After a long and adventurous summer, it's incredibly difficult to get back into the mindset of school. Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited for all of my classes this semester. The best thing about college is that you get to take the classes you find interesting rather than what the state mandates you to take. But after a long summer spent at the beach/pool or hanging out with your friends having bonfires and eating s’mores, it’s hard to get back into the rhythm of going to class, doing hours of homework, and spending long nights studying for exams.
So I’ve compiled a checklist of tips and ideas to help get you through the first couple of weeks of class as painlessly as possible.
One of the first things you do to prepare for a class is make sure you have all of your textbooks. The IU bookstore offers a list of textbooks for each class you’ve signed up for. While in the middle of packing for college and planning for everything you’re going to need this semester, it’s easy to take the easy route and just order all of your textbooks from the IU bookstore website. My best advice: don’t. There are tons of better alternatives. Be a smart buyer and save money by going on Amazon or other websites and ordering used versions of the textbooks you need. In my experience, I’ve rarely had a book on Amazon cost more than to even rent the same book from IU. That is, take the time to find the best values for your bucks because in the end it will save you a lot of money.
Also, if a book is listed at the bookstore as "teacher recommended" don't hurry to buy it. Your instructor will likely let you know whether that book will truly be helpful or not. I've had both ends of the experience. In one case, I had a book that my instructor advised us not to buy even though it was listed for the class. She had found other resources online that proved to be more helpful than that book. However, in the other case, there was an English to French grammar book I didn't necessarily need for a French class, but it turned out to be a life saver when I was doing homework.
If you’re a math major like me or take a lot of difficult honors courses, you may have encountered the situation where your professor/instructor doesn’t notify the IU bookstore what textbooks you need. Instead, they will email you with special instructions about where to find the book, or they will wait until the first day of class to let you know how to get the book. For my Calculus III class this semester, I had to order my textbook from the publisher in New York because that was one of the few places where it was available and at a reasonable price.
Instructors might also email syllabi or homework assignments that should be completed before getting to class. I’ve had friends who would find these assignments in the couple of days before the first day of classes and have to skip out on Welcome Week in order to complete them. It only takes a couple of minutes to be better safe than sorry, so check your email and make sure you get emails whenever Oncourse so you don’t miss important information.
Ok, it makes the first week of classes 10x more stressful than you want it to be. Not only do you have to adjust to this new schedule but you have to make sure you have time to attend that other class that you might not be able to take in the first place. But believe me, it’s helpful. Many students won’t attend a class because they’re going to another class they’re wait listed for or because they’ve dropped it at the last second. If you are there during roll call for the first two or three days of class, the instructor is likely to automatically accept you into the class. That’s not to say this will happen every time, but I’ve known it to happen. Point is, it doesn’t hurt to try if that class is important enough.
The first week of classes is hectic and even more so if you’re starting a part time job or trying to adjust your schedule so that you can get into that wait listed class that you seriously need in order to graduate. Once you figure out how things are generally going to work for the rest of the semester, plan out a weekly schedule. Figure out when you’re going to have definite study hours and for which classes. The nice thing about the first week of classes is that every instructor gives you an idea of how that class’s workload will be spread out over the semester. It makes life a lot easier to figure out which classes will probably need the most attention and spread out your study time to reflect that.
Spend the time in the first weeks to introduce yourself to your professors/instructors. Talk to them about assignments or material you don’t quite understand, and if there’s a class that you know you’ll be struggling with, go to office hours. Your instructors care more about you and what you get out of the class if they know you better than “that student with the coffee mug”. If you get to know your professor, you're likely to learn a lot that isn't included in the class lecture. Your professors/instructors are interesting people who've experienced a lot in their field of study. Especially if it's something you're interested in pursuing as well, they can offer great advice that you won't be able to find from your adviser. Not to mention, if you get to know your instructors/professors well, they might write you that recommendation you need to apply for graduate school or wherever it may be. The point is, your instructors in college aren’t like teachers in high school where you could breeze through the class with an A without even having to raise your hand once. They're there to help you succeed in your goals, especially if you're working hard to achieve them.
I hope these are helpful tips. Don’t stress out too much – college is meant to be an adventure, so have fun!