Tips to Help College Students Get the Semester Off to a Good Start

Tips to Help College Students Get the Semester Off to a Good Start

Also available as a PDF download.

  • Create a master weekly schedule that accounts for the study time you need. Download a tool at http://www.ldadvisory.com/time_management_tool/ to help you do this and to get hints on how to make the schedule work. Use this as a template, adding appointments and commitments as they arise each week.
  • Get organized now! Set up your binder/notebook with sections for each class’s handouts, notes, and completed assignments. Do the same with your computer – create a folder for each class you’re taking and put subfolders in it for notes and assignments. I suggest using a binder like The Open Tab from Caseit.com.
  • Get a bag big enough to carry everything you need when you leave for the day. Try to find one with several sections to help you organize materials and items.
  • Decide which email address (personal or school) you will use for the semester. Go into any other accounts you have and set them to auto-forward messages to the primary account you have selected.
  • Print (timeanddate.com/calendar) or buy a calendar that shows you a month at a time. It should have blocks you can write in. Post it over your workspace with all months of the semester showing in sequence. Cross off each day that passes so you have a visual of how much time is left before upcoming deadlines (electronic calendars are not effective for this use).
  • Enter exam dates and long-term assignment deadlines on your paper (and –if you’re using one – electronic) calendar as soon as you get your syllabi. Then enter interim deadlines for the assignments (download a tool for this at http://www.ldadvisory.com/long_term_planning_tool/)
  • Schedule some appointments at the tutoring center now if you are taking a course that you think will be difficult. You can always cancel them if you don’t need them. By doing this, you improve the chance you’ll be able to get an appointment when you need it.
  • Buy the books/download the readings now for the classes you know you won’t drop. As soon as the first readings are assigned, do them (before class) so you start off the semester feeling on top of things.
  • * If you are a student with a disability, register for accommodations now, even if you don’t think you’ll need them. You don’t have to use them, but at least they’ll be in place if you change your mind later in the semester. If you wait, there’s a chance you’ll miss having your accommodations if your requests can’t be reviewed before your next test.
If you’re reading this after the semester has begun – don’t panic! Clear your upcoming weekend schedule (sacrificing one weekend will be worth it!) and get caught up with these tips and your assignments. This way, you’ll start next week feeling on top of things. Continue reading for more tips!

Additional tips to help college students stay on top of things

Making good use of your calendar
  • Enter your professors’ office hours into your weekly calendar so that you know when help is available. Do the same for TA hours and review sessions.
  • Enter the add-drop deadline at the start of the semester so that you don’t miss this.
  • Check your calendar every Sunday to get a sense of what’s coming this week.
  • Check your calendar every night so you wake up knowing what you have to do and take what you need with you when you leave for the day.
Staying on track with studying
  • Plan to meet a friend at the library for your study sessions (you don’t have to study together – just make sure you’ll meet so you actually get there).
  • If you can’t get anyone to meet you, text a friend in the morning to say when you will study and ask him/her to check on you later to see if you did it.
  • Use a timer to help you stick to your study schedule. Set the timer for half an hour, study, and then set it for a five minute break. Do this sequence three more times until you have studied that one subject for two hours. If you want to keep studying, take a half-hour break at that point, then when you sit down again set the timer for half an hour again and start studying for a different class.
  • If you get behind, don’t panic, and definitely don’t give up! Sacrifice the upcoming weekend to catch up and do your assignments for next week. Then try to keep up on a weekly basis.
Keeping email under control
  • Unsubscribe from retail and social event email notifications to keep your inbox clear of distractions.   When you have time, you can check the actual websites for businesses and events that interest you.
  • If your email system allows it, have emails related to classes or other important things starred or placed in a folder called “Important” so you read them first.
  • Have your email send an auto-response to all messages saying you will get back to people within 24 hours (or whatever time you need) so that you can feel less pressured about responding to messages.
Keeping important items from getting lost
  • Be consistent about putting away items like keys and ID – always put them away in the same part of your bag so you know where to find them. Consider putting them together on a lanyard or leash. Don’t put them down anywhere – keep them in your hand until you can get them in the proper place (i.e., your bag or around your neck). In your room, have a hook or spot on your desk where you always put them down and can find them easily.
  • Before you go to bed each night, check your bag to make sure it has what you need – pens, flash drive, books, phone, etc. If it helps, keep a list over your desk showing what should be in there.