5 Tips for Going Back to School



Going back to school is an exciting proposition that comes with new professors, new classes, and new friends to be made. That doesn’t mean the transition is easy. It can be difficult for many students to let go of the fun and freedom of summer, but bouncing back from a rocky academic start is even harder. To keep yourself from digging your GPA into an early hole, follow these five steps to achieve early success in the new school year.

1. Get the Supplies You Need Ahead of Time

If you don’t know which specific subjects you’ll be studying when you first arrive on campus, you’ll at least have an idea of how many you’ll be taking. Make sure to get the right number of binders and notebooks ahead of time so you’re not cramming loose papers and syllabi into the black hole of your backpack. If you signed up for fall courses at the end of the prior year or over the summer, work on buying your textbooks before getting to school. Using a comparison site like studentrate.com can save you hundreds over the campus bookstore.

2. Put Important Dates on a Calendar

Speaking of those syllabi, spend some time after each class entering important dates into your calendar. Teachers know it’s a struggle to fit all the material for a class into a single semester, so they usually have each week (or even day) planned out meticulously. Whether you use Google Calendar, iCal, Outlook, or even a physical planner, set alerts and notifications to prevent important quizzes, tests, and essays from sneaking up on you.

3. Put Away Distractions

This tip applies both in-class and during outside work. If you’re planning to take notes on your computer but you can’t stop browsing social media or checking your iMessages, you should consider switching to the old-fashioned pen and paper. If you try to study in a common area but find yourself doing more socializing, move to a quiet corner of the library instead. These kinds of simple decisions can have a resounding impact on not just your performance in one class, but your entire college GPA. You’re enrolled in school to learn, and you’re paying to attend each and every class. Focus on being fully present and you’ll make the most of a valuable opportunity.

4. Connect with the People Around You

College isn’t just about the classes – it’s about making connections with peers and professors, some of which will last a lifetime. Attend social events and hone your networking skills whenever you get the chance. If your academic performance meets eligibility requirements, joining an honor society can unlock access to valuable networking opportunities in addition to the other benefits we discussed in a previous post. You can also join clubs and student unions that reflect your interests and give you the chance to interact with other members of the community.

5. Establish Goals to Give Yourself a Target

If you don’t know where you’re aiming, you’re probably going to miss. On the other hand, if you set goals, you can break down lofty ambitions into smaller and more attainable steps. For example, say you want to make an A in a class and your grade is calculated based on the following: 25% participation, 25% quizzes, 25% tests, and 25% final essay. Instead of just “doing your best,” come up with specific practices based on the known requirements. To get all of the possible participation points, you’ll need to attend every class and raise your hand to contribute at least once per day. To excel at quizzes, you’ll want to review the material at the end of each week to ensure you’re prepared for an unannounced quiz. For that essay that’s a quarter of your grade, you’ll want to visit your professor during office hours at least one month before the due date to validate your idea. These are just examples, but set a goal for each of your classes and break it down into smaller, bite-sized steps – you may be surprised what you can accomplish.

Going back to school is exciting, particularly if it’s your first year in college. It can also be a little intimidating. Higher education is typically home to more demanding teachers and more rigorous academics, but you can handle it. Start the academic year off on the right foot by embracing the above steps, and turn these practices into habits that will serve you for the rest of your college career.