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Summer’s almost over and you’re not ready for the semester to start

By Francesca Schoettler, August 13 2023—

As a master organizer and often overly-prepared person, prepping for the semester has strangely enough been my kryptonite for as long as I can remember. I’m not entirely sure why my brain just turns off when it’s time to get ready for the term — maybe it secretly knows what’s to come and is desperately trying to give myself a break before the work even begins. Not that a well-intentioned break would do much. Anyways, the why isn’t necessarily important because the outcome is always the same: me stressing the night before school starts on whether or not I’ve bought the right textbooks or have enough graph paper to get me through four months of problem sets (you’d be surprised to hear how many people still use that stuff). 

So in light of the fall term being right around the corner, I’ve put together a short guide to help you avoid the stress and inevitable panic that semester-prep-procrastination creates. So if you’re like me and rushing to buy your supplies a week too late into the term, this page is for you. If you have your life together, or at least have convinced yourself that you do, you might still benefit from reviewing this list (you may even be able to advise me on what I’m missing).

  1.  Read the syllabus: Some professors send their syllabi out to students weeks in advance. Those sorts of courses used to terrify me when I was a freshman but I came to love them over time. Having an extra few weeks to prepare for that particular class, buy the mandatory textbooks (and debate whether or not to purchase the recommended ones), as well as complete my pre-readings has always helped me stay on top of the first week of term.
  2. Re-read the syllabus: Over half of the questions you want to ask your professor or TA are already included somewhere on your syllabus. It might be a Where’s Waldo sort of scenario at first but I’d give it a proper examination before you pull out the big guns and send an email that you might not even have to. When in doubt, Ctrl+F to figure it out.
  3. Get organized: Clean your desktop, update your Notion (or scheduler of choice) and buy the notebooks and highlighters you’ll need if you’re a pen-and-paper sort of student.
  4. Buy or rent your textbooks: Look at the books you need for each of your classes and take the time to either order them or download them based on your preferred format (physical or digital). Doing this ahead of time may help you secure the best deal when it comes to renting from former students, libraries, and other institutions. You may benefit from leaving this particular point blank depending on the course you are taking and who you are taking it with. Some professors will give you clear instructions on the first day on where you should buy or rent your textbook (and oftentimes they’ll point you towards more affordable options that you might not have considered yet).
  5. Rediscover what it means to get to bed at a decent hour: You heard me, it’s time to get back into routine and establish a good sleep schedule. Recent research suggests that there is an association between a student’s GPA and the average hours of sleep they are getting a night. With that being said, don’t miss out on your recommended seven to nine hours of sleep per night.
  6. Have a plan: It’s often difficult to get back into routine after the summer so creating a schedule is a great way to help you adjust. Printing or downloading your timetable, writing your deadlines on a physical or digital calendar, and creating weekly to-do lists for yourself are all helpful strategies to help you track your progress and stay focused.
  7. Last but not least, take time for yourself: Do something you enjoy and soak up the sun before it becomes too cold to go anywhere besides campus, the grocery store, and your house. Taking advantage of these last few days may help you stay refreshed and regain the strength you need to hit the ground running. 

Good luck with the upcoming term, you got this.

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