Whether you’re working hard to save money or spending your summer on the beach, the upcoming academic term can feel overwhelming, and it’s hard to imagine what you can do to set yourself up for success.
But fortunately, there’s a lot you can do.
Step #1: Analyze What Already Worked and What Didn’t
The first step to creating a better term than your last is to figure out what worked and what didn’t in the previous term. Look at what you most wanted to accomplish, and analyze why you succeeded or why you missed your goal. This isn’t about beating yourself up. It’s about having the awareness of what you still need to work on, so you can set yourself up for success in the new term. It’s also about recognizing what does work, so you can do more of that and keep building on your success.
This strategy works even if this is going to be your first-ever term in college. You can analyze your high school experience, or, if you’re going back to school later in life, look at other areas of your life. How do you handle stress? What helps you learn new skills for work? How do you balance different demanding areas in your life at the same time?
The answers will guide you in this new academic journey.
Step #2: Set Goals for the New Academic Year
Now that you know what’s helped you succeed in the past and what’s gotten in your way, it’s time to think about what you’d like to achieve this academic year and set some goals for yourself.
Maybe you want to make new friends, improve your grade average, manage your personal finances better, manage your time better, learn more empowering study habits and skills, or network with people in your future industry.
All these goals are valid. Just remember that the most useful goals are the ones you have control over. Making friends, for example, might feel out of your control – you can’t make others choose you as a friend, so it can be a scary goal to tackle – but you can break it down to proactive actions you can take. Get to know where people are socializing online and offline; try to collaborate with peers with more enthusiasm. Then, reevaluate when the term ends, and make a plan for the next term.
Step #3: Make a Schedule
Now that you know what your goals are and you’ve broken them down to proactive actions you can take, it’s time to place everything on a schedule to see how you can pull everything off this year.
Start by writing down all the non-negotiables, like your brother’s wedding or a week you absolutely cannot miss work. Then schedule the rest by order of importance. It’ll help you see if there’s any schedule conflict, and give you plenty of time to figure it out.
Either way, we recommend you estimate how long you’ll need to dedicate to each of your courses throughout the semester and block that time on the schedule in advance to make sure you don’t find yourself unprepared when it’s time to take an exam.
But leave time in the schedule for unexpected occurrences. Some things will take longer than you think they should, and new things will come up that you can’t anticipate now.
Step #4: Plan a Budget
Just as you analyzed your goals and made an action plan to accomplish them, it’s important to do the same when it comes to money management, so you can graduate from college with as many savings as possible – or at least with as little debt as possible.
Check out these 9 smart personal finance tips for college students, and if you want to go deeper, here are 8 great personal finance blogs.
Step #5: Get Your Mind and Body Ready for the New Academic Year
Organize last year’s books and notebooks and put them aside. If this is your first academic year, put aside your high school supplies or whatever might be cluttering your designated study space. Make room for the new supplies, notebooks, and books, and make sure it’s an inviting space that supports how you prefer to study.
Then start browsing through your study materials, get to know what your courses are about, and get curious about what you’re about to learn. Maybe even list some questions you’d like to explore during the semester.
Of course, to make sure you’re ready to go, take care of your body too. Make an effort to eat healthier and exercise, and start adjusting your sleep schedule if it’s become irregular over the summer. Once your body feels strong, it’ll be easier for you to persevere throughout the intense academic year.
Step #6: Get Excited
The new academic year is coming up, and it’s a big deal. Remind yourself why you’re going to college, watch YouTube videos to see a day in the life of people who already have the kind of job you’d like to have, log in to LinkedIn and hang out with leading executives in your future industry. You can do it in industry-specific groups, where any member can read discussions – and even participate.
Step #7: Have Fun
Chances are, your academic year will be pretty busy – especially if you’re trying to balance school with work, and maybe even with a family. Take advantage of the lighter schedule you have now, and do some fun things you might not be able to do until next summer, like dancing until the morning light, sleeping in late, or going on a road trip across the country.
Of course, the fun doesn’t really have to end when school starts. Talk to other students to find out about discounted or free opportunities to have a good time in your area – and don’t forget to enjoy your student experience and classes while you’re at it.
This Can Be Your Best Academic Year Yet
Learning from past mistakes, learning what works for us and taking proactive steps toward our dreams is crucial to set ourselves to success.
Follow the steps in this article, and this could be your best academic year yet. Then follow the process again next year, and you’ll be surprised how far you can go when you build your success muscles.