Gross: Tips on having a fresh spring semester

Hailey Gross

We return to Iowa State paralyzed by winter’s chill and burdened by the weight of multiple holiday dinners. As a result, it can be difficult to get back into the rhythm of classes. The first week back, referred to as “syllabus week,” (somewhat accurate) is taken seriously by very few students. After three long weeks of winter break, it seems harsh, even cruel, to throw us back into learning full-tilt. The smooth transition period that the first “easy” week provides can help a lot of people get back into their cram-session studying, library-going schedules.

However necessary it may be to take the first week easy, it is even more necessary to accomplish a few key things before the tempo picks up. Sure, the first couple weeks do not need to be filled with undue work, but establishing some initial habits can be essential for long-term success.

This is not a rant against procrastination; I cannot convince anyone to start studying for midterms or to begin semester projects any time before March. However, a few small steps can make an average student better and a good student great.

One of the most important things a student can do is to be ready for a new semester. Don’t wait to buy the notebooks, paper or other organizational items you may need to make it through the next few months. Not having the tools to take proper notes in class is going to do almost as much damage to your grade as not going to class at all. Spending just a little money on the academic essentials ensures that you are both prepared for and focused on the classes you attend.

This does not mean that you should empty your bank accounts in the first month. After attending your first classes, take a look at your syllabi to see what readings are on the schedule, and check around with friends to see if they are taking the same classes. You want to avoid buying textbooks that are not actually necessary to the class, as the cost can really add up. Sharing a textbook or renting it from a cheap service is a better option than buying outright all of the listed books immediately. Another option is to look for electronic versions of the books — often they are much cheaper than their physical counterparts while containing the exact same information.

Another tiny adjustment that can help is setting your alarm for the same time each weekday. A regular sleep schedule will be to your advantage. Even if you have a 9 a.m. class on Monday, Wednesday and Friday but no class until 2 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday, it is beneficial to wake up at the same time each day. Regularity and good sleep makes a person more capable in their waking hours.

The most important behavior that can help, and also the one that is most often repeated: Go to class!

Of course there are a few classes offered in which the professor posts everything online, there is no attendance or participation score and motivation to attend edges closer to zero. In these cases, proper prioritization may call for certain lectures to be skipped. In general though, classes are very important to attend. Exam dates, extra credit, participation, answers to key test questions — going to all of your classes can be good for your grade like nothing else can.

Professors often cite how much money a student spends per class and how not attending is a waste of all that money. But the truth is, it’s your money that you spent — do what you want with it. However, if what you want is top grades and a plethora of academic learning, class attendance is extremely pertinent.

Feel free to take a week or two easy, to slide back into the rhythm of classes without bumps or scratches. However, preparing yourself for the basics of class and studying will make you more prepared, less stressed and more likely to do well by the end of the term.