Congrats, you’ve made it through most of fall semester. The question is, do you know how to prepare for spring semester?
My first semester was two years ago, so I would be lying if I said I remembered exactly how I spent it. I do, however, remember feeling both relieved and anxious and I can confirm this because it’s exactly how I felt during winter break last year. It feels good to know you’ve accomplished something and you are one step closer to your next goal, but it’s scary to realize you don’t know what the future will bring. It’s hard not to worry about your progress, or think about how satisfied you are with your current work ethic, your major or just your life in general. My first semester, I spent more time focused on classes and personal problems than I did taking care of myself, which led to me forming some unhealthy coping mechanisms and being unhappy overall. Not to mention, I was considering changing my major and felt so lost about what I wanted to do. It was a difficult time, but I survived it. There is a way, however, to alleviate that stress and that’s by taking time to think about what you want to prepare for next semester and setting goals so you can do things differently in the future.
There are a lot of different ways to set goals. My personal favorite is writing all of them down as a gigantic map in my bullet journal (it’s really chaotic). There are also more structured ways, like S.M.A.R.T. goal setting. However you choose to create your goals, make sure your goals are specific and include specific steps on how to achieve that goal and measure your progress on achieving that goal. An example of a goal you could set is getting into your desired major by a certain date.
And so, here are my tips for the best way to prepare for spring semester:
Remember that you are the boss of your own education. If you were unsatisfied with your classes for autumn semester and are reconsidering your major, don’t feel pressured to stay in classes you don’t want to be in. Use this break to do some research and explore other majors and schedule to meet with an Exploration advisor or consider career counseling. It’s normal to be unsure or lost about what you want to do but it’s important that you address it and make efforts to figure it out.
Transform your health. If you ate a lot of crappy food and/or didn’t work out in autumn semester, use this break to change that. Drink lots of water and take advantage of home-cooked meals if you aren’t staying on campus. Likewise, try a new recipe if you are sticking around. Maybe learn how to do some yoga. Use this time to improve your health, mentally and physically. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t fallen victim to the “Freshman 15”, but believe me when I say it’s an exhausting way to live and not how you want to spend your first year of college.
Start a routine! Having a routine gives you small goals to accomplish throughout the day and you’ll feel better after each one. Over winter break, these goals don’t have to be “big”. For example, your routine could be getting out of bed by 11 a.m., eating breakfast, making your bed, working out and sleeping by 11 p.m. Creating and sticking to habits during the weeks you aren’t on campus will help you slide into routine when you get back on campus. It will help you manage your work without wasting time and give you time to take care of yourself.
Did you have a good support system in autumn semester? Winter break is the perfect time to reflect on the relationships you created over the last few months. It’s important that you have people on campus who support and uplift you. If the people you hang out with aren’t good influences and don’t encourage your growth, it might be time to distance yourself from them and seek better connections.
Get a planner, calendar, or journal and write down all important deadlines and exam dates at the start of the semester for each of your classes for the entire semester (based on your syllabi). This can include homework, readings, lab reports, essays, basically anything you could get assigned; you can do it during the first few weeks of classes and it will make you feel a lot more prepared later on.
You may have already realized this, but time goes by fast when you’re in college. You might feel exhausted after finals and find yourself wanting to not think about school for a few weeks, but pushing the thought away isn’t going to make the first day of classes come any later. When everything slows down, take time to do some self-reflection, I promise you’ll feel better when you do. Good luck!