Starting the semester on the right paw

As the spring semester kicks into high gear students are met with new challenges. Photo by Lauren Gdowski.


A new semester is a time of growth and new beginnings. New classes and professors pave the path for new opportunities, allowing students to leave the last semester behind and start fresh. Many students return to the new semester feeling refreshed from winter break. Recharged for the new semester, they enter the first day of school with a sense of hope for what they want to accomplish in the coming months. 

For some, however, the new semester can be a time ridden with anxiety, stress and dread. Having new professors often means taking time to adapt to a new style of teaching, leading to cases of trial and error that can result in a bad grade or two. Coming off the heels of winter break is hard for those who have not had to attend a lecture in four weeks. 

Some students feel like they are drowning in the first few weeks of the semester, wishing that there was some way to know exactly what to do. While there is no crystal ball to tell students what decisions to make, upperclassmen often have valuable insight into how to start the semester on the right foot. 

Set a routine 

Fifth-year P3 pharmacy major Jon Gluth emphasized the importance of routine — especially having a regimented sleep schedule. 

“You have to make sure you’re getting sleep on the weekends specifically,” Gluth said. “… There’s no reason you can’t go out, but still, get to bed around your weeknight time, and don’t set an alarm in the morning.” 

Setting a sleep schedule is extremely important, especially because the human body depends on sleep to recover. In a study presented by Harvard University, being deprived of sleep has the same effect on the body as a .005 blood alcohol content does, causing brain fog, difficulty concentrating and trouble coping with stress. 

It is not just sleep that must be regulated well in daily life. Academics and entertainment should be planned proportionately to maximize time efficiency. 

Social experiences are an essential part of college and should be considered almost as important as studying and doing well in classes. Having a schedule and getting work done to the best of one’s ability is important, but so is having once-in-a-lifetime experiences with friends. 

That is why junior healthcare & business major Lucia Mercado also described the importance of a routine. It is possible to do both. 

“Clearly write out your goals and prioritize a routine,” Mercado said. 

Having clear goals can help students keep their heads on their shoulders when classes and homework become stressful. Keeping oneself grounded is essential for success in such a hectic environment. 

Junior music education major Ashton Roman highlighted the value of scheduling and keeping tabs on everything a student must do in the coming weeks. 

“My biggest piece of advice would either be to keep a physical planner or to use Google Calendar,” Roman said. “Along with that, plan breaks to eat and do homework. Those things can be easily forgotten, especially when we get in the heat of midterms and finals, so planning those things early so you have a consistent routine makes it a lot easier when your schedule gets harder.” 

Students need to have a place where they can write down all the tasks they must complete in the coming weeks because it relieves stress. The human brain — when tasked with recalling dates, events and tasks — can often be overwhelmed. A study from ScienceDaily by a group of Japanese students found that by writing things down – physically or digitally – the stress is taken off of the brain and is allowed to focus on other things. Planning also allows students to stay accountable in terms of studying and doing homework. By planning specific times to do work, as Roman mentioned, it is harder for students to procrastinate tasks. 

Create an inspiring work environment 

Having a neat, designated study space that inspires success is something both Gluth and Roman expressed. 

“If your room is too clean or it looks dusty, it looks like someone hasn’t lived there in a while,” Gluth said. “You need to make it look like your room is lived in so you can get into the mindset of ‘This is my home for most of the year. That was a vacation and this is my real life.’ At least for right now, that helps a lot.” 

Similarly, Roman emphasized having a specific place where each student feels their most productive. 

“Find a dedicated study spot,” Roman said. “It helps you get into the right mindset when you have to do a lot of work and it’s really helped me these past few years studying for big tests.” 

Space association is a vital aspect of productivity. It is imperative that students have specific spaces meant for relaxation, and other spaces meant for work. This helps the human brain to associate different spaces with different mindsets, allowing each student to feel their most productive in these spaces. 

Take time for reflection 

The one piece of advice Gluth would give his past self would be to learn to relax. 

“The beginning of the semester isn’t as huge as you chalk it up to be,” Gluth said. “You usually go through a swing of emotions like, ‘This is going to be the best semester of my life, this is going to be the worst semester of my life.’ It is usually somewhere in the middle.” 

Students often place pressure on themselves to be perfect at the start of the semester, since it is seen as a new beginning and a chance to do better than before. While these things are true, it is also important to recognize that the new semester does not mean students cannot make mistakes. As the semester progresses, it can be helpful to reflect on what made the past semester go well, and what aspects they would like to change in the future. However, the start of a new semester should not signal a stressful time; it is a time to change one’s mindset if necessary and continue to do the best possible work each student is capable of. 

Roman mentioned the importance of students knowing what they are at college to do: work. Following life by a strict guideline won’t make it any fun. It can be hard though to remember to not let the temptations of freedom lead one astray from their obligations. Mistakes are allowed, but it can be easy to grow lazy and allow one too many to pass. 

“Take everything seriously,” Roman said. “It’s easy to forget that we pay to go here and that you should be taking your school work seriously all of the time. Mainly because you pay for it, but also because you’ll get the most out of the experience when you learn the material correctly. You’re here for a specialized major, so learn the stuff.” 

College is an exciting time full of new friends, new experiences and learning. However, it can be easy to fall into the trap of forgetting school work, not completing assignments and saying “yes” to too many opportunities. Students need to remember why they are at college but also not to overwork themselves. Each student must find their perfect balance of work and play. 

Remember self-care 

Finally, self-care is the backbone of having a good semester. 

“Most importantly, create or maintain a self-care routine,” Roman said. “You can’t be your best if you aren’t taking care of yourself, so [it can be beneficial to] have some kind of self-care routine or someplace you can go to calm down. Just make sure you have something that can take your mind off of school.” 

Self-care activities, such as reading, watching a movie with friends or exercising can help students to focus when they decide to return to their work and allow for better sleep when the work is done. Taking care of one’s body is essential to one’s success, as it is what carries each student through their day. There are many ways to provide self-care and relaxation. 

While the new semester can often trigger feelings of anxiety, stress and self-consciousness, it can also be a fresh start and a chance to do better than before. It is a chance to refresh old habits and form new ones; and to find out what works best.


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