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3 tips to set yourself up for a stellar spring semester

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January: for some, it is a month of unpleasant winter weather, New Year's resolutions, and a return to school. The spring semester, in the aftermath of holiday excitement (and their subsequent vacations), can be an arduous experience. February and March are dull and dark, and Spring Break seems light years away.

There is, however, one certain method to lighten the challenge of this time period – preparation. Below are three tips to aid you in this endeavor and to ensure you start the second half of the school year on the right foot.

1. Organize your materials
Whether you prefer to function in a digital or a traditional environment, properly organizing your school supplies can signal the difference between an A and a B. Create folders on your computer for assignments and notes as well as electronic handouts and readings you receive. Purchase physical folders and notebooks if you like or are required to work on paper. Label all items with the course name.

While you may believe it is advantageous to begin this process after the spring semester starts, reconsider this logic. You need not possess a syllabus to arrange your materials. While your instructor may request additional items, or folders and notebooks unlike those you bought, this is unlikely to represent a significant problem. However, if you delay your organization a mere week, you may belatedly realize that you can no longer spare an hour to prepare yourself for the work ahead.

2. Preemptively request a reading list or syllabus
Review your registration confirmation. Does it include the name of the individual who will be teaching each course? If so, consider drafting a polite e-mail and inquiring as to the full syllabus no more than one week prior to the class beginning. Note, however, that certain educators may decline, so you must not pester your future professor unnecessarily at that point. Also, consider the fact that the syllabus may already be posted online for you to print out.

If you secure a syllabus or reading list, purchase the required books at once. Browse both the course materials and the syllabus, and note the following: the general format of the class (discussion, lecture, etc.), the progression and subject of course topics, assignments, papers, and projects, and instructor policies. Knowledge of these elements of the class will enable you to adequately prepare for the quality and quantity of effort that you will need to apply this semester.

3. Assess your strengths and weaknesses
Self-awareness is both an important and challenging goal for any individual. For college and university students, it is also critical to success. Before the spring semester begins, evaluate your performance in the fall. Your course grades and your overall GPA are a natural starting point – are you content with your results? Which subjects did you excel in? Which posed a significant issue? Then, examine your behavior in each class. What habits or mannerisms led to high marks? To disappointment?

Determine a strong course of action for the second half of the school year. If your commitment to review sessions was suspect, develop a plan to study in those areas where you need it most. If assignment completion was a problem, arrange your schedule now to devote time to papers and projects. Capable students are those who can recognize and respond to patterns within their own school record.

Happy schooling!

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