble bath or to watch Netflix I’m good for about 25 minutes before I start feeling anxious and thinking that my time could be better used studying or working on the blog. I’m still working on breaking out of that mindset because once you reach a certain level of stress you are going to be a lot less productive. While I can’t say that I’m completely zen yet, I do have some tips that have helped me along the way:

  • Schedule your relaxation. Like I said – I’m big on my planner. If my planner is telling me that I need to relax from six until seven, then I am a lot more likely to unwind for a full hour as opposed to the usual 20 minutes I give myself.
  • Get your big commitments out of the way early – if I know I’ve got a paper due at the end of the week or a huge blog collaboration coming up that commitment is going to be all I can think about – even if I’m not actively working on it. So even if I still have time, getting even just a rough copy done early really helps calm me down and get to a point where I can relax.
  • Relax with friends – if you plan a girls night complete with face masks and movies, it’s a lot harder to back out of than a solo movie night in your room! Plus, if you’re with good friends, they’ll help you forget your stress regardless.

What do you do to prepare for a successful semester?