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How to Start the New Semester on a Strong Note

Starting a new semester on the right foot will ensure a smoother, less stressful academic year. Here's how to set yourself up for success this semester.

Whether you’re a high school freshman or senior or even a college student, getting into back-to-school mode can be difficult. But it's critical to start any new semester strong in order to maintain a steady, healthy academic life throughout the school year—especially if you want to avoid getting burnt out. Regardless of your academic and extracurricular rigor, the way you start off the term will influence how the rest of your academic year will play out. These tips can help you ease into your new schedule and set yourself up for success at the beginning of the school year.

Evaluate your grades and yourself

Grades aren’t everything, but they do serve as a crucial indicator of one’s academic rigor, so it’s important to track how you’re doing grade-wise. Improving your grades isn’t always easy, and the minutest decimal change deserves congratulations—so be sure to acknowledge the fruits of your labor from the previous semester or year. If your grades have been consistently high, then you’re successfully maintaining an impressive grade point average, which is incredible. If they’ve dropped, it’s important to question why and ask yourself what outside factors have led to this. Regardless of your situation, it’s important to set a goal for the GPA you’d like to achieve and keep it in sight as the semester begins.

Consider your stress levels

You shouldn’t evaluate just your academic life, however. Considering how you manage stress will prove to be incredibly important during the semester, as it affects how much work you get done and helps prevent burnout. Stress is a natural part of life—and healthy stress has a function that can cause productivity. However, stress can go too far and harm our health and well-being. It’s crucial to maintain your sense of equilibrium. We all experience anxiety when taking an exam, studying for finals, turning in a big paper, or even raising our hand in class. If you find yourself overly agitated and apprehensive about the start of the school year, it’s a sign that stress is already getting the better of you. It’s worth taking a few minutes to consider why you’re worried about the upcoming semester. Sit in a peaceful area, turn off your phone, and ask yourself the following questions: 

  • What do I anticipate this semester?
  • What will it imply if this happens?

Evaluating the situation is important since it shows reflection. If you know what you’re doing wrong or what causes you the most stress, then it’s easier to fix it and improve.  

Related: 7 Easy Ways to Make Your Semester More Mindful

Get a planner

Although tracking everything in a planner may seem tedious, it makes it easy to keep your life organized and have a schedule of what you need to finish and when. One of the most immediate benefits of maintaining a planner is being able to recognize what days you’re overworked or when you can fit more stuff in. Keeping a planner will also help with your time management. Once you write down activities you’re allocating time for, you’ll be more efficient in visualizing and executing the tasks you need to get done. Whether you use an old-fashioned notebook or a Google Calendar, organizing your tasks will be useful. It doesn't really matter how you do it—whatever works for you is key. 

Establish your priorities

To accomplish all that you have ahead of you, you must first establish priorities. Prioritization is crucial because it allows you to focus on what’s most important and urgent first, then you can move on to other less important things or assignments with later deadlines. By prioritizing, you can develop key organizational skills and create a healthier mindset and easier task list. More advanced prioritizing techniques, such as a priority matrix, pose extremely helpful. A prioritizing index, also known as the Eisenhower Matrix, employs a simple table to rank responsibilities by significance and urgency, as seen below.

Urgent and important

Important but not urgent

Not important but urgent 

Neither urgent nor important

Vital tasks should be completed first. After completing these, you can move on to tasks that are important but not urgent and subsequently to ones that are not important but urgent. When your less-pressing duties are finished, you can finish tasks that are neither urgent nor significant.

Related: 4 Techniques to Improve Your Time Management

Take good notes

I don’t believe the art of taking notes by hand has disappeared—in fact, it’s been revolutionized. Researchers have found that if “important information was contained in notes, it had a 34% chance of being remembered. Information not found in notes had only a 5% chance of being remembered.” Effective note-taking can enhance your focus and attention to detail. Taking notes also engages you as a student and actively involves you in the learning process, further increasing productivity. A proven method of increasing memory, note-taking also increases your comprehension since it breaks down the content in your own words in a more easily consumable way.

Take advantage of your resources

Every college has fantastic resources to support student education. Many schools offer tutors, academic advisors, and special support centers that help you finish essays, figure out a math question, or help you with everyday life problems—like the Writing Center and Math Question Center at the Harvard Extension School of Harvard University, for example. Many schools also have academic resource and career centers that offer webinars, tools, and information on areas like enhancing your focus, overcoming perfectionism, developing public speaking skills, preparing for tests, and managing stress and anxiety. It’s important to take advantage of these resources! While these offerings may not be as extensive for high school students, taking advantage of tutors, school counselors, and teachers is crucial, so don’t be afraid to ask for help whenever you need it.

Connect with your classmates

Study groups are an excellent approach to help you go deeper into difficult course subjects. At the beginning or end of a class, ask your teacher or professor about the possibility of creating a study group. You can also plan social activities with your classmates to get to know one another and remind each other to take breaks from classwork! And you can still make connections with others even if you study online. Your support network can extend well beyond a physical campus due to the beauty of social platforms. Today, it’s easier than ever to connect on apps like LinkedIn, Zoom, Google Hangouts, and more. 

Related: 5 Simple Ways You Can Make Studying More Fun

The start of a new semester can be amazing and invigorating if you’re willing to put in the effort to start it off right. Use these tips as a guide and take a deep breath to let go of any anxiety you may have. With a bit of reflection, planning, and communication, you can be prepared for the best semester yet!

Starting a new semester can be stressful, but it doesn’t have to be—learn How to Beat Back-to-School Anxiety!

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About Nivashini Saravanakumar

Nivashini Saravanakumar is a high school student with an interest in biomedical engineering. She loves to read, and her favorite book (as of right now) is My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Moshfegh. She also loves playing instruments including the piano and violin!


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