Grab your oversized sweaters and doc martens because winter is finally here! As the leaves change color this can only mean one thing, a new semester has either started a few months ago for you, or perhaps starts in the new year. Whether you’re readily prepared or not sure just where to start, this is for you.
As the chilly winds start to set in, it’s time to take a look at what no longer resonates with you, establish new routines for the new/upcoming school season, and find out just what you need to do to improve your quality of life and pave the way for academic success. This is a crucial time to reflect, perhaps even on the previous semester, and figure out what you need to take forward with you and what to leave behind.
Finding a Suitable Study Environment
Now that the semester has begun or begins soon, it’s time to scope out different study spots you can head to later on. Finding a study space that works for you is vital. By finding a place that you’re used to and comfortable in, you’ll be less prone to distractions and be able to focus more intensely on your work. Maybe you’ve previously visited a local café and enjoyed it there, or want to switch things up and head to a nearby library, the choice is yours. Figure out what makes you comfortable in these environments; is it the quiet? Is it the ambience? If you have to commute to a space, make sure to be mindful of the cost as well as suitable times to commute, both in correlation with your schedule, and with the bus/train/etc. times provided.
Making the most of Motivation
Everyone’s familiar with that feeling of unstoppable motivation at the start of a new semester, however we’re even more intimate with how exhausting everything seems when that motivation disappears after we’ve settled into the rhythm of our new routine. It’s important to take advantage of the initial weeks of your new semester, and use this time to go beyond the usual setting up of routines, going stationery and clothes shopping, and reviewing your syllabus and course materials.
Challenge yourself to make revision materials early, go over any lesson materials you’ve been provided with, engage in wider reading to develop your understanding of a topic, contact your teachers with any questions about the courses you’re taking. By establishing a rough timeline of when your exams are, when your term breaks are, and when topics are set to end and begin, it allows you to plan more in-depth on how you’ll be able to use your time to productively and proactively study.
Structuring your Schedule
A practical schedule is arguably the key to success at the start of a new semester. With classes and free periods all laid out, it may be just too easy to leave it as it is. However if you want to use your time more dynamically, it’s recommended to engage in extracurriculars that interest you, and dedicate time to studying and social interactions. Creating a sustainable balance between these attributes allows you to make the most of your schedule, maximize your productivity, and develop new routines and helpful habits.
Try not to overload on lots of different extracurriculars, make sure to not take on too much. To ensure this - and to affirm that you’re not on a fast track to academic burnout - take breaks. This is said frequently but it’s easier said than done. It’s not worth taking too much on and having such little time to yourself. Keep a steady balance, whilst extracurriculars can help you develop socially and develop new skills, it’s important not to overwork yourself and to spend time with your family and friends.
Going Against the Forgetting Curve
The forgetting curve, pioneered by German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus, is a visual representation of how memory retention declines over time, which refers to how learners forget an average of 50% of what they’ve learned within a day, and 90% of what they’ve learned within the span of a week. The decline of remembering this new information is contributed to by a variety of factors such as how the information is presented to us, how relevant the information is to us, and how we feel (also affected by our sleep schedule and how stressed we are).
Despite how daunting the forgetting curve seems, it doesn’t take much effort to combat it. This mainly surrounds discipline and motivation. For example, active recall revision methods can help to reinforce your memory of the content. By regularly reviewing the information in a way that’s proactive, you can better remember and retain it to apply it within exam contexts such as practice papers, workbooks, or practice questions.
It’s also important to be actively involved and interactive with what you’re learning, meaning you need to be focused, alert, and ready to learn. To get in the right mindset for learning, try watching some motivational school vlogs to help inspire you. To retain focus, try listening to white noise/brown noise, ambient music on sites such as Lifeat.io, or choose from a vast variety of ‘study with me’ videos. To challenge existing obstacles such as procrastination, try watching an inspirational TedTalk or engage in study methods like the pomodoro technique, animedoro method, or spaced repetition.
Importance of Organisation
Organization is vital to ensuring you have a clutter-free study space, that you’re aware of what you’re doing and when, as well as keeping everything you need in arm’s reach. Additionally, to better enhance your organization in preparation for the new school year, you should integrate some habits into your routine to help create some positive changes in your life, and habit stacking is the perfect way to do it. Habit stacking ensures that making changes to your habits such as building on old ones or breaking them down to establish new ones is much less overwhelming than suddenly diving in headfirst and finding it difficult to adjust to so many changes at once. Some examples of habit stacking include; after taking my dog for a walk, I’ll do a 15 min workout or before I sit down to study, I’ll drink a glass of water.
Even simple things such as regularly reviewing your syllabus can help you track your progress in order to see what topics you've covered, what topics you’re currently working on, and what topics are coming up in the near future, as well as outlining key ideas, thinkers, terminology etc. that you’ve covered or missed in your notes that are crucial to your exam success and develop your understanding of what you’re learning. It’s important to note that when developing routines, you should make sure that they’re actually helpful and realistic to you and your life instead of being blindly influenced by others’ shared on social media that in the long run actually hinders your progress when you don’t apply them properly. Be mindful of how various aspects of a routine appear and how you can incorporate them into your own, to not just maximize your productivity and effectively manage your time well, but to genuinely benefit your life.