In college, each semester offers the opportunity for a fresh start; a chance to learn from past semester mistakes; a chance to reach new goals. Being aware of this opportunity and successfully acting on it are two different things. While it’s easy to desire change, it is much more difficult to make it happen. How do you get the most out of a new semester and accomplish your goals? In this post, I am going to talk about a few key things I learned in undergrad that helped me turn a new semester into a successful one.
1. Define your Goals
I cannot tell you how many times I have wandered into a new semester like I was in La La Land (editors note: go see La La Land). I would take each day at face value and had no idea what to expect, or what I wanted. At the beginning of each new semester, ask yourself what you want to get out of this semester. Is it to get all A’s in your classes? Do you want a letter of recommendation from a certain professor? Or maybe you want a new research position. To achieve new goals, you must define what you want. There is no finish line if you don’t create one.
2. Be Realistic
After defining your goals, look at your other responsibilities and ask if the goals you set forward are realistic. If you work 40 hours a week and are taking 21 credits of all upper division science classes this semester, getting a 4.0 and being president of two clubs while conducting research is probably not in your future. I’m not saying it’s impossible- maybe you are superhuman with amazing multitasking skills. In that case, I am super jealous. But regardless, it’s definitely important to be realistic with yourself and understand your limits. That said, any goal is achievable if you are able to break it up into smaller attainable ones.
3. Break Your Goal into Smaller Ones and Schedule Everything
Take some time to organize a schedule. This includes class time, commute time, office hours, hours spent at any job you may have, sleeping, eating, getting ready, etc. I know this may sound trivial, but trust me it changes everything when you lay it all out on paper and visualize it. Once this is done, look at the amount of time you have left each day and set aside a certain amount of time for studying, extra-curricular activities, research, and anything else you may want to include. This way, you know how much time you can realistically dedicate. If you stick to tiny goals of studying for X amount of hours and conducting research for X amount of hours, while working X amount of hours and accounting for class time, you may just achieve that 4.0 and become president of your club. And even if you don’t, you know you will be working as hard as you can with your current situation. And that is an achievement within itself. One that you’re bound to reap rewards from. If you set goals that are in your control and are attainable, you are more likely to achieve them.
4. Anticipate Obstacles
Everything in life does not always go according to plan. This semester is probably not going to go perfectly. Plan for obstacles. Think of ways to overcome them. Let’s say you don’t get the test score you wanted, what are you going to do differently? Attend more office hours? Study more? If you have a plan, you are less likely to get discouraged and more likely to plow onward towards your end goal.
5. Find an Effective Method of Stress Relief
Let’s face it. We’re not robots. The majority of us cannot work hours on end without feeling fatigue. We are humans and we are all vulnerable to stress, so you need to be prepared with at least one method you know will help you to recharge your battery. This is where you can take advantage of your passions. You should make time for the things you enjoy in order to help alleviate stress. For me, yoga, running, and meditation all helped me to effectively deal with stressful weeks. Everyone is different and you should find something that works for you. Trust me, you will be happier. Your mind will be clearer. Your focus will be better. Your motivation will be stronger. All of which are important in achieving your goals.
I elaborate more on these topics in my YouTube video, “Start The New Semester Off Right- College Advice and Motivation-Organization Tips for School,” (http://tinyurl.com/glkvzev) so feel free to check that out. I also found that creating Study To-Do Lists and preparing for lectures beforehand were both really helpful in maximizing my time. More info on that can be found in my video, “How to Study Effectively- Study Tips for High School and College- Premed Advice” (http://tinyurl.com/jk2h97d).
Hopefully you guys found this helpful! If you guys have any questions for us, feel free to contact us at [email protected] and we would be happy to respond. Now go make your next semester the best one yet!