CLAS Ambassador Pro Tip: How to start the semester strong
by Zoe VanAuken
Starting out the semester strong can really help to ensure that you don’t fall short in points come the end of the semester, and it definitely helps to reduce the stress of finals knowing you don’t have to overcompensate for a few missed assignments at the very beginning. Having a planner to keep track of your deadlines, assignments, and upcoming exams has been very helpful for me (especially if you have a conflicting work and school schedule). I check it every day like my phone or my email, that way I can map out how I want my week to go and when I should budget my time studying or working on assignments.
Another huge game changer for me was not procrastinating (seriously, it makes a big difference). I was such a procrastinator through high school and at the beginning of my undergrad, but using that little one-two hour window you may have between classes or before you head home at the end of your day can be key in not missing little assignments here or there. In my opinion, making sure you stay up to date on every little discussion board, blog post, weekly quizzes, or other small assignments can make a big difference in your grade leading up to finals.
The mentality of, “I can miss a few of those, they aren’t worth many points” can start to add up after a few weeks of a missed discussion post here and there. These assignments may take up some time but they are mostly to help you engage with your peers and with the course material, so do them (and on time)!
If your professor allows you to miss one or two assignments with no penalty, I always try to save mine until around finals so that I can just focus on studying and reviewing material instead of wasting them because I was too lazy and forgot. I think about it like vacation time. Some people like to use it throughout the year and find themselves without much left when holidays or big trips come around, and others like to save all of it to use around the holidays or to take a trip where they can totally unwind and not have to worry about any loose ends.
Being realistic with yourself about your goals and your time is also really helpful while planning and trying to stay on track. This is especially true if you have internships, jobs, extracurriculars, or other obligations aside from classes. I wouldn’t want to discourage anyone from making lofty goals at the beginning if you feel like you can stick to them then go for it!
I sometimes find myself setting a standard at the very beginning, like “I want to study for six hours every day.” For me personally, I always struggle to meet a goal like this given my work and school schedule paired with extracurriculars. Creating a realistic goal for your semester helps you stick to it without totally abandoning it when you realize it isn’t going to work out for your schedule. I feel that people break their New Year’s resolutions because they create plans that aren’t feasible given their lifestyle or the limited 24 hours in a day, and I apply this to school as well.
Sometimes it can be helpful to create project or completion-based goals instead of time-based goals. Instead of wanting to study for a certain amount of time each day, I try to place projects or assignment deadlines within the gaps between my classes so I know how much time I have to spend on it. This could look something like reading a chapter of your textbook in one gap between classes, and then finishing a 500-word discussion post in the other gap you have set aside. This way, you know exactly when you plan on working on things and how quickly you want to get them done. This has definitely helped me to stay on task and not spend two hours out of my four-hour study block scrolling through Instagram instead.
I hope these little tips and tricks help you and always remember that reaching out to your friends, peers, professors, and academic groups can make a huge difference when you’re feeling lost or without a plan. We all go through rough patches in the semester, but having a strong start and a solid plan can help prevent you from feeling derailed no matter what life throws at you.
Zoe is and WSU Honors student majoring in employment and labor relations with a minor in economics