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Top 10 Tips for Starting the Semester Off Right

Syllabus Week is upon us, which means attending a week’s worth of pointless classes and crying over your overpriced textbooks. But if partying every night this week with little concern for class attendance isn’t your jam, this guide lists the top 10 ways to help you buckle down this semester.

1. Organize your notes

As mundane as it may seem, organizing your notes early will be extremely helpful in the long run. These days there are tons of apps designed for note-taking on laptops, tablets, and other smart devices. Apps such as Evernote and Notability are extremely inexpensive and allow you to access your notes across all of your devices. Staying on top of organization will make your life a lot less stressful later in the semester.

2. Sit in the front

I know that nobody wants to be that kid, but there are a lot of perks to braving the front row.  Most importantly, when you’re up front you’re practically forced to pay attention and participate. You can’t fall asleep when you’re right in the professor’s eye line (unless you DGAF). Leave the snoozin’ to the hungover students in the back.

3. Join clubs related to your major

During the first weeks of the semester, clubs and organizations recruit members like crazy. Being around like-minded people who are pursuing similar things is a great way to get motivated. Plus, networking. Never too early.

4. Actually use office hours

Professors have office hours for a reason! Even if your professor may seem like a grump in class, it’s likely they are more than willing to help you out one-on-one during their office hours. A lot of students don’t take advantage of this time, but it can be a huge help when you’re struggling. Also seeing their sad, little cubicles makes them seem much more human.

5. Take breaks

Long study sessions may seem like the best way to learn material, but studies have shown that taking breaks actually helps the brain retain information better. Taking a 5-minute break for every 20 minutes of studying will make cramming sessions a lot more productive. Pro-tip: 5-minute Facebook breaks almost always turn into 20-minute breaks.

6. Eat healthy

Temptation to eat unhealthy, greasy food is everywhere in downtown State College. Developing healthy eating habits is a great way to stay energized and ready for class. When you eat better, you feel better. But don’t get too crazy, everyone needs a slice of Canyon every once and a while.

7. Utilize campus quiet spaces

Studying in your dorm or apartment may seem like the comfiest option, but it’s oftentimes the most distracting. Taking advantage of campus quiet spaces ensures that you’ll get your work done without the temptation of Netflix or Xbox. Or your couch. Or bed.

8. Manage your time wisely

College is all about finding that perfect balance between socializing and studying. Figure out what works for you early on in the semester and stick to it. But if you decide to binge-watch Breaking Bad instead of studying, we’re not judging.

9. Use tutoring centers

Penn State offers peer tutoring for every subject by appointment and drop-in sessions. Rather than dropping a class when things go sour, try a tutor. You can find more information here. You can also hit up LionTutors or PSUKnowHow if you need to bring in the big guns.

10. Get to know your professors

Establishing good relationships with your professor is a great way to get professional contacts, internship opportunities, and recommendations. Stick around a few minutes after class and have a chat with them, it could make a world of difference later on.

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About the Author

Sarah Caskie

Sarah is a senior majoring in Journalism. She can usually be found at Saint’s looking up cat videos, or writing about music and stuff. She can be reached on Twitter at @classycaskie or via email at [email protected]


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