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Top 10 ways to start this semester on the right foot

Tips for making the most of the spring semester

<p>Elizabeth Parsons is a Top 10 writer for The Cavalier Daily.&nbsp;</p>

Elizabeth Parsons is a Top 10 writer for The Cavalier Daily. 

With the start of new classes, there is no better time to make sure you are setting yourself up for the best semester yet. Here are some simple yet effective ways to let your mind, body and social life prosper this spring.

1. Read and organize your syllabi 

While this may seem like a mundane suggestion, I can assure you that it is one of the most overlooked strategies for starting the semester on a positive note. I fell victim to speed reading one of my syllabi during my first semester and ended up skipping over a hidden extra credit opportunity. I’ve also found it helpful to write down due dates in a planner with a different color for each class. For daily to-do lists, I suggest Todoist, an easy way to stay organized on the go. Carve out time to review each syllabus — you might just stumble upon some extra credit in the process. 

2. Keep an eye out for club or organization interest meetings

The beginning of the semester is a great time to expand your commitments and try a new activity. Keep an eye out for the abundance of interest meetings and information sessions hosted by clubs and organizations around Grounds. Attending an interest meeting is a low-stakes opportunity with the possibility of a high return in the form of new friends, experiences and skills. I may be biased, but The Cavalier Daily is recruiting new staffers across more than 15 desks right now. Submitting an application just might be the perfect way to kick off the spring semester.

3. Introduce yourself to one person in each class 

Introducing yourself to someone in class can feel a little uncomfortable, but it is a win-win situation — you instantly know a peer, and you likely made that person feel welcomed in a new environment. Having somebody to talk to about your class is quite helpful, so don’t let a large lecture hall stop you from forming friendships. A simple conversation in class might blossom into a close-knit relationship outside of it.

4. Prioritize self-care to avoid mid-semester ruts

I usually find myself much more energized at the beginning of each semester when the workload has not gotten too far out of hand. To avoid feeling overwhelmed and burnt out, plan ahead now. Schedule a dinner with a friend or spend time doing something you love — even if it's just for a few minutes. Wordle, Connections and The New York Times Mini Crossword puzzle are some of my favorite diversions. Winding down at night with a TV show is also a must for me. 

5. Consider studying abroad

Now is the ideal time to start organizing your summer plans. I strongly encourage all students to explore the variety of study abroad programs available to us. Studying abroad in London last summer was one of the most engaging and rewarding learning experiences I have ever had. Making new friends while exploring London — and earning credit towards my English major — is an experience I will always treasure. Take a look at the study abroad website and consider making an advising appointment or attending an interest meeting for a program that interests you.

6. Explore a minor in a subject that inspires you

Let this semester be all about finding what fuels you at the University. This goal includes pursuing academic opportunities that fascinate you — even if you never imagined yourself studying this subject. Maybe you took a course last semester that surprised and intrigued you. Consider looking into a minor in that subject area or even just taking more courses in that department. 

7. Set schoolwork and social boundaries for yourself — and stick to them

I always tell myself that I want a better work-life balance, but I seldom take active steps to achieve this balance in the long run. I want this semester to be different. As someone who loves a quiet night with my favorite reality TV shows, I know that occasionally saying no to social plans is key for my well-being. I also know that sometimes I need to push myself to say yes to things — which shows how different a work-life balance can look for each person. The point is to work towards that balance, whatever that might look like for you. 

8. Reach out to a friend you have not seen since last semester 

After spending time away from Charlottesville, you likely have not been able to catch up with all your friends on Grounds yet. I know how easy it is to get caught up in school and other commitments once the semester starts, so use this time to reach out to a friend you have not seen in a while. As a homebody, I know that this can be a hurdle for some, but I always feel energized after seeing a friend that I have missed. 

9. Attend classes for the sake of learning 

This may seem overly simple, but I promise there is value here. I often find myself in negative thought spirals about my courses when I view them as checkboxes on my growing to-do list. I have found, however, that actively thinking about my courses as an opportunity to learn and share ideas really reframes how I feel about going to class each day. This mindset even helps me approach my readings for class with an air of curiosity instead of a level of dread. 

10. Remember the power you have to embrace a fresh start

If last semester did not go exactly as you planned, I know that coming back to Charlottesville can be a difficult transition. Nevertheless, I encourage you to embrace the freshness of a new term and remember that you truly do have the power to control how you approach this semester. Try a new study spot, take a class completely outside the realm of what you usually study or make a new friend — the possibilities for the spring semester are endless. 

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