The Calm Before the Storm: 5 Things to Do Early in the Semester

Are you ready to go back to school? So many people have been saying summer seemed to fly right by us. Don’t let this semester do the same to you. Before things get busy with things like midterms and late-night sessions of required readings, here are five things to do at school.

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Photo courtesy of Life at UCR

1. Organize your calendar for the semester.

Being organized not only helps you stay on top of deadlines, but it also puts into perspective just how much work you really have. I remember doing two things after receiving all my syllabi for the semester: 1) having a minor panic that break was officially over and then 2) sitting down at my desk with an empty planner and bringing life to its colorless pages with the brightest highlighters I could find. A stack of syllabi can seem really overwhelming at first, but when you map it out on a calendar, you’ll begin to see that you actually still have time to do other things like take a weekend trip with friends, join an intramural sports league, or even audition for a show. I prefer using a monthly view planner so it’s easier to get a bigger snapshot of your schedule. And on days off like Thanksgiving Break or religious holidays, feel free to add a few exclamation points on those calendar blocks – maybe even use some glitter pens or add some stars; regular highlighters just don’t seem to cut it for those special days.

2. Set one academic, one personal, and one professional goal for the semester.

Setting goals is incredibly important – it gives you something to work towards and (spoiler alert) it’s a life activity that never really stops. Being at school gives you a unique opportunity to be surrounded by so many resources to help you achieve a diverse set of goals. Before things get super busy, reflect on these three goals. Some examples might be making Dean’s List, going to the gym twice a week, and arranging an informational interview with someone from a company you really admire. Not only will this give you a sense of accomplishment, but it also gives you something constant to hold onto and ground you when the rest of the semester starts to pick up.

3. Check-in with your academic advisor and career counselor.

Three people need to know you by name in college: your academic advisor, your career counselor, and the barista at the coffee shop. I’m assuming you’ll be seeing the barista almost everyday, so before the semester gets busy, schedule meetings with the other two. Do a check-in with your academic advisor to make sure you’re on track for degree requirements. If you’re considering picking up a minor or second major, now might be a good time to start that dialogue. Similarly, it’s important to touch base with your career counselor to talk about career plans because he or she will have the inside scoop on things like internships and other opportunities. While you’re at it, work on your resume together to give it a good refresh. These on-campus resources are your allies, and it’s key for them to know you as well as your interests and goals.

4. Discover your work spot.

Doing work in my dorm room was almost impossible – I either ended up falling asleep or turning on the TV. Being productive is heavily dependent on where you are working, so take time to explore campus and find your work spot. The library or computer lab sometimes end up being social hangouts, which makes it harder to get work done. Explore hidden nooks and crannies, library rooms, and other student lounges to find where you work best. Extra points for finding a spot with strong WiFi, a few electric outlets, and good lighting.

5. Explore pre-professional clubs and organizations.

These groups are a great way to learn how to network. Surrounding yourself with like-minded people who have similar professional interests as you is excellent social practice. Look up a list of these groups and attend some first meetings to determine which ones you’re interested in joining. When shopping around, consider things such as: the types of programs that the group organizes, the level of involvement encouraged from general members, the time commitment, and the outside network that the group has access to.

Bonus:
The FindSpark job board posts the best creative internships and entry-level jobs in NYC. Before the semester flies by, take a look at these awesome internships that are still accepting applications and hiring candidates.

What are your goals for the start of the semester? Share them below!

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