10 Tips for an Organized Semester

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Life Update: PA School orientation is TOMORROW! Wow, how did we get here already? Seems like it was November just yesterday when I got accepted to PA School. Sorry for being MIA recently, but this past week/weekend I was busy moving and then unpacking my belongings. I'm so glad I moved a full week before school actually starts so that I have enough time to get settled in.

This past Saturday, a few of my beloved friends from undergrad came over to my place and we had a wonderful time catching up with each other. Somehow (luckily) we all ended up in the same city after we graduated and I'm so excited to have them around again! On Sunday, I met up with my big for coffee and she is super sweet! Our program sets us up with someone from the class above us so we can have someone to go to when we have questions or need advice. We talked for almost an hour and half and didn't even realize we'd been there for that long! Last night, one of girls from our class invited us over to her place so we can meet each other before school starts and it was SO much fun! It'll be nice to have seen at least some of my classmates instead of walking into a room full of strangers.

Ok, so now that we have that out of the way, let's move on to talking about the topic I want to address today. By now most of you must have caught on to the fact that I'm an organization freak. For some reason, my brain loves to have everything set up before I start doing something, be it cooking dinner or starting a new semester. Since I'm about to start a new semester, I thought I'd share how I get organized to start the school year right.

Buy school supplies

This is my favorite part of starting a school year! Usually I buy all my stationary and notebooks in August since that's the month my university started it's fall semester. However, I sometimes had to go out and buy a few notebooks in the spring. Make sure you have a binder/notebook for each class. I tried the multiple subject notebooks once but that wasn't really my thing. If you like that better than single subject notebooks, you do you.

Extra Notebooks

During higher level biology and chemistry classes, I started rewriting my notes from class to organize the material better. This also really helps you remember the information better since you'll be rewriting notes in your own words. My go-to notebook is the Arc Customizable Notebook pictured below (exact) from Staples. I love this because the paper is such good quality and you can literally take the notebook apart and put it back together to organize your notes however you want/need to.

Print your syllabus for EACH class

I print the syllabus for each and every single class (if provided online) and look over the professor's grading system, number of exams, assignments, quizzes, etc. This shows me what to expect and which class is going to consume most of my time. You can highlight any important information that you need to stay on top of. I usually keep my syllabus in my notebook for that certain class so I never have to go looking for it.

Decide which textbooks to buy

Anyone who's been to college will tell you that you don't need to buy every single textbook for your classes. I usually wait until the first week of classes is coming to an end before I decide which book I'll definitely need to get. You can also ask your professor what they think is the best way to study for their class.  The only books I got beforehand were books for my major related classes. Even then, don't buy them from the bookstore! Always compare prices on amazon, eBay, and any local college bookstore that maybe in your area before making your purchase.

Buy a Planner

Buy a planner if you haven't already done so. Just do it. I used to be one of those people that never needed to write anything down until I got to college. I realized that with so many different classes and extra curricular activities/meetings, I was going to have a hard time if I tried to keep all the dates in my mind. Planners are such a lifesaver and there are so many beautiful ones at target for a reasonable price. Plan out your days and how much time you'll need to spend on certain things.

Write down all exams dates

Just buying a planner is not enough if you're never going to utilize it. Trust me when I say it's a good idea to pencil in all your exam dates for EACH class in your planner at the beginning of the semester! As a tutor, I used to get so many students that came to me for help 2 days before a test, which they didn't even know they had until they overheard other people talking about it. Don't let this happen to you! You should also write down all the assignments that will be due in your classes in your planner.

Scan your academic calendar

Again, write down any important dates. This includes moving in date, first day of classes, the last day you can drop a class without a W on your transcript, and every holiday.

Create an effective study area

I love having a lot of natural light around my desk if I can help it. Make sure your study area isn't in a dark corner that's going to make you sleepy or bored as you try to study. I also put away any papers or items that clutter my desk before I start studying. Having a clean desk helps you focus on what you need to be doing instead of getting distracted. If you're bored with the way your desk looks, buy some new office supplies and make your desk optically appealing. Sometimes, it's all in our heads. ;)

Figure out your schedule

When will you be in class? What time will you be working? When we're in college, life is changing from one semester to the next. It catches up with us quickly if we're not on top of our game. Figure out where your classes are, how much time you'll have in between classes, and when you'll be able to work (if you choose to). It will take a week or two before your schedule will solidify or before you slip into more of a routine.

Get all financial aid in order

Make sure you've completed all requirements that you need to fulfill for your financial aid office before the new semester starts. If you don't pay your tuition by the deadline, they can drop all of your classes. You don't want to scramble to pay at the last minute and then try to sign up for your classes last minute. Usually classes get full really quickly.

Come up with a study strategy

Different classes require different study techniques. I learned this the hard way when I started taking upper level chemistry courses. Although I was always a good student, the way I studied for general chemistry didn't work for biochemistry! While reading the text for your psychology class be the best way to study, you may need to focus more on the powerpoint slides for your biology class. Again, ask your professor or student that have taken that professor before about what is the best way to study for that class.

Ask for help when necessary

There are a lot of people who know they need the help but don't feel comfortable admitting it. I used to be one of those people, so I can relate. It's important to keep in mind that by not asking for help when we need it, we're only holding ourselves back. If you're having trouble in a class, go to the academic support center and see if they offer any tutoring for that specific class. You will not be judged for going there and the tutors love that they get to pass on what they learned to their fellow students. I can say that because I worked as a tutor for 3 years and I absolutely loved it, and so did my colleagues. Admitting that you need help is a strength, not a weakness. You will be surprised how life changes once you allow other people to lighten your load.

Get your beauty sleep

College students either seem to sleep too little or too much in an attempt to make up for lost sleep. Well guess what guys? We can never actually make up for lost sleep. And it's no fun running on fumes. I know a lot of people say you can sleep when you're dead, but what we don't realize at this age is that our body will eventually start complaining if we don't give it enough rest. Plus, we need all that REM sleep to help us remember the things we learned in a day! Do yourself a favor and get your zzz's every night. It's not worth it to pull an all nighter if your brain never gets the chance to consolidate that information during REM sleep.

So there ya have it. Thanks for stopping by and reading! I will let you all know how orientation goes once I get a chance. I'm so excited (and nervous) for tomorrow and can't wait to meet everyone in my class! Send up a prayer for us if you so desire :)

How do you prepare for a new semester?

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