August is coming to an end, and it will soon be time to hit the books again as the new semester begins.
Whether you’re a young Fresher, seasoned second-year or are entering your final year, it’s important to make some preparations before diving into the year ahead.
Though the start of classes might feel ages away, there’s still plenty of things to take care of till then, and getting the basics right will prevent you from coming across complex situations later.
The truth is that the decisions you make at the start of term can have long-lasting effects. So think ahead, think carefully and start laying the groundwork now. Your future self will thank you.
Here’s the Caro Student guide on preparing for the new semester.
1. Get organised.
There’s no use dragging all your old crap into next semester if it’s going to hinder more than help.
In order to make room for the new, you need to declutter what you already have, deciding what you need to take with you into the new uni year and what’s no longer relevant.
This definitely applies to clothes and personal belongings (giving these to charity is a great idea), but it more importantly applies to books, textbooks and old notes that you no longer need for your new modules.
Sift through all the notes you made in your previous year and try to be mindful about what will really benefit you. If you don’t feel like throwing a load of papers away just yet, at least consider organising them neatly into an easy-to-navigate filing system, or converting them into a digital format so they’re all easy to find when you need them.
Here are some handy resources on organising your old uni notes…
How Do I Organise My Notes for Uni? – Unimelb Adventures
How to Store Old College Papers – Refinery29
How to Take Great Notes – And Then Find Them Again – The Guardian
2. Gather your new study kit.
Are you sure you have everything you need before term starts?
You might think you can get away with a couple of tired-looking pens in your pocket and last year’s notebook, but it’s amazing what a fresh study kit can do to your motivation.
Be as prepared as possible by treating yourself to a new set of stationary and a couple of new notebooks. Hey, a smart-looking pencil case wouldn’t go amiss either. The point is that you need to feel excited about studying, and things like coloured pens, highlighters and a fancy ruler can be the way to do that.
Also, get your textbooks as far in advance as you can. No doubt your new reading list was posted to you or you can find it on your student intranet. If in doubt, you can even email your tutors to see what books are required, which will go a long way and show initiative.
Once you know what books you need, you can work on hunting them down online, finding the best prices or buying them from ex-students. You can even borrow them from your uni library if necessary – but get in there early as copies run out fast.
University Stationary Checkklist – Duraweld
23 Cute Bits of Stationery to Refresh your Stash – Cosmopolitan
Top 10 Essential Stationery for Students – The Independent
3. Get a time management system
Before you dive into a new semester of studying, you’re going to need a plan on how you’ll manage your time.
Not only will this really help with fitting in adequate study time for all your modules; it’ll also help prevent you becoming distracted or overwhelmed as the semester picks up pace.
Once you’ve got your new timetable (which can usually be found on your student intranet), grab a wall planner, calendar or diary and start pencilling in when you have classes and when you’ll fit in study periods. You can also add any extra-curricular activities, work shifts, sports practices or workouts, if you’d like.
Going into the semester with a view of where you’ll be spending your time enables you to see clearly how much time you really have to fit everything in. You’ll also be more likely to stick to a study schedule.
10 Super Easy Time Management Techniques (Tips 3 and 4 are especially helpful for creating a schedule you’ll stick to.)
7 Time Management Tips for Students – Top Universities
Time Management Skills Guide – Open University
4. Choose your modules carefully
When enrolling for your new modules, it can be pile up on more than you can handle in the pursuit of extra credit.
The truth is, however, that not having time to give proper attention to each module will result in your damaging your overall grade in the long run.
When choosing your modules, be sure to think carefully. Do you know exactly how much work is required for each one? Are you really passionate about that subject? Do you know what’s mandatory and what’s optional?
Once you have all of the information available, you can clearly decide which modules will most benefit you this semester and which ones you’ll most enjoy. Enjoying a subject will make it much easier to study, and not taking on too much will help you stay calm come exam time.
So choose carefully.
5. Get your finances in order
It’s all well and good if you’re all ready to hit the books.
But what dent in your wallet is the new term going to leave behind?
Before the semester begins, it’s a good idea to evaluate your money situation so you can plan accordingly and be prepared for any financial difficulties. Do you know when your first loan instalment will come in? Do you have any money you could use in the event your loan is delayed? Do you have any other funding headed your way? Will you need to find a part-time job?
Once you know how much money you can expect to be living on, you can then draw up a weekly budget which will help with avoiding unexpected costs. Check out our post on minimising student debt and look at no.2, which explains how to create and stick to a budget.
Other useful resources:
How to Manage your Money – The Complete University Guide
Managing Money – UCAS
Top Five Apps for Managing Student Finance – Times Higher Education
6. Find the right accommodation
You’ve probably already sorted your student digs for the next year. But if you’re a bit last-minute, or something has fallen through, there’s still plenty of great accommodation options available. You just need to know where to look.
If you’re a Fresher and didn’t manage to get a place in your uni’s shared halls or catered accommodation, then consider private halls instead. Second and third-years may prefer to move into a shared house, where rent and bills are split evenly between housemates.
Check out your student union’s list of approved accommodation providers across the city. This is a great place to start as these providers have often been checked and vetted by both students and housing bodies.
Be sure to also check Facebook groups for your uni and your specific course to see who else may be looking for a place to live. You could buddy up with some like-minded people and find a house to rent. If you’re a Fresher, communal student sites like Save The Student enable you to connect with other students in your city and reach out to those needing a housemate.
Liverpool Student Homes service – University of Liverpool
7. Take care of transport needs
Once you know where you’ll be living next semester, you can take care of your transport.
