It can be hard to stay positive at the beginning of another long semester–especially while walking across campus in sub-freezing temperatures while bundled up in multiple clothing layers to get from classes to meetings to meals. You may intend to feel energized for five new classes, a new schedule, and new routine, but quickly find that your energy drains as the reality of work sets into place: there is so much to do, and seemingly not enough time to get it all done. Here are a few ways to maximize your semester’s potential right from the beginning to make it a great one:
1Be prepared for anything.
You probably don’t already know your professors or what their teaching styles are. You don’t know if they use Blackboard, require you to print PDFs for each lecture, or have a no-electronics policy in their classrooms. That makes it especially important in the first few weeks of classes that you lug around extra supplies with you to class. Until you figure out how you’ll take notes for each class, it’s probably a good idea to carry your computer as well as several pens, pencils, and notebooks. If you’re in a math class, don’t forget your calculator. If you’re prepared for multiple ways of taking notes, nothing will catch you by surprise.
2Write more than necessary.
The beginning of the semester is not the time to slack and be skimpy with your notes—the more, the better. Listen in class but also review your professors’ lectures (if they’re accessible) to maximize your grasp of the material.
Buy a planner (or use an electronic one) and plan out your assignments—know what is due and when. Set aside an hour and transfer all the important dates from your syllabi into your planner so you will be ready when a prelim or big assignment approaches.
4Check your email and Blackboard often.
With so many other forms of social communication available to us, we have grown to view email as almost archaic. Because email is your primary form of communication with your professors, you don’t want to miss anything important. Check your Cornell email and Blackboard notifications multiple times per day in the beginning of the semester.
5Create a weekly schedule of work and assignments.
Many classes will require you to submit daily or weekly reflections even if they’re brief. Because these assignments are more regular than studying for the occasional prelim, it is important for you to figure out when exactly you will accomplish each task. Plan out when in your schedule you will have time to get these assignments done. You may need to block off longer periods of time for bigger or more important assignments.
6Visit your professors and TAs during their office hours, especially if your lecture has hundreds of students.
Even if you only meet with each teacher for a few minutes, you can introduce yourself and talk about your motivation for taking the course. When it comes time for grading, it will be nice for your professors and teaching assistants to have a face to connect with your name. Additionally, you never know if one conversation will inspire you to try something new on campus and further enrich your Cornell experience. Most professors are interesting people who want to know their students.
7Last but not least, remember to pace yourself and take time to de-stress from a long day or week.
Carve out time for extracurricular involvement and study breaks with friends, try to exercise and eat well, and treat yourself by engaging in your favorite hobbies. You have many months ahead this semester, but with the right attitude, it will be over before you know it.