In honor of my first day of classes today, I thought I would share a few tips on how I get organized and oriented during the first week of school! These times are always both exciting and scary, familiar yet new. There’s a lot to take in, especially at college, so managing the first few days is important in order to start the semester off right!
Before the first day:
1. Walk your schedule.
A look at my campus before my very first day of college classes!
Even if you’re going into your senior year and know campus like the back of your hand, you should still familiarize yourself with your schedule. I know at my school the classrooms are not always as simple to track down as one might imagine. You may know where the building is and how to get there from your dorm, but do you know which entrance is closest to the classroom? Is there a large enough community area to spend that awkward hour between classes? Do you know where bathrooms, water fountains, and vending machines are located?
Figuring all of this out and coming up with a rough game plan before the first day can save time and stress later on. If you don’t want to walk around by yourself yet, grab a roommate or two and hit the pavement together. If you get lost, all the better; it’s been said that getting lost is the best way to learn the area!
2. Type up your schedule, make it pretty and neat, and stick it on the wall.
The school’s student portal may not be as clear as it should be, so why print out an unorganized, unfamiliar schedule? Take a few minutes to type it up in your own style and print it out. I like to hang it right above my calendar on the wall so I have all of my scheduling information in one place! I type mine up in Excel; here’s what it looks like for this semester!
3. Ask your roommate about her schedule.
Obviously you don’t have to know exactly where she’ll be at every second of every day, but I like to get a general idea of when I can expect her alarm to go off or when she has class. This allows me to get a rough understanding of when I can have the room to myself, whether we’ll get dinner together, and what her most stressful days are (hello surprise smoothies).
4. Pick out your outfit and pack your bag.
The first day is stressful enough without having to worry about what you’re going to wear or whether you remembered to bring your laptop. Take care of this stuff the night before so you can concentrate on having a great start to the day!
On the first day:
1. Actually go to class.
A lot of students don’t even bother to show up the first day since it’s known as “syllabus day,” but don’t fall for that. Yes, the professor will go over the syllabus, but they will also emphasize their important policies, including attendance and grade percentages. Most jump right into the material after that, so you don’t want to start off behind in notes. What else do you have to do on the first day anyway?
2. Get to class a few minutes early.
Now that we established that you’re going to class, be early! For the first two weeks or so, I usually get to class at least 15 minutes before it’s scheduled to start. This may sound like an over eager freshman move, but a lot of people arrive early to scope out the class and get their preferred seat. It gives you a cushion for getting lost or oversleeping and also provides the opportunity to get to know those sitting around you; try to have at least one contact in each class by the end of two weeks in case you need to get notes or want a study buddy. People are more open to conversation than you may think!
3. Take it all in.
There’s nothing like seeing campus crawling with students after an entire summer of emptiness. Even with welcome week events, there’s something about walking to class on the first day that really makes you feel like you’re a part of a community.
After the first day:
1. Read through your syllabi.
Take a highlighter to the syllabus and make note of office hours, test dates, projects, attendance policies, etc. Skim the schedule outline to see what’s coming and if you have any readings or other homework coming up. It’s never too early to start! You don’t have to hit the books the first day, but don’t procrastinate either. Learn how to manage your time before things get really crazy. I like to make a table similar to my class schedule, but for professors’ office hours. This way, you can figure out when you’ll be able to attend.
2. Set up a grade calculator.
I use the app “Grades 3” by Tapity Inc and I love it!
For each class, add in what assignments will make up your grade and by what percentage. Then, input your target grade and watch as it tells you the minimum grade you need on each assignment to meet your goal. Professors aren’t always the best at updating grades, so do what you can!
Learn everything you can in class of course, but also take note of peak times of food and lounge areas. Figure out which paths are most crowded and when. Judge whether you have time to go back to your dorm to grab a jacket or take a quick nap. You’ll get all this subconsciously as the semester goes on and figure out how to tailor your schedule to fit you best. Maybe I’m just an efficiency nut, do what works for you!
I hope these tips help make your first week a little less overwhelming! There’s a lot to see, do, and learn, so manage your time well and set the stage for a successful semester!
~What do you like to do at the beginning of a semester?