Your First Week of Class: How to Start Your Semester Right and Keep Going

A college student learns the importance of starting your semester right by paying attention in class.

The semester has officially started. Over the next few weeks, you’ll have finalized your schedule, met all your professors and hopefully made some new friends. You may already have read through the syllabi for your classes and have an idea of what to expect. Maybe you’ve started planning out your schedule or thinking through your upcoming assignments.

It can be easy to start the semester off strong. You might take detailed notes, get assignments done early and be on time for all your classes. But as the semester goes on, you may become overwhelmed and let things slide. How can you keep up these healthy habits through the end of the semester?

Here are five tips for starting your semester right so you can finish strong.

1. Create a Schedule.

Chances are, you know your class schedule a few weeks before the first day of class. Create a rough outline of what your week will look like. Set daily reminders for yourself for the first few weeks, including your class times and the room numbers.

Once you know the set times you will be unavailable, set aside time for other important tasks like studying and homework. Be sure to allow some free time for rest and spending time with friends. Your schedule can and will change throughout the semester, but starting off with a rough outline will help you manage your time and stay organized. 

2. Look Ahead.

During the first week of classes, professors often assign a light workload as they take time to go over the syllabus and help students get familiar with the course expectations. This is a great time for you to get ahead and prepare for what’s coming. 

Familiarize yourself with major assignments, papers and exams due throughout the semester. Briefly go over each of their requirements and mark the due dates in a planner or on your phone calendar. If you are worried about the larger projects, you can even do some rough planning now or make mini-deadlines for yourself up until the assignment is due. Knowing what’s coming will spare you from surprises later on and help you mentally prepare for what’s ahead. 

3. Find a Community.

It’s important for you to get involved on campus. Here at Southeastern, we have numerous opportunities for students to find community. Students can attend chapel services and small groups or join student-led clubs and organizations. 

Look into what options are offered at your college and visit a few clubs or groups. Getting involved early in the semester will help you feel connected and seen. If you start to feel overwhelmed later on, you’ll already be a part of a community that can encourage and support you. 

4. Create Good Study Habits.

Students often start strong with extensive note taking and studying. But as the semester goes on, study habits can slip as assignments start to pile up. While you have more time in the first weeks of class, experiment with different note-taking and study methods. 

Try making flashcards, review pages, visual journals or detailed summaries of each section of your reading. See which strategy helps you feel most prepared for quizzes. Having an idea of which methods work best for you early on will help you later in the semester. If you start to feel overwhelmed or unsure how to study, you can go back to the study tactics that worked best for you.

5. Pace Yourself.

It’s important to maintain healthy expectations and goals for yourself. Your schedule will need to change as assignment due dates are altered or new projects are assigned. Things will come up that you weren’t expecting or prepared for, and you may start to feel overwhelmed. That’s okay.

College is a marathon, not a sprint. Give yourself grace to figure out each task as it comes. Begin starting your semester right by creating good habits and strategies now that you can fall back on later. Understand that those habits can and should change as you gain experience and understand what works best for you.

The start of the semester is an exciting time full of new opportunities and challenges. Don’t be afraid to try new things, branch out of your comfort zone and meet new people. Create healthy habits now that you can utilize later on. Take time to look ahead at what’s coming, but don’t forget to enjoy the moment. College only happens once.