Ready or not, the new semester is here in full swing and it is go time, people! But if we’re honest, are we ever truly ready to bounce back to long days in class and late nights studying after a long break full of laying around, binge-watching Netflix, and really just doing basically anything BUT school?
I mean, new semesters can be pretty overwhelming, don’t you think? Even if you’ve been doing this whole school thing for years, you may still feel nervous, disorganized, unmotivated, and really just unsure of what to expect on your first day back. And friend, that is okay!
All of these (valid) emotions can bring on a lot of stress that will only keep you feeling bogged down rather than pumped up to begin a new season. So what can we do to lower the stress and get us excited to kick off this new chapter?
Well, friend, my hope for you (and for myself, TBH) is that you WILL feel ready to get back into the swing of things this semester by following just a few simple steps to help you plan, organize, and RELAX to make this your best semester yet!
Print Out and READ the Syllabus (yes, all of it)
While this may seem like the most obvious first step towards an organized semester, I have found that far too many people are going through their classes without having EVER read the syllabus…and that is just crazy to me!
The syllabus is like the roadmap to the class, and without reading it, you’ll have no idea what to expect, when things are due, or what you’re even supposed to be focused on learning!
So while it may seem unimportant or like a waste of time or paper, do yourself a favor and print out the syllabus for each of your classes as soon as they are made available to you. Check your school’s version of whatever online database they use (like Blackboard, for example) before your classes begin on the first day (and double check that your professor has uploaded the correct syllabus for your class–because they are human too, and you don’t want to learn a whole bunch of information about the wrong class).
Then, grab yourself a highlighter and read through the ENTIRE syllabus, highlighting important information, due dates, and assignments that you’ll be working on during the semester. Also, be sure to write down any questions you may have to ask the professor in class on the first day.
2. Get Your Textbooks ASAP
Although people tend to disagree on whether or not you should buy, rent, get the eText version, or just not get the textbook at all, my advice to you would be to ALWAYS get the textbook in some format and plan to use it whether or not your class requires it. That may sound crazy to you, but let me explain.
Yes, I know that textbooks are extremely (EXTREMELY) expensive, and ultimately, you gotta do what you gotta do. But if you ask me, if you ARE able to handle the cost of at least getting a rental or a used version of the textbook, I say you should always get the book and plan to read it because it will always aid in your understanding of that topic of that class, making you a better occupational therapist and life-long learner in the end.
So although your professor may not require you to read it or ask test questions directly from the book, remember that the purpose of education is for you to UNDERSTAND the material–across contexts–not just memorize some information to regurgitate back onto an exam and forget immediately.
If you tend to be this kind of student, you are cheating yourself out of the opportunity to really grow in knowledge, understanding, and depth as a future occupational therapy practitioner. And ultimately, you may be putting yourself and your future patients at risk for doing this since you aren’t really internalizing the information that you need to know to keep you and your patients safe and productive in therapy.
So, get the textbooks as soon as possible. Check your school bookstore’s website a week or two before classes start for book listings for each of your classes. However, you may not be able to find out what books you’ll need until the first day of class, so in that case, just get the books as soon as you can. Then, READ THEM!
3. Plan Your Weekly Schedule
One of my favorite parts of beginning a new semester is getting to choose a new planner and start fresh. So get yourself a pretty new planner like this one, and start organizing and writing out what your weekly schedule will be like for the semester.
You can begin by writing in each of your classes’ meeting times. From there, I like to write in each due date for all of my homework, quizzes, papers, and assignments. I also like to add exam dates in red pen, circled so that I know without a doubt when an exam is coming up.
It can be tricky to write out EVERYTHING that you’ll need to accomplish for the semester since it can add up and feel overwhelming to plan out ahead of time. Instead, it may be easier to just write in simpler, more broad tasks such as “30 minutes reading A&P” a few times each week instead of including specific page numbers, sections, etc. This will help you pace yourself and spread out your tasks to make them more attainable and less stressful if you plan to read (or study, or make flashcards, or whatever) during certain time frames rather than just giving yourself a massive task like “read A&P chapter 11-14” all on one day.
After you’ve written in each of these things, make sure you also add in time for yourself to your weekly schedule!
A chaotic student schedule should be no excuse for lack of self-care and discipline, so while it may be difficult at first, make sure you are also planning time for yourself to go to the gym, take that yoga class, go to the grocery store, meal prep, clean your home, and even spend some time zoning out watching your favorite TV show in order to take care of yourself to prevent burnout.
Remember that your life is far more than just being a student, so plan to take your nose out of your textbooks every now and then and do something that reminds you of the bigger picture in life. Do something that fills you up, so that you can go back to studying feeling refreshed, renewed, and ready to keep learning.
4. Clean, Organize, and Declutter Your Living Space
This step is clearly a little different than the other more academically-focused steps before it, but hear me out: taking some time one or two weeks before your semester starts to really deep clean and declutter your home can do WONDERS to help you feel ready to kick it when the semester starts up.
Decluttering and organizing not only prepares a physical space for you to work in during the semester, but it also helps create mental clarity as well so that you have room to really dive into your studies and wrestle with the topics that you’ll be learning about in order to make you a better practitioner in the future!
I don’t know if you’ve ever watched the Netflix series ‘Tidying Up with Marie Kondo’ (if you haven’t, do yourself a favor and go binge watch it right now), but this show really gets at the heart of what household organization does for your life as a whole. So grab yourself some donation boxes, declutter your home, and use the time doing so to mentally prepare yourself for the upcoming semester. You’ll be surprised at the difference this step makes in getting you ready to take on this new chapter in your life.
5. Relax, Friend! You Got This!
Last but certainly not least on my top steps to making this your best semester yet is taking some time the week before, the night before, and the day of your first day of the semester to rest, breathe, relax, and engage in some self-care activities that fill you up.
Approaching a new semester can bring on a lot of stress and even anxiety, so making sure to exercise regularly and get enough sleep the week before the semester starts can significantly lower your stress level. You should also be sure to eat well, drink lots of water, and spend time doing things you love!
The night before your first day, it may be a good idea to take a hot bath with some epsom salt and lavender essential oil, or spend some time writing in a journal, or talk with your best friend about your hopes for the upcoming semester.
Whatever you need to do to get yourself feeling more relaxed and ready to take on the new semester, go for it!
Best of Luck This Semester!
I hope that these top 5 tips for making this your best semester yet have helped encourage and motivate you to do just that–make this your best semester yet! After spending some time planning, organizing, and relaxing, you should feel more motivated and ready to take on all that this semester has to offer.
And if you need anything else, if you have questions, or if you have more tips to offer, feel free to contact me! I always love hearing from you guys and enjoy getting to be a part of this occupational therapy community.
I’m wishing you the best of luck this semester! You got this!
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