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Campus Life

Seven ways to prepare for the upcoming school year

By Raven Nyman

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

With summer already half over, a new academic year is on the horizon, and you’re probably thinking to yourself: how did that happen so fast?

The passing of time is inevitable, but worry not, friends!

There are many ways to prepare yourself for the semester ahead. Today, we’ll take a look at seven ways you can ensure that you’ll be ready to head back to class this fall.

1. Prepare for registration — early! Registration can be overwhelming for any student, but if it’s your first year at university you’ll want to make sure you give yourself extra time to prepare. You might be wondering what makes registration so complicated?

Well, coordinating your academic timetable is the main challenge to consider, since the courses you want and need to take very rarely fit into the precise spaces you’d like them to. Factor in the reality that thousands of other students are also hoping to register for seats in those same classes, and you might start to understand how things can get tricky.

Typically, universities allow first-year students an earlier registration date, along with upper-level students who will soon be graduating. Many universities also base their registration times on grade point average. That means the higher your GPA, the earlier you’ll get a chance to register.

In the past, my GPA has allowed me to register more than a few days before my classmates, which can be a huge advantage when many students are interested in signing up for the same courses, or when students are vying to take a particularly popular or unique course.

Many universities will also allow you to prepare work-lists (or trial timetables) prior to registration. Here’s a great tip: create multiple work-lists online to fit in your desired courses. Then, when registration day comes, you can quickly hit “register” without having to waste time reconstructing your timetables and losing your spot.

This will save you a ton of time refreshing your browser and hopefully help you to avoid encountering the awful “all seats are now full” message.

2. Outline your degree plan. This is part of the yearly registration process but is worth mentioning on its own. Each time you register for another year of coursework, you should be preparing and outlining your four or five-year degree plan to make sure that you know your credit requirements and prerequisites, and are on track to graduate in your desired major and specialization.

There’s nothing worse than registering for a course in the fall only to find out you didn’t previously meet the prerequisites available to actually complete that course. Or, worse still, making it to the final semester of your degree only to find that you did not leave room in your timetable for a six-credit requirement you forgot you needed! I’ve had friends who had to extend their degree by another semester or even an entire year because of this simple mistake. Don’t be that person, unless you’ve got unlimited amounts of time and money to waste.

3. Plan your accommodations. Sorting out your living situation for the academic year ahead as early as possible helps to prevent major stress in the future. A great way to prepare is by coordinating your plans with your friends as the current year comes to a close.

During my first year in residence, I spoke with my closest friend who lived across the hall and we made a plan to move in together for our second year. Once the idea was in place, we started planning everything ahead. Though the process of finding a rental was challenging, the experience was definitely worthwhile!

You’ll want time to plan how each of you will contribute equally to the process of furnishing your new home, while also coordinating preferred living styles, spaces, locations, budgets, and move-in dates. Trust me, there is a lot to discuss and more to organize and plan than you might think, especially if this will be your first time living on your own.

4. Do your research. Ordering your textbooks early is another great way to prepare for the upcoming semester. Do some research to find your books at the best price possible, and order ahead of time if you’d like to get a head start on the reading list.

Finishing the entire reading list before the semester begins is a bit ambitious, but if you manage to read even one book from your course work then you will make your upcoming semester that much easier. Readings typically become the most time-consuming part of university, especially if you’re thinking of majoring in the humanities. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: starting early is key!

5. Do a summer clean. You’ve heard of spring cleaning? Well, a good closet clean can be applied to every season, and can even extend this routine beyond your closet. As you prepare to head back to school, it’s always good to reassess the things you need to take with you and sort out the things that may need to be left behind or could be taking up too much room.

Creating an organized space around you will help to ensure your mental space feels clear, too, which can be a great way to guarantee yourself a strong start to the semester. Begin by doing a thorough clean of your personal space (your bedroom), then move along to school belongings and books. Do you really need to lug your high school yearbooks away to university with you? Probably not. 

6. Budget! This tip needs little explanation. If you haven’t formulated some form of budget for yourself as you head away to university, then now is the time to get it done.

This stands whether or not you’re heading into your first year of a degree or heading back to complete your final semester. Budgeting is hugely important if you plan on keeping yourself afloat — both mentally and financially — throughout the year. Be sure you have a plan of attack to finance living expenses, tuition costs, and any additional costs that will accompany the semester ahead. 

7. Last but not least: save your money! Visualize the year ahead. While studying, do you plan on taking only a few courses and working a part-time job, or do you intend on focusing entirely on a full-course load? If you don’t think ahead about how you want to spend your time as a student, you’ll end up falling into a routine you dread.

Looking for a successful undergraduate experience? Ask yourself what you want your university experience to look like, then take the steps necessary to make that happen. No matter what your ideal plan is, there’s a good chance you’ll need money to see it through, so start working — and most importantly — saving, early!