If your place is more than walking distance to the campus, then you’ll need to figure out how you’ll be getting to uni each day. Will you need your own car? Can you ride the bus, train or cycle? Do you live with anybody that you could car-share with?
If you need to purchase a bus pass or train pass for the semester, then it’s a good idea to do this early on to avoid the student queues. If you can do it online or pop into your student union before the semester starts, this will definitely save you unnecessary cash and stress when your classes do kick in.
Bike hire registration – City Bike Liverpool
Traveling to University – Merseytravel
Student Saver Tickets – Arriva Bus
8. Buy your house essentials
It can make all the difference in the world knowing you’re going off to uni with everything you need for a home sweet home.
Not only can it help with potential homesickness; it also makes moving into your new accommodation exciting and comforting rather than strange and daunting.
Make sure you have all of the essentials before you go, including bedding, lamps, cooking utensils, cutlery, recipe books, cleaning products, photos frames and any small items of furniture such as a desk or side table.
For communal appliances such as a microwave or hoover, it can be good to talk to the people you’ll be living with first and see if anybody has one they can bring, or if they’d like to split the cost.
What to Take to University Checklist – Save the Student
The Ultimate University Packing List – Uni Baggage
Uni Essentials: A definitive list of everything you’ll need in halls – From coat hangers to condoms, Cosmo offers a list of items you definitely may not have thought of.
9. Come up with a housemate agreement
Before you move in with your new house or flatmates, it’s a good idea to have a chat – virtual or face to face – to make sure everybody knows where they stand regarding bills etc.
Unlike your uni’s catered accommodation, living in a private house or flat requires all of you to be responsible for paying the rent, and there may be bills, like internet, water and TV license, that need to be split accordingly.
Rather than wait until the start of term when you’re all living under the same roof, it’s better to agree beforehand how the bills and other costs will be shared, to avoid possible arguments later on. It might also be a good idea to agree on who will be in charge of which bill – for example, who will pay the internet, who will pay the water and so on each month.
Splitwise App (an app to help you split expenses with friends.)
5 Things to Consider when Splitting Bills with Roommates – Bustle questioned a money guru on how to split bills with housemates without causing a massive ruckus.
9 Ways You Can Pay Student Bills – This guide from The Independent lets you know the different ways communal bills can be paid, as well as the pros and cons of each one, so you can decide what’s best for you.
A Guide to Student Energy Bills – Save the Student has us covered again with this handy, easy-to-understand guide on what bills you actually need to pay, what they’ll likely cost and the easiest ways to split them.
10. Know where you can go for help
Whether you’re a new Fresher feeling a bit lost, or you’d like to know where you can go when life’s stresses wear you down, It helps to know where your cavalry’s at.
Your uni will have a special counselling service or student drop-in centre to help students with any problems they may be having. It’s usually located in your student union, but you should be able to find further details via your student intranet.
Additionally, there are external services available to help you too, whenever you might need them. Make a note of the resources below and keep them in case you need them.
XenZone – XenZone are providers of various online counselling services for young people and adults.
BetterHelp – BetterHelp puts you in touch with your own accredited, fully qualified counsellor. For a low flat fee per month, you can benefit from unlimited online counselling whenever and as often as you’d like.
Online Counselling Service – OCS provide a special online counselling service for students, offering a fixed number of sessions via email, instant chat or telephone for a flat fee. You’ll also receive access to self-help books and resources.
11. Adjust your body clock
The chances are your summer has involved going to bed late and waking up whenever.
But when classes start, you’ll likely have a much earlier rising time and your body may not know what’s hit it.
Rather than wait until classes begin, consider getting your circadian rhythm back in tune with ‘uni timing as soon as possible. If you can move into your new accommodation a week before classes start, that will really help with establishing your new routine, before having the added stress of classes.
Start going to bed 15 minutes earlier each day, and rising 15 minutes earlier, until you’re able to comfortably wake at the time you need to make your earliest class. For help with changing your sleep routine, check out no. 7 in our time management techniques post.
How I Finally Trained Myself to Wake Up Early – Lindsay Goldwert from Fast Company shares the best apps and alarm clocks she uses to beat the morning snooze.
The Most Successful Techniques for Rising Early – Zen Habits master Leo Babuata shares his secrets on how to become an early riser in a way that works with your body.
11 Unusual Tips for Waking Up Early – These tips provide some extra help you just may not have thought of before.
12. Set some goals
Having goals is a great way to kick-start the new term and help you stay motivated throughout.
The chances are that obstacles and difficulties will present themselves, but having long and short-term goals to work to will really help with guiding you through the madness.
Whether you’d like to achieve a certain grade, do some more work experience, improve on your study skills or make some new friends, any goal or aim you have will remind you what you want to get out of the new year and uni life in general.
Take some time to think about your goals and write them down in a diary or somewhere you can see them. Each month, reflect on your progress and see if there’s anything you can change to bring you closer to your achievement.
Personal Goal Setting: Learning to Set SMART Goals – MindTools explains what it means to set SMART goals, which will help you with living life your way.
The Ultimate Guide to Goal Setting: Step by Step – Wanderlust Worker explains there’s a right and a wrong way to set goals, and why so many of us get it wrong. You’ll then be shown how to set your own goals the right way – step by step.
The Beginner’s Guide to Goal Setting – Businessman and mentor Michael Hyatt shares his secrets for effective goal-setting, even if you’ve never bothered to set them before.
What other things are you doing to prepare for the new semester? Let us know by tweeting us @CaroStudents.