By Ainsley, PLA Team Leader
In reflecting on your Fall term results, you may have decided that it’s time to take a deep breath and make a fresh start this semester. You may also have no idea where to even begin! The key to feeling on top of your studies this semester is to get started early… as early as day one. Here are 5 easy ways to make the most of your first week of Winter term:
1) Do it now. Do It Now. DO IT NOW!
As the saying goes, ‘There’s no time like the present’! This is particularly true when it comes to making the best use of your time during the first week of classes when your academic workload is refreshingly light. While it may be tempting to let Frost Week laziness set the tone for your Winter term, it’s important to remember that the reality of midterms and assignment deadlines will creep up faster than you realize. From day one, stay on top of those readings and slowly chip away at assignments that seem to be miles away – you’ll thank yourself come midterm crunch time, trust me! Does procrastination sometimes get the best of you? Try the STING method: Select a specific task/goal (for example, reading 10 pages of your Psychology textbook), Time yourself (i.e. set an alarm for a particular period of time and promise yourself that you will not take a break until the alarm sounds), Ignore distractions (i.e. close Facebook and set your cell phone on silent), No interruptions (a “do not disturb” sign for your door may come in handy here) and, most importantly, Give yourself a reward for achieving your goal!
2) Have all your ducks in a row
Getting organized is vital to academic success… but where does one even begin?! If you don’t already use one, try out a four-month erasable term calendar. This will allow you to see your entire semester at a glance and can help you to prepare for those oh-so-dreaded “hell weeks” while still keeping your sanity. Try to reserve this calendar for your academic life and avoid adding in social engagements which may clutter your schedule and cause you to overlook important deadlines. As soon as you receive your course outlines during week one, begin marking in dates for your assignments, tests, lab reports, papers, etc., along with the percentage value assigned to each (which will help you to prioritize how much time you spend on each task). By using a different colour marker for each course, you can avoid writing and rewriting course codes. And don’t forget to mark off items as you complete them… nothing beats the satisfaction of seeing your ‘to-do’ list whittle away before your very eyes!
3) Seek out helpful hints
As early as possible this term, take the time to talk to other students who have previously taken the courses you are enrolled in (with the same professor) and have done well. Getting advice from other successful students will make you better aware of what to expect for the coming semester. Some questions you might ask are: in what level of detail is it necessary to know the readings (i.e. understanding concepts broadly versus memorizing specifics), what are some of the professor’s ‘pet ideas’ that you should watch out for on exams, general advice on how to be successful in the class, etc. While advice from senior students can be extremely helpful, don’t rely on this as your only source of information. Get to know your professor and use him/her as a valuable resource too – many profs are quite eager to provide tips on how to be successful in their classes.
4) Wanna be study buddies?
Another great way to make a fresh start this semester is by surrounding yourself with other students who have similar goals. In each of your classes, try sitting within the first five or ten rows – the closer, the better! While you may have previously considered this strategy to be a little too ‘nerdy’, research has shown that students who sit closer to the front of the classroom actually do, on average, perform better than those who sit further back. Sitting at the front allows you to focus more on what the prof is teaching rather than the sea of computer screens creeping Facebook or playing Solitaire in front of you. In addition to sitting closer to the front, make a point to arrive to class a few minutes early (especially in the first week) so that you can chat with and introduce yourself to other students sitting around you. Not only will this kind of networking make class more enjoyable, but it is also a great way to meet other like-minded and keen individuals with whom you can form study groups, work on assignments, and compare notes.
5) Tap into your resources!
The first week back presents the perfect opportunity for taking advantage of some great on-campus academic resources. Sign up for workshops in the Learning Commons
(https://webapp.queensu.ca:443/qlc/Workshop/listing – hurry before they fill up!), book a professional consult with a Learning Strategist (http://www.queensu.ca/learningstrategies/undergrad/professionalconsults.html), stop by for Study Skills Coaching with Peer Learning Assistants (Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 6-8 pm, room 143 in Stauffer Library), or direct your questions to email@example.com.
Now, armed with these 5 simple strategies, it’s time to get this term off to an encouraging start! YOU CAN DO IT! 🙂