How to Prepare for a New Semester

Hi lovelies! Winter break is winding down, which means it’s time for a new semester! Luckily, I’ve had a bit of extra time over the past few days to start prepping for the upcoming term, and now I get to share my routine with you!

Start your syllabi collection

Now’s that time where most of your syllabi are probably posted online already. First order of business: collect all of them. Save them to your desktop. If you have binders (or whatever you use during the term) nearby, I recommend printing all your courses’ syllabi and sticking them in the very front of your binders.

Having copies of syllabi serves multiple purposes:

  • You can take a look again at the marking breakdown. The syllabus is essentially an overview of the entire course, including what you’ll be learning and exactly how things will be marked. If you read it now you’ll know what you should focus your time on for maximum grades.
  • Exam, readings, and assignment due dates. This helps you stay ahead of the curve for less last-minute panicking (more on this below).
  • You’ll always have a handy list of resources for extra help readily available to you (psst: not all of the best resources will be listed. See this post on the top underutilized resources in university!)

Check yourself before you wreck yourself

Now is a good time to ensure you’re on track for all of your course requirements. Pull out your course plan, take a look at your program requirements, and ensure you’re on track. Don’t wait until after the midterm to find out that you really needed a prerequisite course, or that two of your classes are anti-requisites so one doesn’t count, or that one of your classes isn’t accepted by your top grad school admissions office.

Book an appointment with your program’s academic counsellor (before it gets busy!) if anything seems out of whack. You should do this anyway once per semester even if everything seems okay—your academic counsellor should be able to confirm that you’re on track.

Make an assignment calendar

This is something that I’ve found to be super helpful in the past year or two. Though it’s great to have all your syllabi in binders, I also love having one big list of everything I need to do and when. You can use a planner for this, or this method from Organized Charm this method from Kirsten at Organized Charm is great too. Having that one central list is amazingly helpful for those “I know I have something due this week, but I can’t remember what it is” days.

To do this, go through all your syllabi and write down every assignment and its due date for the whole semester. Then stick these in your planner’s calendar or make a Word doc or Excel spreadsheet with a list of all classes’ assignments sorted by due date. Print it off, then stick it in a place where you’ll see it every day so you’ll know ahead of time when things are due.

Obviously I put hand-in assignments on this calendar, but I also put readings as well. This is incredibly helpful for me to keep track of readings and make me keep up to date on them.

Replenish your supplies

If you’re craving a trip to Indigo (or Barnes & Noble, for my neighbours in the States), now’s the time. I sometimes ask for Indigo gift cards for Christmas solely so I can buy a new planner before the new school year, but if I end up with any leftover credit, some fancy pens are always a fun way to spruce up your pencil case!

If your highlighters have all run dry from finals, go buy some more right now. Get yourself prepared and add a little bit of #studyspo, something special to make January as fun and inspiring and ~academic~ as September was!

Reassess your goals and set new ones

I love goal-setting—so much so that I’ve posted a guide to setting goals and actually achieving them! Goal setting and reflection has been one of the best habits that I’ve adopted in the past few years, and I thank Dani from Dani Dearest for the idea. I generally set myself a set of 10-12 goals per semester. It’s important to balance those goals between different aspects of your life: my categories include academics, extracurriculars, health, friends/family, personal projects (including blogging, photography, writing, and other hobbies), and planning for my career. It’s also super important to be realistic and have a plan that actually makes sense, but more on that in the goal-setting guide.

And let’s be honest: there will be semesters that you don’t always achieve all of your goals. That’s okay! Take a few moments to reflect on why you weren’t able to meet those goals. Either the goal itself or the plan to get there might need tweaking, so figure out a new goal/plan and carry it forward to the upcoming semester.

Put a Post-It note mini-list of your semester goals as your bookmark for your planner. This way, they’re a constant reminder to work towards achieving them.

Reassess your time commitments

Confession: I sometimes bite off more than I can chew at Clubs Week in September. And then I try to volunteer and blog and improve my grades and make new friends on top of that. Some years, I end up having to skip a few meetings/coffee dates/study sessions here and there, and it sucks. I try to use the new semester to reassess what’s most important to me and what, if anything, I really need to cut.

If there’s a club that you haven’t been able to participate fully in, consider dropping it for the semester (or, if you’re on the executive team, consider giving up your position, sharing it with someone else, or even just asking for help with some of the work). I know that’s terrifying for the part of us that wants to pump up that resume. But doing three things well is better than doing five things just okay.

All of these steps have been awesome in keeping me organized, inspired, and focused throughout the whole semester. It’s a great way to get excited for the upcoming term, and I’ve found the routine to be most helpful before classes begin when you have significantly more free time.

Best of luck for the new semester!

Tell me your best way to prep for the new term below!