Early semester tips for success

Keeping good habits


I will begin this piece by exposing my own hypocrisy — I do not follow all of the tips that I plan on discussing. Practically speaking, starting the semester strong is an obvious and attainable goal. Stay on top of your early readings, go to class, take good notes, etc. Realistically though, we’re all subject to the same early semester pressures — syllabus week, spring rush, excitement to get back in your own place and making plans with your friends. However, as much as I am tempted by the fun to be had in Charlottesville and on Grounds, I think I have learned a few things academically and socially that you may deem helpful as you’re settling back into your college life. 

To start, it’s easy to feel a little bit down when your first big assignments start to roll in. Next week, I’ll be taking my first two exams of the semester. So while the coping advice I am about to give you may seem irrelevant, it must be said. Get to a Hoos game! If you live under a rock, or just really don’t care about basketball, you might not have heard that our Hoos are ranked No. 2 in the country, hold a commanding three-game lead in the ACC, are breaking NCAA records in terms of defensive and offensive efficiency and quite frankly are the best playing team in the country right now. 

Get to a game if you haven't, before you lose the chance. I can’t think of a better way to overcome the stress of my upcoming Spanish final by getting ignorantly rowdy in JPJ, expressing the whole of my school spirit and watching us stifle a Virginia Tech team that doesn't know what’s coming to it. Now, on to perhaps slightly more important things. 

Re-read your notes every day before class. This is something I have experimented with only briefly, but I think it really helps cement your understanding of course material. Oftentimes, I take copious notes, but just leave them sitting there in my notebook until the exam is 12 hours away, and I’m binge-studying while double-fisting my second coffee and third Red Bull (these are most certainly not advisable strategies).  

So, let's say you have a Tuesday and Thursday class at 11 a.m. It’s Wednesday night. Set your alarm for Thursday morning just 10 minutes earlier than you usually do and take the time to read the notes you took from last Tuesday’s class. This will help you go into the class more prepared and establish a more continuous learning curve to benefit you on exams! 

Sleep is a necessary topic of discussion when it comes to important lifestyle habits to make routine early on in the semester. Like most of us, I fall into the pattern of staying up too late and having trouble getting up in the morning. I have been trying to get to bed an hour earlier and wake up an hour earlier every day — or as much as I realistically can. You should try this, but there is also this really cool app that may help you have an easier time in the morning. It’s called Sleep Cycle, and it tracks your sleeping patterns, among other things that are beyond my academic pay grade. Anyway, by tracking your REM sleep — which is the more intense period of your sleep cycle where dreams occur — the app knows when to sound your alarm given a particular time frame when you’re at your lightest stages of sleep. I have had success using this app in the past, so you should try it out.

As rush comes to a close and normalcy returns, we’ll get back to the social schedule of people going out more frequently on every day except Monday. It may be a good idea to choose just a few of these opportunities to go out and to use the other nights as opportunities to relax. So here’s an idea — watch my favorite movie, “I Love You, Man” with Jason Segel and Paul Rudd, and let me know what you think. 

Aside from the more typical advice that I could give you but fail to really follow myself, have responsible fun and put school before anything else. For most of us, especially out-of-staters, we are extremely privileged to have the opportunity and the means to attend this remarkable university. Don’t take it for granted. If you keep that in mind, you may find yourself making decisions that will stand to benefit you in the future.  

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