12 tips for making this your best semester of college yet

Your university professors couldn’t care less that the hot summer weather hasn’t quite cooled down yet. Fall semester has started and college classes are ramping back up. Now it’s time to put all those fresh school supplies to use and prepare for your best year ever. A good start to the year is like eating a good breakfast – it will energize you and put you on the right track. Follow these easy tips to get organized, get ahead and have your best semester ever.


best year ever


1) Put all major tests and projects on one big master calendar

If you put all major academic tasks on one calendar, you’ll be able to see beforehand which weeks will be most demanding so you can prepare ahead of time. This also will help you organize your social schedule. Planning trips or parties before a big test week = not a great idea.


2) Meet with all your teachers

Whether you hang back after class or stop by office hours, meeting your professors is a smart idea. It establishes a human relationship with the person who is in charge of your grades and educating you for the next few months. If you need help sometime during the rest of the semester, you’ll already have established a relationship with them so they’ll be more approachable and perhaps even more willing to take time out of their schedule to help you out.


3) Take a look at your syllabus and make notes

Before you take a flight you would look at the itinerary beforehand to know where you’re stopping and when, right? So why wouldn’t you do so with a class? Also, after having taken a look at the different topics you’ll be covering in class, you’ll know if you’re enrolled in a class you actually want to take.


4) Get started on your reading

Especially if you know you’ll be swamped with some social events at the beginning of the semester, it’s a great idea to get going with your readings and take advantage of the relaxing first couple of weeks to get ahead. It will impress your teachers and will get you on the right track for the rest of the year. Plus, without the pressure of a looming exam you may feel that you are able to retain more when you read and actually enjoy the course material.


best year ever


5) Make note of all deadlines for programs and scholarships on your calendar

Thinking about interning abroad or joining a group or program on campus? Make note of deadlines for program applications on your calendar so you don’t accidentally miss them when you’re swamped with classes.


6) See if you know anyone who has taken your classes before

Former students always have great tips for how to succeed in a class they’ve taken. Find someone who got a good grade and see if they have any pointers. Then follow their advice.


7) Pay extra attention to see where your grade comes from

Quizzes? Tests? Essays? What scores will actually be most important for my overall grade? Knowing these things will help you focus your energy on the right things during your semester. If quizzes are 5% and essays are 55% of your grade, you’re going to want to spend a lot more time writing than preparing for quizzes.


8) When taking notes in class, highlight things that you think (or are explicitly told) could be test questions

This one is pretty self-explanatory. You don’t want to be scratching your head trying to remember what to study the night before the test. Pay attention in class so you can score well on your exams and make efficient use of your study time.


best year ever


9) Make flashcards while taking notes

Take notes, study and go to class at the same time. Making flashcards while you’re in class (if you can) is a great time-saver and it will ensure that you have a study tool ready when test time arrives.


10) Sit up front and arrive on time

Sitting up front in class will incentivize you to pay better attention instead of spending your class time doodling or on Pinterest. And you can’t sit up front if you don’t arrive on time, so do that too. That way you’ll also never miss important class announcements.


best year ever


11) Change your professor if you’re not feeling it

Obviously, there are some classes you just have to take in university and there may only be one professor who teaches it. But if you have some options and you’re in a class that you are especially uninspired by, don’t be afraid to drop the class and find another one. Or if the problem is you think you’re going to be overwhelmed by the workload, save the class for next semester if you’ll have less on your plate.


12) Talk to grad students and older classmates to see who are the best professors

What makes a university great is its professors. However, even at some of the world’s best institutions you can end up with a prof you don’t quite click with. Before signing up for classes next semester, check with some students older than you to see which professors were their favorite and try to get in their classes. There’s nothing better in this world than a great teacher that turns you on to new subjects.



Photo 1. based on Business Calendar & Schedule, by photosteve101, CC-by-2.0

Photo 2. based on Girl sitting at desk flipping through textbook pages at Putnam School / Fille assise à un bureau feuilletant les pages d’un manuel à l’école Putnam, by Library and Archives Canada / Bibliothèque et Archives Canada, CC-by-2.0

Photo 3. based on Tongji University Library, by Matthias Ripp, CC-by-2.0

Photo 4. based on Learning, by CollegeDegrees360, CC-by-2.0


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Elizabeth Trovall

After short stints in Argentina and Belize, Elizabeth is finishing up her fourth year in Santiago, Chile. Elizabeth writes about international internships, life abroad and professional development for The Intern Group. She also reports on politics, business and culture in Latin America for public radio and print media. An Austin, Texas native, Elizabeth first left home to earn her journalism degree from the Reynolds Institute of Journalism at the University of Missouri. Besides her friends and family, she misses live music and Mexican food the most.
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