Back-to-school season is fast approaching! Whether you’re just beginning your first year at university or are already in your final stretch, it doesn’t hurt to remind yourself of a few essential things that will make your school year stress free and easier in the longrun. Here are five things to keep in mind as you start another year of classes (which can also be applied to students not yet in university):
Get to know your syllabus
Don’t be so quick to disregard your syllabus! Often, we think of a syllabus as an insignificant piece of paper handed to us on the first day of class. However, you shouldn’t throw out your syllabus until the end of the semester, as it provides a lot of useful information you can reference throughout the course, such as office hours, grade distributions, and important dates. Sometimes, professors will even advertise internships or volunteering opportunities. Reading through your syllabus carefully within the first week of class will also help you figure out the best way to approach your course so that you get the most out of it. Nowadays, most courses keep a copy of the syllabus online for easy reference, so you won’t have to worry even if you lose it!
Go to office hours
Office hours can be nervewracking, but are incredibly useful. You can use office hours to go over assignments with your professor before turning them in, ask beyond the classwork and learn more about subjects you’re interested in, and figure out future prospects or find volunteer/research opportunities. Although you may not be able to establish a close relationship with all of your professors (especially the ones that teach classes of 100+ students!), it’s still useful to make time within the first few weeks of class to visit as many professors as you can to establish your interest in the course and get your professor’s attention before you’re swamped in classwork.
Use a planner
As you balance classwork with extracurricular activities and a social life, it can be easy to forget about an upcoming test or assignment. Using a planner to keep track of all upcoming activities (school-related or not) will help you feel less overwhelmed (especially during finals season) and help you balance your interests effectively. You can purchase your own planner if you’d like, but many student offices offer them for free. If you don’t like the idea of a planner, even keeping a desk calendar to keep track of dates and creating a daily/weekly to-do list can work just as well.
Even if it may be tempting, don’t slack off within the first week of school! Staying on top of schoolwork as soon as classes start will make the weeks to come much less stressful and will provide you with more time to relax in the longrun. By getting yourself into the habit of completing work as it is assigned earlier in the semester (when the coursework is still light), you will find it much easier to adjust when assignments begin piling up around the corner. Once midterms approach, you’ll thank yourself for studying a little bit each day instead of having to pull multiple all-nighters, struggling to accomplish what could have easily been done earlier.
Start good habits
The start of the school year is the perfect time to begin any new habits you want to keep, such as going to the gym more, keeping your room clean, eating out less, etc. Not only will the beginning of a new semester make you more motivated to begin new routines, but it will also become increasingly harder to start good habits once the full grind of classes set in. Before you know it, you’ll be preoccupied with assignments, midterms, then your finals exams- and a full semester will have gone by without implementing any of the habits you’d intended to, so it’s best to start as soon as you can!
Finally, don’t forget that while keeping a good GPA is important, your mental health and wellness comes first! If you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed by your workload, don’t be afraid to talk to your professors about extending deadlines. Take advantage of school therapists/counsellors as well. Of course, university is an important milestone in anyone’s life, but it should also be an enjoyable experience and not something to sacrifice your mental wellbeing for.
Written by: Shanell Fan