School starts next week! I both love and hate the beginning of the new semester, how about you? On the one hand, I love the possibility of it all: the new students, the new curriculum, the new learning opportunities, the new relationships… it’s all so exciting! On the other hand, the first week is so stressful! Just like students, instructors worry about things. I worry about how badly I will mispronounce students’ names! Also, I wonder if my students will like me. Will someone yell at me the first day? That often happens. Will I yell at someone the first week? That can happen too! All in all, it is a stressful time until everyone learns the new routine and settles in to the semester.

How then to start a college class well?  Aristotle wrote, “Well begun is half done.” What he meant by this is if you begin something well, you already have a head start for a successful completion. Here are three tips that will help you to begin your successful spring semester. 

Be Prepared the First Day!

  • Come to class early, yes even for a 7 a.m. class like mine! At the least, BE ON TIME!!
  • If you can, check out the syllabus before class. Maybe come up with a question or two about the details.
  • Bring your materials to class. It is never the instructor’s responsibility to provide pen and paper for you, so don’t embarrass yourself by asking the professor to borrow a pencil. Seriously.
  • Once you are in class, say hi to the instructor. Be polite. Smile. Make a good impression, which means don’t use your cellphone during class! That irritates every single instructor I’ve ever known!

Review After the First Class!

  • Read the syllabus. Make sure the class policies are clear. Note any questions that need to be answered.
  • Get whatever resources are required. If your instructor uses technology, make sure you can access it. If you have to buy books, get them quick. The clock waits for no one!
  • Complete any homework. In my class, my students have to read an article the first day and complete four or five homework assignments the first week! They are easy, of course, but still have to be completed. I find that students who have difficulty the first week often struggle the whole semester.
  • Get organized early! You probably have several classes to manage and maybe a job too. You’d like to have a bit of a life of fun too. It is possible to do all that, but to successfully juggle the student demands requires organization!

Make a Friend

  • Most college classes incorporate peer learning and group work, so the more comfortable you are with your peers, the easier the semester will be.
  • Exchange numbers with someone so that you can keep in touch throughout the semester.

Tray Washington has another list of ten things to do in order to have a successful semester. If you have time, check them out here


I hope you have a great first week and I have one too!