News: Featured Stories

January 9, 2018

New year, new habits: 5 ways to make this your best semester yet


  • The UMass System

Ahh, winter break. Equal parts relaxation and celebration, with plenty of time to connect with family and hometown friends. But after all of the presents have been opened and New Year’s excitement has subsided, boredom starts to set in. You find yourself counting down the days until you can return to campus and reunite with your roommates, start your internship and crush your classes. While it’s true that an onslaught of new coursework has the potential to strike fear into the hearts of students everywhere, there’s no reason that this can’t be your best semester yet. So, in the spirit of the New Year, here are some new semester resolutions to get you started off on the right foot:

1. Use a planner.

Daily planner

You’re a UMass student — one of the best and the brightest in the Commonwealth. At any given time, you’re juggling a variety of academic and professional obligations, as well as a laundry list of class times, meetings and deadlines. Rather than making a Herculean attempt to remember everything, write it all down! Whether you prefer a physical planner or Google Calendar, having all of this information in one place will drastically improve your life. Plus, we all know that there’s nothing more satisfying than checking off every single item on your list before settling in for a well-deserved Netflix break.

2. Read the syllabus.

Student studying

Though it can be tempting to shove this paper in a folder, only to unearth it months later in a finals-induced panic, I advise you to resist this urge. Instead, set aside time to carefully go through each syllabus, writing down important dates in your planner and taking note of long-term assignments. By doing so, you give yourself ample time to complete that final project or study for that big exam. Your future self will thank you when you’re asleep at 3 a.m. during finals instead of frantically writing a paper due the next morning.

3. Build relationships with professors.

Students talking with a professor

Yes, it may be intimidating to reach out to faculty, but don't be deterred. Your professors are one of the best resources UMass has to offer, and they want to help you however they can. Try to stop by each professor’s office hours during the first few weeks of the semester and introduce yourself. Take the opportunity to ask them how to succeed in their class, whether it comes to note-taking or study habits. In addition to gaining valuable insight about the course itself, you’ll create a foundation for a relationship with a professional in your chosen field. Who wouldn’t want to get to know them?

4. Set goals.

SMART goals

Before classes start, write down a few concrete goals that you want to achieve over the course of the semester — the more specific and attainable, the better. Take the time to really think about how to maximize your time on campus, and how these accomplishments will translate into your post-grad career. Want to get an A in that difficult chemistry course? Write it down. Want to land a research assistant position under your favorite professor? Write it down. By having these tangible benchmarks in place, you’ll be able to effectively channel your time and resources. Then, at the end of the semester, you’ll get to look back at your progress and marvel at how much has changed since you read this article.

5. Explore new opportunities.

The magic happens outside your comfort zone

Whether you’re a wide-eyed freshman or a jaded upperclassman, supplement your course schedule this semester by stepping out of your comfort zone and trying something unfamiliar. Comb through bulletin boards around campus for internship opportunities that strike you as interesting. Search through your campus’s student organization database and find out how to attend the first meeting for that club you’ve been meaning to join. Not only will you gain invaluable skills and improve your resume, but you’ll find a whole new network of students and faculty with similar interests. While putting yourself out there can seem daunting, it only stands to further your personal and professional growth. And isn’t that what college is all about?

Julia Driscoll is a junior at UMass Amherst majoring in communication and political science. She is currently a communications intern at the UMass President's Office and can be reached on LinkedIn