Back to School Tips & Advice

24 August 2015

Going back to school is a bittersweet transition. You have to say goodbye to lazy days and free time, but you also get to see all your friends and have a fresh start with new classes and teachers. Having been through my fair share of first days back at school, I thought I'd share some tips for making the transition as smooth as possible.

the week before classes start
  • Make sure you've done your back to school shopping for clothes and supplies if you need to. Once classes start, you won't want to frantically search for all the supplies you need
  • Get your books. If your school posts a booklist online, check out the required textbooks and materials you will need for each class. I always like to be over-prepared (rather than under-prepared) and order my books ahead of time so that I'm not scrambling for a rare copy the night before a due date.
  • Purchase a planner if you don't have one, and start using it. Write out what date classes start and what other commitments you have during the week. That way, once classes start, you already have an idea of how much you have going on. 
  • Set goals for the academic year. Think about the things you'd like to improve upon and then list the ways that you can accomplish them. Be mindful about your goals before classes start and you have a million other things to think about. 

the day before
  • Write the details for each class in your planner: Class title, Teacher/Professor, Room # & Time. It's always good to have that information with you (even after the first week when you blank on a room number or professor's name... it happens!)
  • Pick out your outfit if you haven't already! This is the fun part. Even if you're not wearing anything new, planning out your outfit will make your morning less stressful and give you one less thing to think about. Choose an outfit that is comfortable - you never know when a class will change location at the last minute and you'll have to trek across campus in five minutes. Check out my fashion friday posts here, here, and here for some inspiration. 
  • Pack your bag/purse/backpack. Make sure you have everything you need. For the first day, you probably only need your planner, a notebook, a folder, and some pens/pencils. After the first day, you'll have a better idea of what you'll need for each class.

the first day of class
  • Give yourself plenty of time to get ready. It's no fun to rush out the door.
  • Eat a good breakfast & pack a snack. The first day can be unpredictable - you might spend your lunch hour in the financial aid office or trying to meet with your counselor to switch a class. 
  • Give yourself extra time to get there. Being late on the first day is not the best start to a new year. Make sure you take an early bus or leave your house a few minutes before you have to. 
  • Strike up a conversation with your classmates! This can be tricky - especially when you know absolutely no one. But I promise, you will look forward to class much more if you have someone to talk to, someone to ask for notes, or someone to complain about dumb assignments with. Even if you just ask, "Is this Intro to American Lit?" you're likely to get a response - everyone's in the same boat. Your common ground at this point is that you're both in this class, so ask if they have had the professor before, or if they've gotten their textbooks yet. These simple questions will probably open the door to more conversation. 
  • Take notes. Your professor puts their email up on the board - write it down. If your professor is going through the syllabus, write down the details that they elaborate on. It might not seem important now, but it might be the answer to a question you have later. 
  • Ask questions. If you're not sure the class is right for you, ask around. College is a time to figure out the subjects and environments you like and don't like. If a class feels really off - whether it's the professor, or the classroom environment - try to switch out. There's no reason for you to be uncomfortable for the entire term. 

the week classes start
  • Write down all assignment due dates, pages to read, major project due dates, and final exam dates & times in your planner. Your planner will only be as helpful as you make it. Be consistent about marking due dates and assignments as you get them, and it'll be easier to keep track of your to-dos and progress.
  • Start developing good study habits. When you read, don't just skim through the text. Take the time to read carefully and take notes and you will thank yourself later down the road. 
  • Put your best foot forward and get involved. Join clubs, teams, and activities that interest you. Remember that now is the time to be social - a new school year is a fresh start.  

I hope this post is helpful for those of you heading back to school in the next couple of weeks. If you have any additional tips or advice, leave it in the comments below.

Have a great first day!


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