One of the advantages of the college yearly cycle at most schools is that there are two opportunities each year for a new beginning. September (or late August) and January mark the beginnings of new terms or semesters. Each new semester is an opportunity to reinvigorate students and an opportunity to make some changes or start with a clean slate.
Last January, we offered some suggestions for ways in which your college student might approach this fresh start. We encourage you to read last year’s post, 9 Ways to Help Your College Student Get a Fresh Start for Second Semester and to share some of the thoughts with your student. In addition, we’d like to offer here some suggestions of things that your college student can do immediately at the beginning of the new semester to get a head start and to make the most of this new beginning.
What can my college student do to jump start the new semester?
- If possible, order textbooks ahead of time to be ready to get started right away. Federal regulations now expect colleges to make textbook information available to students when they register for courses, so your student shouldn’t need to wait until the semester begins to order textbooks. Your student can probably order textbooks online more cheaply than the college bookstore, but books may take longer arriving at this busy time of year. Getting an early start can make a difference. Starting the semester with all books in hand will get your student off to a great start.
- Prepare immediately to be a master of time management this semester. If your student doesn’t already have a school year planner, suggest that he invest in a good new calendar with lots of room to write. Put all college deadlines (drop/add period, midterm exams, pass/fail, housing deposits, etc.) on the calendar. As soon as course syllabi are available (possibly online prior to the start of the semester), add in all assignments and exams. If your student knows his work schedule, that can be added. Being organized at the beginning of the semester will help your student stay on top of obligations.
- Consider prior to the start of the semester, or at least within the first few days, any schedule changes that need to be made. If your student needs to adjust her schedule, she may be able to do that online or with a phone call prior to the start of the semester. Drop/Add period will work for changes, but it is even better to begin the semester with the appropriate schedule completed.
- Invest in a few new academic tools to get ready. Remember the elementary school days of shopping for new pencils and notebooks? A bit of time and money invested now in the appropriate tools to get the work done will help stimulate some interest in seeing this new semester and new classes as a fresh beginning.
- Suggest that your student begin the new semester by doing a thorough housecleaning of her room or apartment. Literally see a clean start to the semester. Your student might even want to rearrange furniture or redecorate to enhance that sense of new beginning.
- While your student is cleaning, she might make a plan for storing important papers, projects or tests from last semester. It’s a good idea to keep papers and documents throughout school, but it’s not helpful if they are all jumbled together and overflowing. This is a good time to get things organized and all together.
- Your student might take this opportunity to tackle any lingering feelings of apathy. Is he feeling disengaged and uninvolved? Winter is often a tough time to feel enthusiastic, but apathy may be one of your student’s worst enemies. Suggest that he think about his attitude, name the monsters, and make a plan to overcome them and get more involved this time around.
- Your student might spend some time prior to the start of this semester to create or revise his budget. If he doesn’t have one, this is a good time to start. If he created a budget for fall semester, this is a good time to review whether or not it was realistic. Making a plan at the start of the semester – and trying to stick with it – will help your student feel in control.
- Has your student made New Year’s resolutions? If so, they may be realistic or not. The start of the semester is a good time for your student to think about his resolutions and/or goals and turn them into action plans. What will he do, or not do, this semester to make those resolutions become reality?
- Your student might start this semester with a definite plan on the best way to keep up to date with activities and events happening on campus. Most college campuses have countless speakers, events, outings, concerts, sporting events, and performers. Many students don’t take advantage of the opportunities simply because they don’t know about them. This new semester might be a good time for your student to investigate the best way on his campus to find out about upcoming events. Is there a student portal? Is there a daily bulletin or newspaper? A physical or virtual bulletin board? A television or radio station? Your student can make a plan to find out what’s happening on campus so that he won’t miss out on anything.
- Find a new favorite place on campus to do some studying. Dorm rooms work – sometimes. The library is an obvious classic place to study. But sometimes finding a new, quiet, place to spend some occasional study time can break things up a bit. This might be a good time to wander around and discover some new spaces on campus.
The start of a new semester is an obvious new beginning because your student is beginning new courses. However, it is also a wonderful opportunity for a new mental attitude toward the work and life of college. If your student is a first year student, the fall semester was a time of tremendous adjustment and transition. Now that he understands the life of the college, the new challenge for your student will be to keep it fresh, and to take advantage of the knowledge he has gained during that first semester. Encourage him to see this fresh start and remind him that, as always, you’ll be there (in the background) if he needs you.