How to Get Ready for Spring Semester
Unfortunately, winter break is drawing close to an end. The Spring 2015 semester will be upon us before we know it! College is very different from high school when it comes to returning back from winter break. High school students head back to a somewhat different schedule, especially if they’ve taken semester-long classes. I actually did not have any changes in my high school schedule, as my honors/AP classes were year-long core academic classes, and my electives were also year-long (Band and Spanish). I think the highlight of my schedule-picking was getting to see what physical education sub-class I could pick (I loved hip hop dance and even took a skill and body weight-lifting course with my friends once!). In college, all classes are semester-long only! Your schedule is bound to change, even looking radically different from the one you followed before winter break. Courses change, the times of your courses change, and the buildings change as well, leading to a completely different week-at-a-glance than Fall 2014. Although you can’t quite prepare for your first full week of the semester, you can help yourself out ahead of time and help make your transition back to campus a smooth one.
- Plan Your Planner – I decided to opt for a January to December year-long planner instead of sticking to my Academic calendar. Don’t get me wrong – I love my iBook University of Illinois planner, and have used mine every single year! However, I’m looking to really utilize my planner this semester, and decided to purchase a larger size. This way, I can also include a simple hour-by-hour schedule on one side of the daily view while also leaving the other side to organize my homework To-Do lists. This way, I’m able to combine the hourly scheduling of Google Calendar with the minimalistic Task list of iStudy and iHomework apps that I tried using. What I would like to do for this semester is get all of my due dates and deadlines down in the planner, along with scheduling in an abridged version of each syllabus I receive for my courses. My Google calendar will still be in use, because the powerful syncing with my smartphone is incredibly helpful to know when someone asks me for my availability at a moment’s notice; I don’t need to pull out my massive planner – that’s just for me. As soon as you see the course webpages for the Spring 2015 semester ready (hint: it’s usually anywhere from 1 week to 1 day before the class starts), get your planner ready to go so you have an idea of how much work you’re going to need to do for your courses before you even walk in the door of your first lecture.
- Deal with Textbooks – Need some extra cash? Look to selling your Fall 2014 semester textbooks! Chances are, you’re going to be buying textbooks for this new semester, and it’s nice to have all of the kinks sorted out ahead of time. Before you forget, be sure to return any rented or loaned textbooks as soon as possible in order to avoid hefty late fines. I regularly use Half.com to rent books, and they would also ship the books with a pre-paid mailer, so I didn’t have to pay for shipping in return. Look into renting books for the upcoming semester to save you some cash, or get on Facebook and other forms to social media to look for students who have previously taken the course. See if they’ll offer the textbook to you for a discounted price! This option also works for old exams and study guides, as a lot of students will look to sell old study guides and course packets on Facebook groups, so keep your eyes open!
- Do Some Scoping – I like to read up on my professors before I sit in their classes. The University of Illinois is a fantastic school, and our professors are some of the finest in the world, all known masters of their respective fields. Resources like Ratemyprofessors.com, Facebook threads for class registration, and even the professors’ websites will help you get an idea of who will be reading your papers and grading your exams this upcoming semester. Ratemyprofessors.com is particularly helpful, because you’re able to see when the student took the course and wrote the review, helping you see how the course itself has changed over the semesters. I learned that some professors may be poor lecturers but quite helpful during office hours. Some professors may be open to questions in their lectures instead of their office hours. Maybe some professors use their Teaching Assistants to do the lecturing for them? Investigate using social media threads and other websites, and you’re guaranteed to be less intimidated on the first day.
- RELAX – Didn’t think that this one would be on the list, did ya? Nothing helps me get ready for the next semester like the feeling of simply doing nothing at all – relaxing my days away with my family, a good book, some quality Netflix time (before I quit the website as part of my New Years’ Resolutions), and hanging out with my friends. You can’t even begin to think about the next semester without making the most of winter break, and being relaxed before your next round of exams, midterms, papers, and quizzes will be the most beneficial part of being prepared. I hate feeling burned out and run into the ground, and knowing that I have a good four months of doing work ahead of me does not help to alleviate that pain. So take some serious time off and utilize what we have left of winter break. Trust me, when it’s the middle of February and you know you have six weeks until Spring Break, you’ll feel better knowing that you did.
There’s less than two weeks left in our winter break! I don’t know if I’m done relaxing yet!! Time to really use what’s left of this break to spend some more time with my family.
Happy Snow Day!