August. Aside from the sweltering heat, I’ve always liked August. I love the back-to-school aisles in every store and kids looking through backpacks to find a good one. I was always realllly excited to buy school supplies. Big surprise, right? Happily, the school year is ready to begin again and I am very excited to say that I’ll be joining everyone in classes again. Woohoo!
For the last couple years I’ve been working as an Academic Counselor and heard a lot of success stories and a lot of “no wonder you failed that class” excuses. Between what I’ve done personally and what students I’ve worked with do, I wanted to share a few things to help you have a great semester.
Get your mind right
As you get started each semester, it’s important for you to get in the zone. Whether you’re coming back from a long summer, a way-too-short Christmas break, or only had a couple of days between Spring term and Summer term–you need to remember (a.k.a. accept) that you’re in school now. If you’re a traditional student, that means school is your full-time job. You’ll likely never get another chance like this to have school be your job. I have taken a couple of classes while working full-time and it stinks, so enjoy this opportunity. If you’re a non-traditional student, first of all–deep breaths. You may already be dealing with a full-time job, maybe a few part-time jobs, spouse, kids, etc. and school adds another thing to your plate. School is still your job, but it won’t be the same as if you were a traditional student. Either situation is fine, but you do need to adjust your mind to being back in school. Think about the things in your life that are different when you’re in school and recognize the changes are coming.
One of the best and most neglected keys to success is planning. Think back to your teachers who loved to remind you that “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” I really do believe that. Most great things in life don’t just happen out of nowhere, we have to plan for them. Whether you use a paper planner or your phone’s calendar, you need to make sure you’re planning. Find a system that works for you (daily/weekly/monthly planning) and stay committed. You may need to adjust your schedule and plans in order to make things work, but the beauty of planning is that it gives you the foresight to adjust to make your precious hours work for you.
Understanding your priorities is vital to keeping your sanity. Keep in mind that your priorities may change frequently. You may not need to re-evaluate your priorities every day, but it would be weird if you never adjusted them. For example: my student priorities on Monday are a lot different from my Sunday priorities with my family and church responsibilities. Or maybe you have kids with a busy month of their stuff and you need to adjust. Go for it mama! Don’t forget to think of the big picture as you prioritize. My last semester of college I was engaged and I forgot about the big picture. Let’s just say I forgot to do many assignments that semester. Fail.
Use campus resources
Do you have any idea what your school offers? Even if you’re taking online classes there are likely still many resources you have available. Schools want your money, but they need you to succeed as well in order for the university to thrive. They generally invest a lot of money into resources to help you do well. Find the library, learn how to use the online database and use them both. Find the writing center, career center, internship office, health center, women’s services, counseling center and financial aid office and see what they offer to help you do your best. The women’s services office at my university had frequent guest lectures and conferences that I was lucky to attend. We also had frequent dignitaries, politicians, religious leaders, and other famous people give guest lectures to the campus in general. Think Mark Zuckerberg, Condoleezza Rice, the President of Pixar, etc. Those were really inspiring to attend and enriched my college experience. My point is, there’s a lot more to learn outside of the classroom that will help you in the classroom as well so make sure to use them!
Good heavens people, you need to sleep! All-nighters are just asinine. There are few situations I can think of where that would be necessary. Most situations can be avoided by planning ahead. You’ll be a better student, friend, roommate, employee and family member if you get enough rest. Of course there will be times when you get less sleep than normal, but do not make it such a habit that your new “normal” is five hours a night.
I had a friend near the end of my degree who was always hassling me for not going out with them every night to hang out with random guys. By that time in my education I realized I valued sleep a lot more than trying to impress boys and ignored it. That semester was my highest GPA while at the university and I was so proud. Not the case for my friend. If you need a little more motivation to catch your Z’s, check out this page on the importance of sleep from the American Psychological Association. Then go take a nap and figure out in your schedule how to get enough sleep.
Take a break to live it up!
Okay, I probably lived it up a little more than I should have at times, but I can’t stress it enough– HAVE FUN IN COLLEGE! If you’re going to make a huge financial investment, you might as well enjoy the process. You really need to do well, but make sure you are having fun. There’s always something going on at school. My university sponsored the world’s largest water balloon fight and they filmed it for a music video–how cool is that? If campus events aren’t your thing, there will be other things to do with your friends. College towns generally have a lot of good food and random things to do for pretty cheap or free.
If you’re a non-traditional student, see what family friendly campus events are scheduled and take the fam damily with you! I know several schools with a Planetarium and way cheap tickets (like a buck per person or free). My husband and I discovered that our university has a ton of museums and high-quality exhibits throughout the campus that we enjoyed after we graduated and got married. If you attend online, see if you can get a student I.D. still (you should be able to) and utilize student discounts everywhere.
College was a lot of good innocent fun. A few reckless things I didn’t tell my mom about, but mostly the innocent fun stuff. I should probably write a separate post with lots more ideas for fun things to do! Remember, keep to your plans and priorities, but you’ll probably go a little nuts if you don’t include goofing around.
There are a lot of things you can do to be successful as a student. This investment in yourself requires thought, but your future is worth it. So get ready for this semester to start and prepare to have a great Fall!