Back to School Checklist

It’s almost that time! And I have gotten quite a few e-mails lately from first year students looking for advice! Well… I am a firm believer that everything is better with a checklist. And going {back} to school is no exception! Whether you are trying to get prepared for your first day ever on campus or for your millionth semester of grad school, here is a list of things that help me stay on track semester after semester! 

Beginning of the Semester Checklist

Visit Rate My Professor
I always like to check out Rate My Professor before choosing classes… just to be sure. I didn’t do this for my first semester of grad school, and I had the absolute WORST professor I’ve ever had. At the end of the semester, I went to write a review on RMP to warn others, and there were like a MILLION reviews saying how terrible he was. 
Ahhh! If only I had gone there first! That B still haunts me to this day. Undergrad professors are the ones that are really frequently reviewed on this site. It basically just lets you get an idea of the professor teaching style, effectiveness, and the assignments. If you are like me and like to know about a situation before jumping into it, this is definitely the place for you! 
Make a Class Schedule
Obviously, this close to the beginning of the new semester, you’ve probably already got this taken care of… but just in case. I like to make a little “mock calendar” and use a pencil to block out the times for all of the potential class times. When I find a schedule finally “fits” then I’m ready to make it official!

Time to make it official! Woohoo! 

Pay Tuition
Make sure to do this right after registration, just so there isn’t any opportunity to forget or miss the deadline. It’s usually due by the first day of class. You don’t want to get charged a late registration fee or (even worse) be dropped from your classes! Go ahead and get it out of the way as soon as possible. 
Buy New School Supplies
Now, to the fun part! The school supplies! Think about what usually helps you stay organized or keeps you motivated. What are you stressed when you don’t have? Where were some places you could have improved your organization/productivity last semester? Make a list and get those things! My school supply shopping list will be up shortly, if you’re in need of any inspiration! 
Designate Times for Everything
What extracurricular things do you have going on this semester? Dance? Sorority? Work? Write in times for those things. Then… and this is very important… write in time for STUDYING! The general rule for weekly “homework” in college (are you ready for this?), 2 hours per every 1 hour spent in class. That means roughly 6 hours of study time per class! Is anyone actually doing this? Probably not. But it is a good rule to use when planning your time! 
Organize Personal Life
Clean out your car. Clean out your closet. Clean out your purse. Get rid of any excess. Replace anything that’s out. Stock up on groceries for the first week. When school starts, time seems to evaporate. Seriously. Even the smallest errands can seem impossible to complete! Go ahead and take care of as much as you can during the week(s) before the first week! The more streamlined your life is going into the semester, the better chance you have of surviving it keeping your sanity succeeding. 
Get a New Planner
I bet you’ve already done this. Literally, the best part of the fall semester is the plethora of academic planners that are available! But… just in case you need to be convinced of how incredibly important this is… it’s an investment in your time, your grades, your entire future (at least, that’s the speech you should give your parents when they stare at you in disbelief over how much you spent on your latest EC life planner)! After all, you can’t put a price on productivity now, can you? 
Choose a Different Folder For Each Class
In high school, I always assigned a different color to each class, so that I could quickly grab what I needed out of my locker as I sprinted to my next class (until Senior year, when I decided that a package of looseleaf notebook paper and a box of Crayola’s Neon Markers were all I needed). That idea of having a way to quickly differentiate between the different folders has always stuck with me, so I still choose really different folders for each class! 
Find Classes on Campus Map
This is one of the most important things that typically gets forgotten until it’s time to leave! Look up your classes on the campus map BEFORE arriving on campus on the first day! First days are chaotic. The heat. The parking. The lost people frantically zooming on on the campus map on their iPhones. I still do this whenever I have a class in a new building… it just makes me feel a little calmer heading into my first day! 

If you complete everything on this checklist, you’ll be about 9 steps ahead of everyone else on the first day! Oh… and (even though it’s tempting), DON’T skip the first day! It gives you a great overview of the syllabus and gives you more of a chance to stand out to your professor. They are super impressed by students who actually attend class (and will be more willing to help you out later)! 
In the words of the perfect Elle Woods, “Now don’t be scared, everyone will love you!” 🙂

What do you just have to have done before the first day of school? 
Do you have any advice for first-year students? 
Anything to add to this list? 

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