Hey guys! The new semester is right around the corner and as exciting as that is, it’s also quite terrifying. If you’re stressed out, here are 5 things you can do to prepare for a new semester that will (hopefully) give you some peace of mind.
1. Fix your sleep schedule
During the summer, especially if you’re not working or taking any summer courses that require you to get up early in the morning, it’s easy to fall into an abnormal sleep schedule. That could mean consistently sleeping really late at night and waking up late in the morning or sleeping and waking up at random times of the day every day.
Either way, it’s difficult to adjust to a new semester with an abnormal sleeping schedule so one of the ways you can prepare for the school year is by fixing your sleeping schedule.
Depending on when you have to wake up, calculate the time you have to go to sleep the night before to get 8 hours of sleep (the recommended hours of sleep for adults). Then slowly build a routine of sleeping and waking up at the same time every day.
To help with this, try using the clock app on your smartphone to set alarms or a sleep app like Sleep Cycle that will even track your sleep and wake you up during your lightest phase of sleep!
2. Create an organization system
Having an organization system from the get-go that you can follow and stick to throughout the semester is a must for anyone looking to stay on top of things this upcoming school year. There are a number of systems of organization out there for students:
- Solely paper-based organization systems where you take notes physically and print out documents to organize in binders, folders, etc.
- Solely digital-based organization systems that utilize digital files in laptops and tablets.
- Hybrid-based systems that combine features from both paper-based and digital-based systems.
Each of these systems has its pros and cons. While most students today are likely to benefit from a hybrid-based system, it all depends on your learning style and preference (some people learn better taking physical notes for example). So choose a system that works for you! Start with deciding whether you want to go paper-based, digital or both. From there, set up your organization system:
- Paper – buy notebooks (for taking notes) and binders (for keeping worksheets and other documents) for each course/subject and colour-code them for easy access; use pocket folders or expanding folders for loose paper, etc.
- Digital – create folders for each course/subject; sync your computer to a cloud service like Google Drive to have all your course files in one place; download useful productivity apps like PDF scanner and Forest on your smartphone; download note-taking apps or programs like GoodNotes (IOS), Notion and Microsoft OneNote (IOS, Mac, Android & Windows), etc.
- Hybrid – prepare a laptop/tablet for digital note-taking and binders/folders for physically filing handouts, etc.
3. Plan your weekly school routine
Every school year, I always struggle to stay on top of everything. From doing assigned readings and assignments to writing papers, studying for exams, and doing extracurricular activities, there’s so much to do. And by the third week of the semester, I’m already behind some (most) of my courses.
To avoid this, I like to plan my school routine. And if you’re anything like me, you’ll want to do the same. Sit down for an hour or two before the new semester and create a weekly schedule.
Start by blocking out your class times and the times you want to allocate for studying/revising notes/doing assignments and papers. Then, block out any times for extracurriculars or your part-time job if you have one. If you want, you can leave it at that or you can plan every activity you do on a daily/weekly basis.
You can include when you want to wake up and go to sleep, have meals throughout the day, take some time for yourself to go out with friends or do things you love, and more. Go crazy!
To help get you started, feel free to use this printable weekly schedule that I made:
4. Buy textbooks and school supplies
If you want to save some money (and who doesn’t?), you might want to think about buying your textbooks and other school supplies early.
Textbooks are hella expensive and you can buy them used for cheaper but there’s usually not a lot of those going around. If you wait too late, there may no longer be any used textbooks available so the earlier you shop for them the better. Start with your textbook list.
If you’re worried the list might not be accurate, shoot a quick email to your profs to ask whether the textbook listed for their class is the correct required text. You can even ask/confirm whether the textbook is mandatory or optional.
Tip: buy the mandatory textbooks but hold off on the optional ones - these are the textbooks you can wait to see before buying because you might end up not even needing them at all.
Once your profs confirm your textbooks, look for used ones on sites like Amazon, Kijiji, and the FB Marketplace. You can also see if your school has its own buy & sell textbooks page (most universities do) and talk to upper-year students who are looking to sell their old textbooks.
As for school supplies, most stores have back-to-school sales around July/August so stationery shopping before school starts is the perfect way to prepare for a new semester!
Don’t forget to check out your course syllabus to see if there’s anything specific you need to buy for a course (some courses for example require a scientific calculator or something else).
5. Prep your laptop or tablet
As a student in a technologically dependent world, your laptop or tablet is invaluable. So make sure to organize and get it ready for the school year.
If it’s a new laptop or tablet, set it up. If it’s an older one, make a backup of all your files. Delete apps or programs and files that you no longer need and make space in your laptop/tablet. Create bookmarks in your browser for easy access to links that you’ll be using often throughout the semester like your school’s homepage, your calendar, Google Drive, etc.
Don’t know what to bookmark? Here are a few of my go-to websites/extensions during the school year that you might also find useful:
Make folders for each of your courses. Within those folders, make subfolders for your assignments, lecture notes, handouts, etc., and download any useful school apps like Quizlet, Moodle, and Microsoft Office (check to see if your university is subscribed to this service, it’s usually free for students).
Well, there you have it. 5 things you can do to help you prepare for a new semester. Best of luck for Fall 2021!