New Semester, New You?

Man standing on side of mountain during sunrise. Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash.

Preparing to take on a new semester of college is a lot like making resolutions for a new year. It is the perfect time to turn over a new leaf and flush your bad habits down the drain. According to our brains, procrastinating and pulling all-nighters are a thing of the past. Not being prepared for class? Never again. Or so we think…

Crashing back into reality, we know that such transformations are unrealistic and those bad habits creep back within the first couple of weeks of class. This doesn’t mean that you can’t change your habits and become a great student, though. If you keep focused on smaller adjustments and stay driven to see your future successes, this coming semester could be one for you to remember.

Don’t try to build Rome in a single day

No matter how far behind you think you are, the worst thing to do is try to completely overhaul your routines and cram too many good habits into your life at once. The trick is to start small and slowly work better habits into your routine. Once you can really focus on the benefits of that new habit, it’ll begin to feel worth it and you can move into working on another area.

For example, you may struggle with both getting to class on time and staying ahead of your classwork. If you treat it as a massive problem, you’ll stress yourself out too quickly and your struggles will continue. However, if you split it up and focus on getting to class on time, you’ll quickly realize the value of attendance and will even begin to find it easier to stay ahead of your work.

You see, every aspect of your academic life is connected. If you improve in one area, it usually helps out the others as well. Focusing on fixing everything at once results in a one-way ticket to mental implosion and making school your enemy. School is not your enemy, it’s your friend.

Just think through a hypothetical week of class. What do you struggle with that impacts you overall the most? Start focusing and practicing on whatever that is and pay attention to the impact of your improvement. You’ll gradually find it easier and easier to accomplish that task, and then “rinse and repeat” with other problems you are facing.

Focus on organization

Organization is usually they key cog that falters in the machine of getting your work done. You forget things, you misplace things, and you fail to effectively prioritize your tasks. All of this leads to you feeling like a hamster running on a wheel, scrambling to finish a never-ending flow of assignments. Although you keep running, the grades don’t seem to keep up.

The main step to staying organized is having all of your necessary supplies. Try to have something to take notes on separately for each class. This could be either a laptop or a set of notebooks. Be wary though, a lot of professors do not allow electronics in class, so be prepared to take notes with good ole’ pen and paper. Having your notes separated by class makes them easier to find when studying for a big test or using them to finish your homework.

Looking for inspiration on a backpack setup for the new semester? MTSU student Katie Golan made a “What’s in my College Backpack” video back in April. Check it out!


Another thing to consider would be getting your books EARLY. Most bookstores have a list of books for specific classes and specific instructors well in advance of school starting. If you find out that you don’t need them when class rolls around, they will usually accept full refunds until the second week of school. Still waiting on your refund check from the school? Some bookstores will even allow you to get your books early and not charge you until school starts! Getting your books early can give you a head start in the class. Don’t be afraid to peek at the syllabus and take some notes on what will be coming up! Stay ahead!

You’ll also want to make sure you’re stocked up on basic school supplies you’ve needed since elementary school. There is nothing more embarrassing than asking someone for a pencil on the first day of class. You’ll need pens, pencils, paper, and scantrons eventually, so keep them on hand and never worry about asking a neighbor!

Other than having the right supplies, the biggest part of being organized is keeping all of your materials together. If you have a folder for each class keep all work needing to be done in it, you’ll never show up to class unprepared. A quick check of these folders before you head to class is a small price to pay to avoid the dreaded panic of forgetting an assignment.

Of course, you’ve probably noticed that I’ve forgotten one important, ancient relic that is the Holy Grail of staying organized. You love it, you hate it, you usually stop using it a month into it… the “P” word.

Get a planner… and use it!

Trust me, planners work. You may find it extremely tedious to mark down the due date of every assignment and dates for tests and events, but they can be a true lifesaver for your grades. If you stay on top of it, you can practically see your near future right in front of you. That way, if something new comes up, you can see how it will affect what’s coming up.

Will you be missing class for a trip, event, or “personal day?” Go ahead and get done what needs to be done before you leave. This way you won’t be shell-shocked when your professor asks you for an assignment you hadn’t thought about while you were gone.

It doesn’t matter if you keep track of things online or on paper, just jot everything down somewhere that you won’t forget to check. Some professors will post due dates for every assignment on their syllabus, so you can write everything down in the beginning and never miss an assignment.

A planner is on a desk, with a student's schedule and tasks for the week. The student is outlining "Weekend" at the end of the page.

Learn about your available resources

One of the coolest parts about attending MTSU is the number of resources they make available to students. In addition to great programs such as our Recreation Center and Counseling Services, our school also provides many state-of-the-art academic amenities.

For example, we have an excellent Tutoring Center that provides helpful students that share their knowledge of around 200 academic subjects – for FREE!. Not only that, but they are also there to share their study tips and learning strategies. There is never any shame in attending a tutoring session, as tutors are there solely to help you improve your grades.

Struggling to find the right way to structure your paper? Wish there were expert proofreaders to catch your writing errors? Our University Writing Center is another fabulous resource dedicated to helping students succeed. There you can find help at any point in your writing process for any type of writing assignment.

If you do some searching around, you’ll find that there are plenty of resources just like these that are waiting to help you. If you keep them in mind as the semester begins, no project will seem too daunting to take on with an army prepared to go to battle with you.

Featured Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash