Every new year at school is a scary one. There’s no predicting what might happen, personally and academically. But it is important to start thinking about how to make a school year successful, before the year begins. You don’t control the future, but the present can still be managed successfully. By laying the foundation, you can better prepare yourself as a student for what’s to come. You want to devote yourself primarily to studies, more than anything else. This is a time when all that should matter is getting good grades. To that end, let’s think of ways you can prepare for the new year so you can get the best out of it.
Set up your home base
Whether you’re living with your parents, a partner or on your own in a nearby dorm, you need to prepare your personal space. Sometimes you’ll be figuring this out as the year starts, but you need to start as soon as possible. This is particularly difficult if you’re moving to a new town so that you can be at the university or college. You should familiarise yourself with the surroundings, learn where the most important places are and spend some time getting to know every nook and cranny.
Aside from learning about the wider environment, you should also be preparing where you’ll sleep, what items you’ll need and so on. Make a list of what you need to buy to set up: have you got a bed, table, lighting and so on? This is all important if you want to feel comfortable and at home. You want to focus on the books, not on the missing kitchen items. My First Apartment has a handy list of the kinds of things to keep in mind (this is for general domestic use, but can be applied to student life, too).
You also need to think about other aspects, such as your internet access. You need to have your charging stations for your cellphone and laptop, for example. Do you need to consider new bathroom sets so that it’s not a concern in the future? Sorting all this out helps when you begin integrating into this new life.
One of the most important things you can do before the year begins is read. Read everything. Focus on your particular subject of course, but read related topics that can inform your understanding. Medical students should, for example, consider reading popular science books. For example, in the Guardian, one medical student notes: “What I read not only impelled me to study medicine, but fostered a passion for neuroscience that I have pursued to this day.” Referring to Oliver Sack’s book “The Man Who Mistook his Wife For a Hat”, he noted: “This book is a great example of the Holmesian nature of medicine, and would inspire and enlighten any scientifically curious mind as to the idiosyncratic nature of neuropathology and its many manifestations”.
Many other medical students indicate the same. It helped to keep their passion alive. Law students, too, are provided plenty of lists. As one law professor put it, “Whether you’re a soon-to-be law student or a citizen interested in better understanding our justice system, you could do worse than to spend this summer reading these books. Individually each work is excellent. Collectively they constitute an overview of the values and challenges of the legal profession.”
Another important part to prepare for a new year of learning is sorting out how you will communicate with loved ones and family members. This will be different for everyone, of course. However it is important to make time to communicate with them. Weekends are an ideal time to try meet your loved ones, turning off your brain while spending time with those who are supporting you. This is particularly the case for young people, who are being financed by their parents. If they’re paying for your education, the least you can do is be a supportive child!
Another important aspect to having a successful year is having financial backup. Sometimes you might be lucky with parents, who have the resources to help. Otherwise, it might be wise to consider a job. Young students usually do the most basic of jobs to try make some cash, such as waitressing or working as a customer assistant. It doesn’t require years of experience, but can provide easy and consistent income. These are usually not particularly stressful jobs and can result in some bits of cash to help you pay your bills and eat.
As one expert notes, there are pros and cons to this. For example, a major con for working while studying is that it leads to sleep deprivation.
“The biggest killer to your grades, your studies and your chances of passing your courses come from sleep deprivation. Not getting enough sleep is going to make studying harder and more of a slog. It will make concepts more difficult to understand and will lead to a faster burnout. The students will also find their studies less fun and the daily grind will begin to become too much.”
So while it might be necessary to get a job in order to eat, it must be carefully considered because your grades come first.