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Tips for Starting a New Semester!

Written by: Megan Ho, Conference Coordinator

It’s that time of year again! Congrats on getting through the end of the semester, I’m proud of you, if no one’s told you that yet :) Going into my fourth year in Psychology, this semester has felt like a bit of a blur, with a steady cycle of assignments, midterms and essays. I’m super excited for a ‘start of semester’ reset, and I wanted to share three tips that have helped me throughout the last three years to get organized and make the most out of your Winter semester!

Tip #1: Reset and take a break…a REAL break

This first tip, although it appears self explanatory, is one that I’ve struggled with the most. Taking a real break away from school and studying is especially difficult with full-year courses but is essential to come back into the Winter semester refreshed.

What has helped me in the past is designating a certain period of time, or dates where I will vow to not touch anything school-related. The best way to do this is to take a look at your schedule, your to-do list, and plan those days according to how much time you might need to complete your tasks. This sounds counterintuitive, especially if you have a bunch of assignments or makeup exams into the new year. However, when you allot yourself enough time to complete your tasks, you tend to feel much more relaxed when you’re taking a break because you know that you have a plan for when you’re going to actually get to work.

The winter break is meant to be a time where you can hang out with friends, celebrate the holiday season, catch up on all of those shows that you didn’t have time to watch, and prepare yourself to crush your second semester!

Tip #2a: Reflecting on Last Semester

Once you’ve rested up and are ready to start dipping your toes back into school-related topics, it’s important to think back on your fall semester. What did you accomplish? What worked well and what might need some improvement? Your reflection can range from anything school related, to your study habits, your sleep schedule, your involvement in clubs or council, or anything that you feel is important.

Make note of any feedback that you received from your professors or TA’s in your papers or assignments in a document to refer back to in the Winter semester! You don’t want to make the same mistakes twice, and looking back on this document when you’re working on your projects can be helpful in preventing this.

If you have carryover assignments from last semester, making a list of all that you have to do during the break can help you plan out when, and how much time you might need to work on them.

Tip #2b: Setting New Goals Schedules

The next part of this tip involves setting new goals, and also mapping out tangible ways of getting there. For example, if your grades weren’t as high as you would’ve wanted them to be, you might encourage yourself next semester to review your exam with your TA’s, visit your professor’s office hours to clarify any concepts that you had trouble grasping, or form a study group with friends that are also taking those courses.

What’s really important in this step is to set realistic goals. You know yourself best, and if you are a night owl, setting a 7am to 9pm work-day schedule might not be the most effective. I’m the most productive at night, and it took me until this year to accept that there is absolutely nothing wrong with staying up and doing your school work later at night if that is what works best for you. Everyone learns differently!

Tip #3: Due Date Spreadsheets

Creating a ‘due date spreadsheet’ has been one of the best tools (Google calendar being my favourite) that helps me stay organized. Once you have access to your Winter class syllabuses, I like to create a spreadsheet with the class name, due date, and the percentage of how much the assignment or exam is worth. I’ve attached a screenshot of what mine looks like for a quick visual:

You can colour code it, add any additional columns, and customize it however best suits your needs! As the deadline passes, you can check it off, cross it out, or delete the row altogether. This visual allows you to keep all your deadlines together for you to refer back to throughout the semester.

As a quick disclaimer, these tips might not work for you, and that is totally okay! What’s important is that you’re happy with the way school is going and that you’re ready to crush your courses in the new year.

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