Here we go!

It’s the first week of school! Some people may be excited and ready to start and a lot of others are probably dreading getting back to the daily grind of classes, studying, exams, and caffeine drinking. Whatever emotion this first week brings you, it is inevitably time to begin another year of education…not to mention my final year of undergrad! Here is my advice on how to start the semester off on the right foot and to ensure success in the coming months.

Get a planner. I don’t care who you are or how organized you think you are. You are never too organized for a planner. I could not function during the school year without one of these babies. There is no better way to keep track of every requirement, event, assignment, exam — whatever you need to know — without having one of these handy contraptions. I especially recommend the daily planners with the whole month in calendar format at the start of each new one. These are awesome and allow for more things to be written down on each day. Some people recommend color coding things in the planner, which is great, too.

Save money on books. My first semester of college, I walked into the bookstore and was shocked to see the prices for my textbooks. I did buy quite a few of them because I didn’t understand the other ways to get books and because it was already the first week of school and I was worried things I ordered online wouldn’t arrive quickly enough. I now realize how wrong I was. You really, really, REALLY need to save money on books because it’s easy, it feels awesome, and just because you can!

~Order books from Chegg. I heard of this site as a freshman but never looked into it. Now, I wish I had been doing this all along. This online textbook rental service is fantastic, and they even send first time customers surprises in the box of books. Through this website, I was able to rent books that were originally priced at $200 for $50. They even include the return shipping label and box so that everything is free once your package arrives. Also, if your books don’t arrive in time for assignments or the first week of class, they often offer an online e-book for temporary use. Overall a great resource!

~ Rent at the UIC bookstore if reasonably priced. Oftentimes, the bookstore does also offer an option to rent textbooks, so long as you don’t damage or misplace them during the semester. This is a super simple way to save money on books; just this week, I was able to rent a book for one of my classes for $6. Make sure that when you are at the bookstore you are checking out the labels that show how much it costs to rent a book. Totally worth it.

~ Check the various Facebook pages where students sell books. When people are done with books they’ve purchased, they very frequently attempt to sell them to other students online. Check those pages before you ever pay big bucks for a book, because a lot of times, someone is selling the very book you need (especially those that are a UIC-only edition) and is willing to negotiate a price with you.

Get an accordion folder. Honestly one of the best things ever invented. Picking out multiple folders to match notebooks is fun, too, but when it’s time to get work done, I really just need to find whatever I’m looking for quickly, and I don’t want to have to search for it. That’s why this comes in handy. Having an accordion folder with multiple pockets-preferably even more pockets than you have courses so that you can also have a misc. pocket/student org pockets/etc., allows you to have everything you could ever need in one place with the added bonus of staying organized. 

Determine a study/homework space. I know it’s the first week, but this is the key time to start determining some things for the rest of the school year. With a lot of things, maintaining consistency is important. Finding a good place to study or do homework is vital at this time, because when it comes time to get down to business, you need to know where you’re going to go. Make a study space in your room, or find someone to go in public in which you feel comfortable. Sooner or later there will be a test, and I’ve learned from experience that studying in/on your bed is not the place to be.

Review each syllabus. Knowing what is going on in your classes-especially when you have a lot of them-is crucial. Make sure you know when all assignments/tests/etc. are so that you stay organized and get the best grade possible in all of your classes. Many classes have assignments due at a certain time each week or have a quiz on the same day of the week. Reviewing this after you leave the class will help you solidify that in your mind so that you are always on track.

Get involved…..You may or may not have read an entire blog about this last week, so there isn’t much more for me to say here. Don’t just go to class and go home or back to your residence hall room. Do something! Join an organization, run for your building’s hall council, go to programs, DO SOMETHING!

…..but still make time for yourself. It is so so so important (something I am still learning) to make time for yourself. You may get really caught up in academics and leadership on campus and completely forget to take care of yourself or do things you enjoy. Try setting aside some time every day or a few times a week where you can simply unwind, enjoy a favorite hobby, or be with friends/family.

Best of luck in the first weeks of classes and throughout the semester!

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