Four tips to a successful spring semester

We’ve heard it from everyone — college goes by fast. But when my professors and parents said “fast,” I, for one, didn’t realize “fast” would mean in the blink of an eye.

Another semester at the College is already upon us. As a junior (almost senior — yikes!), I find this overwhelming. However, when returning back to campus at the start of the semester, time seems infinite. The first week or two is always leisurely. With classes just beginning, it seems like there’s absolutely nothing to do but relax and catch up with friends.

But beware — this is exactly when it is easiest to fall behind. If there’s anything I’ve learned over the course of the past five semesters, it’s that not just planning, but planning from the very beginning, is key. It’s extremely important to be on top of your game from day one.

Many people are often disillusioned and think they can successfully plan and complete assignments and tasks right before they’re due. Planning and completing are not meant to be simultaneous tasks. It’s often week three before students begin to start outlining their schedules. See the problem here? The first round of exams and papers usually begins around week four. Before they know it, they’re staying up later and later each night, wishing more and more that they had utilized the free time during their first two weeks more productively.

With all this in mind, here are some tips to help you spring forward and prevent you from falling into unhealthy habits of late nights and caffeinated beverages. Although this advice may seem fairly basic, it tends to be overlooked more often than not.

Plan from the very beginning. Invest in a planner. Or, if you’re more tech-savvy, use Google Calendar or download a calendar app on your phone, such as CalenGoo. Whatever your preference, it’s important to make note of the important dates and deadlines throughout the semester. This rough outline will come in handy when planning specific events down the line, and it’ll prevent you from unintentionally double-booking.

Establish a regular sleep schedule. Chances are your break was filled with late nights and late mornings, a routine that won’t complement your semester schedule. It’s important to get back into your routine of sleeping early and waking early as soon as possible. A good night’s sleep ensures physical and emotional health, two musts of a successful semester. Being well-rested enables you to be alert and attentive in your classes.

Be academically proactive. Define your academic goals for the semester and write them down. I prefer to use a sticky note and post it above my desk in my room. When the going gets tough later in the semester, seeing the goal you’ve established early on will help you stay focused and motivated. If you find yourself unable to grasp the material in a particular class early on, don’t brush it off. Visit your professor during office hours as soon as you can. By resolving it in the beginning, you’ll be better prepared to understand the coming material and save yourself from the disaster of cramming right before the exam.

Make a list of five new things you want to try during the semester. College will be over before you know it. You don’t want to find yourself looking back with regret at lost opportunities. You also don’t want to attempt to incorporate those opportunities into your already hectic schedule last minute. Once again, planning from the beginning is key! Make a list and add it to your semester schedule. By putting time aside early on, you will greatly increase the chances of accomplishing these tasks.

While it is absolutely true you can’t plan for everything, remember that success doesn’t just happen — it’s planned for.