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8 Tips To Help You Adjust to A New Semester On Campus

Female college students sit in computer lab wearing face masks.

Following the time off for winter break, transitioning back to a new semester can certainly bring about feelings of anxiety and worry, but it also is an exciting time, filled with lots of opportunity for learning, self-growth, and challenges. It doesn’t matter if you’re a first-year student, senior, or returning to college as an adult learner—now is the time to set yourself up for success and incorporate a routine centered on self-care that can carry you through the semester. And, given the continued stressors and uncertainty brought about by COVID-19, it’s even more important to spend some time reviewing the advice contained here and taking stock of what resonates best with you.

So let’s get to it with these tips to help your semester start off on the right path to success.

1) Get Organized

Once the semester starts and things get in full swing, it can be challenging to get organized on-the-go. Before your classes get busy, consider implementing a system to organize your coursework, such as folders, binders, and notebooks; finding an agenda or planner that you like; and how you will keep track of pending assignments. Another way to improve your organizational skills is to create a workspace that is free of clutter and provides a comfortable environment to complete your work. Lastly, taking a few minutes each day to create a check list for the next day is a useful technique to stay on top of day-to-day tasks, minimize anxiety related to deadlines, and help you be more intentional about how you spend your time.

More help with this additional resource: 8 Tips to Stay Organized In College

2) Make Health a Priority

Busy schedules and demanding coursework can certainly pose challenges to making self-care a priority, but in order to thrive as a student (and as a person in our daily lives), it’s crucial to feel healthy, both mentally and physically. The first step is taking an assessment of your current self-care routine and figuring out what is working and where you need to improve. Thankfully, SUNY schools have plenty of resources and options to invest in yourself, such as recreation centers, counseling and wellness centers, student organizations dedicated to health and wellness, and more. During the first week of this semester, see if you can choose one thing to incorporate into your daily routine to support your health, such as journaling, drinking more water, or doing some form of body movement.

More help with this additional resource: 7 Tips for Staying Healthy in College

3) Make Connections with Your Instructors

A new semester means new classes and, most likely, meeting and getting to know professors you may not already know. Given that each professor has different expectations of students and varying views on classroom culture, consider emailing your professor ahead of your first class session to introduce yourself, why you’re taking the class, and any other relevant information that can aid in creating a connection with your professor.

More help with this additional resource: How To Build A Strong Relationship With Your Professor

4) Meet New People

Humans are social creatures, and the pandemic has created a number of roadblocks to spending time with our loved ones and forging new relationships, but we still encourage trying to meet new people to expand your social circle and feel more connected to the campus community. Some suggestions for meeting people include, but are not limited to: joining a student organization, introducing yourself to classmates, and attending campus events. During the first week of school, see if you feel up to attending welcome events or floor meetings in your residence hall or campus center to start creating new friendships!

More help with this additional resource: How to Make Friends in College: A Comprehensive Guide

5) Be Mindful of Your Expectations

While this suggestion may come more in handy after you’ve settled into a routine for the semester, it’s a good mental framework to get into and prepare for as soon as you can. Better understanding that certain facets of the college experience may not go perfectly can help you face adversity with a state of acceptance of the situation at hand. It’s okay to not love all your classes, to not get an A in every single class, or to face some setbacks along the way, so make sure to remind yourself of that when things don’t go as planned.

More help with this additional resource: Managing Expectations: How to Make Sure You Are Ready for College

6) Be Aware of On-campus Resources

Sometimes during a crisis or a time of need it can be challenging to quickly locate the information needed to seek out campus-provided services, such as the counseling center, Registrar’s Office, advising, etc. Before an issue arises, and while you have a bit of downtime at the start of the semester, consider looking through your school’s webpage to find where information is listed for resources that you may end up needing to take advantage of. In addition to webpages, it may also be helpful to find a campus map and identify where certain buildings and offices are campuses are located.

More help with this additional resource: SUNY System Administration Office of University Life

7) Create a Routine/Foster Familiarity

If you’re a person who loves routine, one of the best ways to adjust to a new semester is to spend some time mapping out what your weekly schedule will look like that you can stick to. Things that may help beneficial to consider within your routine can go outside the scope of academics, such as working out, spending time with friends, going to the grocery store and cooking meals, and self-care. Consider buying an agenda or using an online tool during the first week of school to start envisioning what your routine for this semester will look like.

More help with this additional resource: How to Make a College Routine

8) Consider Starting a Meditation Practice

Meditation is a great way to better deal with stress—something that college students face on a daily basis—and improve memory, focus, and mental clarity. By learning how to sit in the moment with our thoughts and making time to be present, students may be better equipped to adjust to the new challenges a semester will present or better navigate moments of uncertainty. Try finding a space either at home or somewhere on campus where you can create a quiet environment and start working on your personal meditation practice. Or, you can also tap into the powers of meditation through yoga, tai chi, or qi gong—check in with your campus rec center to see if they offer any classes!

More help with this additional resource: The Benefits of Meditation for College Students

No matter what’s in store for you this semester, SUNY is here to help you adjust to your new schedule and support you along the way. Focus on the present and try not to get too overwhelmed about the tests, assignments, and other responsibilities coming your way this semester—you’ve got this!

Lastly, we know that adjustment periods can bring about feelings of mental unease. Throughout the SUNY system, each campus either has an on-campus counseling center or provides access to community mental health resources to help students. If you or a friend is in need of help, visit SUNY’s mental health resources page.

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Written by Julie Maio

Julie is the assistant director for student mental health and wellness for SUNY System Administration.




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