For Freshmen. By Freshmen.
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Sep 14 2017
by Laura Mackenzie

How to Start a New Semester and School Year The Right Way

By Laura Mackenzie - Sep 14 2017

"School is in another year, and I just want to disappear again..." – "Get Me Out," Falling In Reverse 

If this lyric is similar to your attitude and outlook toward your new year of school, then this is for you. College can be a demon; whether it be a cuddly demon like a kitten or a literal demon with soul-searing claws really depends on you and your approach. It all starts with your mindset and setting yourself up for success. 

1. Know what materials you need upfront.

If you haven't figured this out by now, college textbooks cost a ton of money and it all adds up. Every professor and class has a supply list from readings to textbooks to other resources they might recommended, but here is a little shocker: the REQUIRED in parentheses around a book isn't all that concrete. Before classes start or around the first few days, email your professor to ask if all of the "required" supplies really are required and if you need the newest editions or if older editions will suffice. This is important to know because older versions or editions and used textbooks are exponentially cheaper, and supplementing the more expensive texts with these versions will save you plenty. Also, don't be afraid to peruse the internet for online PDFs of your materials either. 

2. Utilize your Google Calendar. 

I'm not joking. A Google Calendar attached to your college email will save your life! The feature that makes this such a useful tool is the fact that you can create different calendars and tabs which you can turn 'on' and 'off' in different combination viewings. For example, I have a tab for my classes, my professor's and TA's office hours, my tests and exam dates and tutoring hours at my school's various centers. So if I ever want to see what hours I can go to, I just turn on my class and office hours tabs to see which open periods coincide with the hours or if there are conflicts with testing dates and times. You can also add your club or athletic schedule, the school vacation dates and so on if you want. This can help you keep your life on track and mentally focus yourself on what you need to do during the day or week ahead. Keeping yourself focused and organized is a guaranteed college survival skill. 

3. Familiarize yourself with the resources offered. 

Trust me when I say that it is very important for you to know what services and aid your school offers. College is stressful. So is adulthood and everything in between. Not every school does this, but mine offers nine free therapy sessions to students and a form of drop-in counseling. The college health center and local hospital offer a range of tests and medical aid for the students at a very discounted price, including an array of free condoms and sex education. The career center holds regular conferences and workshops for a large variety of job interests and they offer individual counselors as well if you're looking for a more niche position. The Student Learning Center is currently saving my life with facilitated study groups and drop-in tutoring. You will get overwhelmed. You will feel lost over a certain subject. Don't be afraid to seek out help and please make sure to take care of yourself. Knowing what is available to you and how to access those resources can sometimes be a literal lifesaver. You don't have to reach out immediately, but keeping that information in the back of your mind is something I highly recommend. 

4. Establish a good studying location.

We associate certain places with certain mental states. For example, your room is a place of relaxation, your bed a place for sleeping and for Netflix, your desk a working space. In college, and even in high school, it's very helpful to establish an outside space for studying and school work. At UC Berkeley, each college and sometimes each department has a library dedicated to them outside of the large general libraries. I, for one, like when there's space, and the chemistry and engineering libraries are a lot quieter and less occupied than other buildings. These are all places I go to study and complete assignments. When I go there, all YouTube and Netflix tabs are gone. The only tabs or supplies I use are those for working. If I need to relax or nap, I try to do that before or after going to the library and I generally go to elsewhere to do so. Explore your campus and find places like these for yourself. It'll help you so much in the long run. 

5. Introduce yourself to your professors.

Professors can be intimidating. Even my dorky, lovable and nerdy Canadian oceans professor seemed intimidating to me at one point. It's kind of silly looking back now, but it's true. A great way to slowly overcome the invisible wall you put between you and your professors is to simply introduce yourself to them during or after class. That will make going to their office hours a lot less stressful and it will make your face a familiar one. Another thing to do is sit in the first three rows. If you're in a large lecture, it's hard to stand out. By sitting in the closer rows, you'll be more likely to interact with your professor, less likely to be distracted by your classmates and more likely to pay attention (advice a professor actually gave me once). I, for one, have three lectures with more than 500 people. By sitting in the front row, I'm able to read the projections and I have casual conversations with my professors. You should give it a try. 

It's important at the start of your semester to set yourself up to NOT burnout. All of these steps are a good starting point for success and survival, but it's you who will carry it through. If you have bad habits, it's up to you to kick them to the curb and to find better methods. You can know what to do but it's up to you to do it. But keeping all of these things in mind, don't lose sight of yourself. 

Take time to relax. Take classes or join clubs that revolve around something you love. Keep track of your mental health. Don't be afraid to seek help in whatever form you may need. College is a journey. Know and recognize your limits. Start slow and start by setting yourself up for success, and have a happy school year!


Lead Image Credit: Pexels

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Laura Mackenzie - University of California, Berkeley

Laura is attending the University of California Berkeley for her Undergraduate Studies where she will be getting a double major in Environmental Sciences and Marine Sciences, possibly attaining a minor in Earth System Science as well (just because she loves herself that much). In high school she took community college classes in tandem with her high school curriculum. She was a competitive dancer until her sophomore year, was a member of the honors society, was the co-founder of the QSA, was the first President of their Community Service Club (composed of both Rotary and Key Clubs), and a member of ASB and the school's dance team. She loves napping, Netflix binges, writing, cosplaying, and anything that revolves around anime or comic books. She has mastered the art of procrastination and overachieving, and is down for any adventure (preferably in Middle Earth).

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