Assuming that you’ve already gone through the process of choosing the college and the major you want to commit to, congratulations: that’s half the battle won.
Now the real preparation begins. Everything in this post is to help minimize the stress we feel when we start something new (in this case, college and a new semester) with a short checklist of the important working pieces to overall academic success. As usual, I give voice to the mature/adult student approach to this college adventure.
Get Everything in Order:
From admissions to the enrollment fees and forms to finances and funding your studies. Once you’ve submitted the application and transcripts, or any other initial information to gain acceptance, the next key steps involve paying enrollment fees, taking care of any more forms, and securing financial aid or funding the degree journey.
Finding Focus/Setting Intention:
Outside of passing classes and receiving the diploma, what other intentions do you have for the semester? Or the whole academic year? Possibly the next 4, or two if you’ve transferred in from community college?
Do you want to make friends or connections that last beyond graduation? Do you want to network with professors and other professionals in your major or chosen field after graduation? Do you want to graduate with high honors and make the Dean’s List?
Student life or campus participation is important to the college experience. Do you want to volunteer or gain student employment and internships to expand your resume beyond your degree? Join a club or two, possibly the student government?
Sit down before the semester starts and give yourself the time and space to decide what you want to experience most or accomplish in whatever time frame you choose.
You’ll definitely want to manage your time and energy as effectively and efficiently as possible to reduce stress, illness, or potential burn out. Start strong, stay consistent, and finish strong for however long it takes to walk across that stage and hold that diploma.
Having discovered your goals or focus and set your intentions for the semester or school year, prioritize the most important and use a planning system to keep track of all your events, classes or other obligations. Whether it’s the calendar apps on your phone or tablet, another apps like Trello or Asana that can sync across digital devices, or even a physical planner or bullet journal. Whatever works best for you to make sure you always know what is due and when, have factored in the next club meeting, that internship, or the work study between classes.
Your classes need to fit your lifestyle, especially if you work full time and have other obligations like raising a family or caring for aging family members. Oftentimes, this may require more evening classes or online courses. With the pandemic of 2020 and 2021 forcing many academic institutions to give more energy and thought to online options, that has hopefully broadened the range of courses offered and the time they have been scheduled to make finding the right fit easier.
Acquiring Semester Supplies & Tools:
Supplies and tools for the adult or returning student usually looks different from the typical teenaged college freshman array seen online everywhere. You’re less likely to be living on campus as an adult student, as you probably already have a place to live before you even applied to college. The list of college supplies will be far shorter, and far more refined than that of the typical freshman. A post devoted to that will be coming next and linked here!
Utilizing All Available Resources:
Be a proactive as you can and always make sure you are aware of and have access to all the resources your college and major department(s) offers to promote your academic success. Many colleges and university have assigned academic and major department advisors for each student, as well as have set up an Academic Success Center to help with writing, tutoring, and other issues that may arise. Also see if your campus offers mental health facilities, and don’t be afraid or embarrassed to use them when you feel stress, overwhelmed, have issues with other students or professors you can’t solve on your own, or when life in general just feels hard.
Granting Some Grace & Flexibility:
These are still uncertain times. No one can truly predict how the remainder of 2021 or 2022 will play out. So, pace yourself. There is no rush, the finish line is where it is and you will get there when you do. Focus on doing the best you can where you are, until you can -reasonably & realistically- do better. Be kind to yourself, you are still human and will inevitably make mistakes. The trick is to learn from them and keep moving forward, while maintaining compassion for yourself and others on this journey.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it’s a prime starting point! Comment below and start a dialogue. What do you do to prepare for a new semester or school year?