5 tips for getting ready to go back to school

I may not be going back to school…but I certainly miss this part of going!

Horrible as it is, when I think of going back to school I think of that Staples commercial where the parents are so excited to be shopping for their kids — and the kids are unimpressed. Frankly I identify with the adults mostly because going back to school meant new stationery! Now that I am living in “the real world” I can honestly buy stationery whenever I want (and I often need notebooks at my day job anyways) but putting together a list like this makes me look back on school with such fond memories…

I have a stationery problem…

…until I remember all the school work I had to do.

So, here are some tips to get you ready for that first day back!

If your sleep schedule is off, readjust in advance

This used to save me so much hassle. Because I was barely sleeping most of my school years I had a tough time getting my sleeping pattern in check. The second-to-last year of university I got wise and about seven to ten days before I’d start going to bed a little earlier each day so that I would be up on time. This actually meant winding down on going out for me because I knew it was better for my health.

As an example, I would generally go to bed in the summertime between one A.M. and three A.M. If I had fall classes, and the first lecture started at 8:30 AM, and I had to be up at 5:45 A.M. to get ready, then I’d try to be in bed by midnight. Even if I didn’t fall asleep right away I’d at least be actively resting. I also didn’t just start off the bat at midnight; I gave my body time to gradually get used to change — if I needed five nights to adjust I’d go to bed at 2:30 A.M. the first night, 2 A.M. the second…you get the idea.

Your planner/agenda/calendar is your bff

Almost every month in school can be stressful but in my opinion the most stressful time is in the fall — I’m sure there are a bunch of reasons why. I found that to get my footing for September onward, staying on top of what the hell was going on was the best way to do that. My first and second years in university were nightmarish, but by the third year I managed to up my organizational game and knew exactly what I had to do, when I had to do it. (Not to brag, but this is how I managed to make it on the Dean’s list those last two years — versus not making it in either first or second.) Journalism school was even EASIER because I was so organized. (Plus I left with a solid GPA and, ahem, an honours distinction, which, again, I owe to being on top of everything. I got made fun of for being over-the-top organized, actually, but it was worth it in the end.)

The tricky part is finding a system. Not everyone will be into it, but I love having a bullet journal — which has only become popular in the last couple of years. Prior to that I was using regular planners you can get out of a bin at Staples (though I find I barely use most of the pages and would actually rip out a whole bunch to “customize” what I would be using). Some people will use a notebook to keep track of their tasks for the day, but the problem with this is you can’t really look too far ahead (unless you’ve made up the notebook ahead of time for each date). If you have to, use your phone to get organized. The be all and end all is, if you want to stay on top of everything that needs to be done — have a planning system and stick to it.

Notebooks (or lined paper and a binder) are also your friends

Again, this all comes down to preference, but I found that when I was writing things down, I was more likely to actively listen to my teacher. If I brought my laptop to class, not only would I be passively listening — I’d completely tune out and start playing Plants vs. Zombies or Minesweeper to get through a lecture I’d now become lost in.

I prefer to take notes with a binder because if I miss a day or there’s a handout I get down the road that I need to refer to, I can just go in and insert said items as I please. This was especially the case for lectures where I may have been sick with the flu and couldn’t come to class — so I’d just photocopy or scan someone else’s notes and insert them the week I was back.

If your class doesn’t have all that many handouts and your attendance is pretty consistent then you can keep track of your notes in a notebook. Pick what’s best for you and your learning style.

Make friends

This can be so hard, especially if you’re going through a system where things change every semester (and especially if you’re an anxious introvert like me). I struggled with this my first two years, which is probably why I felt so isolated and alone in a university of 40,000+ people. Everyone has their own ways of making conversation, but making a couple of friends in each class is more likely to keep you engaged and ready to learn. You’re all there because at the end of the day, you need the credit to pass and obtain your diploma or degree. It’s far easier if there are a bunch of you struggling together than you roughing it out on your own. AND — if you’re feeling alone or down or need someone to talk to, identify the resources on campus and USE THEM. Trust me — I know how it feels to feel like a small speck in a sea of thousands. Talk to someone; reach out and get help.

Don’t overdo it

The worst thing I ever did to myself was take six classes each semester, work 40 hours a week, and sleep two hours a night. Yes, I went through my first two years in university living like that. Yes, it was a dumb idea. Yes, I have some student loans left to pay off, but I knew if I’d kept overworking myself I’d pay for it with my health. Give yourself time to relax and rejuvenate, even if it means scheduling that time in (yep, I had to do that). If you don’t want to end up with too much in the loan pile, then be financially responsible and plan as far ahead as you can. Take a gap year and work if you need to, then put a decent chunk of money away for classes.

What’s your favourite back-to-school memory, or, if you’re going back to school, what are/aren’t you excited for? Drop me a line in the comments!

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