How to: Handle a New Semester

Let’s face it: starting a new semester is hard. What makes it even harder is having a four month break in-between. I always find that by March I’ve found this great rhythm in terms of balancing classes, social life, and sorority commitments; but by September I’ve completely lost it.

Self-care gets completely pushed to the side and I become this massive ball of unproductive panic. It’s awful.

So this year I’ve taken the last few days to analyze my approach to the new school year and talk to some friends about how they handle starting a new semester.

how to handle a new semester


ONE – treat the new year like a board game

A friend of mine brought up this idea today in class and I absolutely love it. She treats new semesters like a board game she’s never played before. Without prior knowledge of how to play this particular game, but with knowledge of board games as a whole, she can make some simple choices.

Exactly how to win the game isn’t clear yet.

By taking the first few weeks to figure out how your professor will be teaching, the best way to take notes, and how to best tackle your readings you allow yourself some time to fail. You can usually sacrifice a few days of productivity near the beginning – take them. Just because you knew how to pass your classes last semester, doesn’t mean the same techniques will work for these classes.

Try a few different things out at the beginning while you’re still getting comfortable and give yourself permission to fail. Just like with board games, in a few more moves you’ll have figured out what works best for the new term and be able to kick some bum come exam season.

TWO – focus on what’s important

What’s important is going to be different for everyone. For some people, the first few weeks are all about catching up with old friends. For others, it’s all about figuring out how to get ahead in classes and then they can relax with friends. Spend some time figuring out where your priorities are going to rest this semester. What’s going to be at the top of your to-do list

For me, getting ahead in my classes, creating a work-out schedule, and participating in my sorority are taking priority over going to parties with friends and catching up. There’s nothing wrong with my choices, and there’s nothing wrong with the choices of my friends to engage in more social activities. They are simply different people making decisions about what’s important to their life right now.

THREE – go over your syllabus

As any college blogger worth their salt will tell you, syllabus week is important. A lot of students skip class because not much happens but getting your syllabus and reading through it is one of the most important things you can do at the beginning of a new semester. Take some time to highlight important dates or information, put it all on a calendar, or whatever tactic works best for you. Just make sure you take at least half an hour out of your week to review the syllabus.

It’s a contract between the professor and you, the student, so make sure you know what you’re getting into.

FOUR – attend office hours

Whether your class has 300 people in it or 25 people, you should probably get to know your professor. I’m a big advocate of getting to know the people you see everyday and I think getting to know your professor’s is huge! Chances are their office hours aren’t super busy at the beginning of the semester and chances are you don’t have a million questions for them yet. That’s a-okay! Come prepared with three or four questions you’d like to ask them about the class, about the syllabus, or if you’re already done the readings something you’d like to know more about!
Remember, your professor is likely teaching this class because it’s a subject they’re passionate about – they want to talk about it.

What tips do you have for beginning a new semester? Leave them in the comments below!

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