The past year hasn’t really gone according to plan for anyone. For some students who just completed their first semester of post-secondary, the school system was difficult to navigate (thanks to COVID). Others may have handled the semester better than expected. Either way, a new semester has just begun and there’s always room for improvement. Here are some tips that can help you make this school term even better.
Identify areas of improvement
What was difficult and what was easy about your courses? Pinpoint any issues and ask yourself why you might have had such a hard time. On the other hand, if you found a specific course or project to be far too easy, was it because you excel at that particular subject or you didn’t put in enough effort? Assess your overall academic performance and take a look at any patterns. If you’re struggling in something, there are people you can reach out to for help, like your parents, teachers, tutors or school counsellors. Or maybe you received good grades but it all felt a little too effortless. Ask yourself if you’re doing your absolute best, then look for ways to improve this semester.
Develop more efficient time management skills
Having more responsibility gives you more freedom but it also means learning self-discipline. You control your time. Is your school routine working for you? Maybe you’re sleeping in and you’re up late studying. When you’re tired, that makes it more difficult to retain information. Do you find yourself procrastinating most of the time or maybe even all of the time? It’s possible that you’re overwhelmed by a particular subject or project. Try breaking it down into smaller tasks to make the material more digestible.
Keep yourself organized.
A little project management and creating more structure for yourself can reduce stress. Ensure you’re always taking notes during classes and work out a system for filing digital course material to avoid wasting time searching for it. As soon as you’ve been given project deadlines, log key due dates into your calendar. It might help to break assignments down into goals you have for yourself. Imagine that you have a virtual class presentation due in three weeks. Resolve to complete the research and presentation by week two so that you have time to rehearse in the third week leading up to it. Advance preparation means you won’t be scrambling at the last minute, which can reduce your anxiety. Establishing a solid plan will help you stay on top of several courses and projects with multiple deadlines.
Find ways to eliminate distractions
Studying at home can bring on all kinds of unexpected interruptions from family members and pets, not to mention that steady stream of notifications on your phone. Try improving your concentration with noise cancelling headphones or by playing a white noise app in the background. Restrict your time spent watching the news (overload during a pandemic could contribute to growing anxiety) and carve out limited screen time on social media so you can completely disconnect while you’re studying.
Build a supportive personal learning network
Although it’s the beginning of a new semester, you can still learn something from your previous professors. Set up some virtual meetings to review last semester’s grades and ask them if they have any advice to help you improve on your overall academic performance. You might also want to arrange a chat with any of your current professors to better understand their expectations. Reach out to some of your classmates for their tips and consider asking them to form a study group. It’s a great way to gain perspective, share unique insights and learn from each other.
2021 is a brand new year and we already have so much to look forward to. Here’s your opportunity to think of your second semester as a fresh start and a way to reinvent yourself. You know your shortcomings, so go the extra mile to overcome them. You’re familiar with your strengths — it’s time to build on them. You’ve got this!