By Mr. David Netz, Academic Resources Supervisor
As you stand on the brink of another semester, you might feel like you’re about to step onto the craziest rollercoaster ride of your life… full of twists and turns, hills and valleys, loops and spins. What if I told you that you could make your ride smoother or even build your own track? In the words of Mark Twain, “The secret to getting ahead is getting started.” So, here are five keys to help you have your best semester yet.
1. Read your Course Syllabi
Despite what you might think, the ultimate goal of college is to leave with a degree. So your number one priority should be to find out what is expected of you in the classroom. Your syllabus is the contract between you and your professor. It lays out what the professor expects from you and what you can expect in return.
2. Set Goals
If you want this semester to be your best yet, you’ll need to start by setting some goals for the semester. When setting goals, it’s important to follow the SMARTER acronym:
Specific – What exactly do you want to accomplish? Are you trying to achieve an end result or are you trying to create a good habit?
Measurable – How will you know you are making progress toward your goal, and how will you know when you get there? You need to be able to see measurable results.
Actionable – Are you able to make this happen in small steps? Often we end up spinning our wheels if we try to tackle too much at once.
Realistic – Can you accomplish these small steps in the amount of time you have set for yourself? Identify the mistakes you’ve made in the past, and create a realistic plan to overcome them.
Time-Based –Set a realistic time frame. “Today,” “by Friday,” or “before I watch this movie” are great mini deadlines to use.
Existing Habit – According to John Richardson from an article on PersonalSuccessToday.com, our brains are more likely to stick with a new habit when we attach it to or change a pre-existing habit. What current habits should you hijack in order to reach your goals?
Routine – Routines don’t form overnight, so how can we harness the power of an existing habit and use that to accomplish our goals?
Setting goals at the beginning of the semester is an important step, but it doesn’t stop there. You’ve got to follow through every day.
3. Establish Good Habits
Once you’ve established your long-term goals for the semester, now it’s time to take steps toward those goals. As a popular translation of the famous Lao-Tzu proverb says, “A journey of a 1,000 miles begins with the first step.” By developing good daily habits, we ensure that each day brings us closer to our end goal, Michael Hyatt says in his article on habits. Need help to establish these habits? Visit the Ally Center for recommendations: smartphone apps, calendars, schedules, and more.
4. Stay Focused
In the days of Snapchat stories and Facebook Live, there are a million distractions at every moment. Achieving your goals and establishing good habits requires a daily commitment to excellence. Anson Dorrance, head coach of UNC Women’s Soccer, says excellence is within everyone’s grasp and is “accomplished through deliberate actions… performed consistently and carefully, made into habits…, added up over time.” Excellence is the by-product of staying focused on your goals over the course of the semester.
5. Use the Campus Resources
There will be times during the semester when your focus, your habits, and your goals go out the window. Rather than shutting yourself off from the world, use the resources that are available to you. Whether it’s a big deal or small concern, these people are here to help. Talk to your advisor about what courses you need to take for your degree. Schedule an appointment at the Ally Center to plan out your week. Meet with a C3 staff member about a concern that you’d rather not share with your RA. Stop in at the Solution Center to set up a plan to pay for your school bill. You don’t have to do this alone, so ask for help, set your goals, and make this semester the best one yet.