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How to Survive Your First Semester

The following survival tips are designed to get you through your first semester in one piece. No doubt you will feel challenged, but you can make it through the stressful times with some careful planning. Sorry, no million dollars awaits you in December, but you can never tell how far a college degree might take you!

Survival Tip #1

Go to class. Sounds obvious enough, but you alone will be the one getting yourself to that early morning class on time. If you cannot get to class, then you should rethink your schedule before the withdrawal deadline.

Survival Tip #2

Read everything twice. A good practice is to read your homework soon after class, and reread it just before you go to that class again. Then, during the class discussion, you will be ready with comments. Your participation will help you understand the subject better and make the class more interesting. The lecture you hear will also clarify the aspects of the material you found confusing.

Survival Tip #3

Review your notes after each class. Start at the beginning. Review your notes all the way to that day’s discussion. Soon you will be very familiar with the first few pages of notes, then you will be very familiar with the next few pages…and so on. When the middle of the semester rolls around and you have 30 pages of notes to study for your mid-term, you will be able to concentrate on the newest material, rather than having to relearn all the material from the first day. When your final exam comes, you can feel much less stressed than you would if you had 60 pages of notes and 20 chapters that looked unfamiliar to you.

Survival Tip #4

Believe the 2 for 1 rule. This rule means that for every hour you spend in class, you can expect to spend two hours outside of class doing homework. If you have any doubts about this, reread Survival Tips #2 and #3. This rule is why you get to call yourself a “full-time student.” If you are working more than 15 hours a week outside of school, you are probably spreading yourself too thin. Consult with an advisor for other options.

Survival Tip #5

Write your papers carefully. For each paper you have assigned, you should be writing at least three drafts. A poor student will write a paper on a computer, press print, and run to class, borrowing a stapler on the way. A good student will use their notes to write a first draft, then revise it to improve clarity and sentence structure. They will then let it “cool off” for a few hours before they revise it again, catching typos and grammatical errors. Sometimes getting someone else to read your paper can help you find errors or unclear sentences. Use the Writing Center, or ask a friend. Frequently professors offer to comment on rough drafts before a final paper is due. Take advantage of their expertise.