How to Make the Most of Your First Semester

You made it to college and the new academic year is already underway! Before we get too far into the semester though, take a moment to review these tips to help you start off on the right foot.

1. Connect with a professor.

It seems intimidating at first, but it makes all the difference. Have a question about an assignment? Interested in diving deeper into a topic covered in class? Swing by during office hours. Not only are professors experts in their fields, but they’re often super interesting and well-connected people who are worth getting to know.

2. Establish goals.

Good intentions are important, but they might not carry you as far as you think. Before we get too far into the semester, pause for a moment to set some academic, personal, and professional goals. Be specific and determine a time-frame. Challenge yourself, but be realistic. Set the bar high enough to require a stretch, but ensure it isn’t floating in the clouds, ridiculously far out of reach. Oh, and don’t forget to write your goals down!

3. Choose your classes purposefully.

Even if you’re coming into college undecided about your major, you can choose classes that help you explore your career options. When you start to plan your next course schedule, don’t pick a class just to fill a general education requirement. If you have the option, choose one in a field that interests you, whether that’s psychology, political science, graphic design, you name it! If you want some guidance, meet with your designated academic advisor.

4. Be flexible.

Despite the long hours you spent studying, perhaps your score on that last test isn’t what you hoped it would be. Take a deep breath. Everyone experiences moments where they receive criticism or fail to meet an objective. The real test is how you handle that setback. Use it as an opportunity to grow. Reassess your goals in light of your setback. Establish a new plan—either adjust those goals to better reflect your current situation or figure out what your alternative steps must be to still achieve that goal. Either way, adapt rather than allow an unexpected situation to keep you down.

5. Use your resources.

When you start to question your plans or feel the need for extra help, recognize the wealth of opportunities and resources at your disposal. Are you struggling to achieve academic goals? Many colleges provide help sessions, tutoring, and academic advising. Are you unsure about your major or future career? Check out your school’s career services center. If you want more experience in a field of interest, consider joining a related club or organization at your school. Attending college opens up an entirely new set of opportunities. Take advantage of them!

6.  Find your people.

But don’t stress out if this doesn’t happen right away. Everyone needs a group of friends to support them, and college provides many opportunities to connect with other people, whether that’s through your classes, clubs and organizations, athletics, or within your residence hall. Get involved. Create a study group. Walk across the hall. And if you find yourself struggling to make friends, try being a friend rather than finding a friend.

7. Live abundantly.

The busier life gets, the more important practicing balance becomes. You don’t need to live in the library to take academics seriously. Carve out time for friends, activities, and rest. All are equally as essential for a successful college career as the hours you spend working or studying. You only start college for the first time once, so enjoy this exciting time and the fun new experiences that go along with it. Not to mention you’ll discover greater productivity, energy, and motivation in the long run if you establish healthy self-care practices from the very beginning.