How to prepare for your next (or first) semester

Whether you’ve just accepted your offer and looking towards starting your degree, or you’re a well-versed student looking ahead to the next one, preparing for the semester is an important aspect of student life. When the semester starts, the first few weeks fly by with introductions to modules and the beginning of content delivery, so it’s good practice to be prepared beforehand and in the best position to learn. Here’s some of my top tips that I do to make sure I’m ready for my next semester!

Student accommodation | University of Surrey International Study Centre
Student preparing for their next semester

Where will I take my notes?!

I know it sounds basic, but it’s often an overlooked part of preparation – how and where will you take your notes!! As a student who’s studied here for many years, I’ve seen students take notes in lectures in many different formats; some hand-write quick notes on paper, some print out the slides used (subject to them being released beforehand) and annotate them, some type up their notes on a portable tablet/laptop, and some don’t take any notes at all!

Before you start the semester, it’s good to find the best way that works for you. For me, I am quite quick at typing and prefer it to hand-writing notes (plus my penmanship isn’t as good, especially when I would need to write quickly!!) so bringing my laptop/tablet along was the best option for me. In a normal lecture, I bring up the slides on one side of my screen and Microsoft OneNote on the other (other note-taking or text-based software would work just as well, I just prefer OneNote due to its syncing ability and versatility with all devices, and its simple interface). I then transfer screenshots of information from the slides into my notes where I add other points and notes as necessary, either by typing or drawing. Finding a good organisation system is also important to ensure all your notes are kept in one place and in order in case you need them in the future for assignments/revision – another positive for online-based notes where organising them is easy.

Note-Taking for Business Professionals
Taking notes

What am I doing again??

Another point that’ll make you go “of course!” is checking your modules and timetable! Searching up and confirming your modules (especially if you have optional modules) is very important to ensuring there will be no problems at the start of the semester. Similarly, checking your timetable and when you have lectures/tutorials/labs/seminars is very important in confirming how you will be spending each week. You don’t want to start your first day not knowing what you’re doing only to miss your first lectures!

Example timetable for a University of Surrey 1st year engineering student

Knowing when you’ve got timetabled events on during your week also allows you to plan your own schedule for the week. Whether that’s including paid work, societies or clubs, or even when your next shopping trip is, figuring out a rough plan for each day puts you in a much better place in ensuring you do and achieve everything you want to. Got football practice Wednesday afternoon at the Sports Park? Check to see where and what you’ll be in the morning – if you’re in lectures on Stag Hill campus all morning, perhaps you should bring along your kit and borrow a Nexus bike to get there on time! And since you’re closer to a supermarket, a shopping trip directly afterwards might save you another trip!

Reading preparation…

For most modules, some of the introductory information is released before the start of the semester to give you a taste of what to expect and what you might need. Part of this is often the reading list; this will contain a list of books or published pieces that the lecturer or module leader believes are important to read through or have to hand to ensure a good mark in the module. Some will be marked as Background Reading (with very general extra content if you need it) and Recommended Reading (which would provide extended understanding of the module content), but the most important part is the pieces marked as Essential Reading (material which is considered near-essential in understanding the module content). Before the semester begins, it’s very useful to not only have an idea what the reading lists look like for each module but to also know where to find them, i.e. whether they can be accessed online or found in the library, and, if you have time, grab some of those materials and begin reading – trust me, you’ll thank yourself a few weeks in when you have a better or quicker understanding of a new topic whilst your peers struggle!!

Get your daily routine in order

Especially after already completing a semester, the break between is often filled with a lot of rest and sleep to recuperate. For me, this led to a crazy sleep schedule and terrible habits. Therefore, and as horrible as it may sounds, taking some time before the start of the semester to regain a “normal” daily routine is very beneficial. Bringing in a more regular sleep schedule with structured timed meals not only will mentally prepare you for the semester but will also help to keep motivated when the work starts up. This can take a week or more, so making sure you start this early is key to preparing yourself for the start of the semester.

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University of Surrey Stag Hill

Hopefully these tips give you an insight on how I prepare myself for each semester but remember every student works differently and therefore will have different ideas of how best to prepare for a semester; even if you start your degree with no idea, after your first semester you’ll realise what needs to be put in place beforehand to tackle the next semester head-on. Best of luck everyone, we’ll see you on the other side!

Starting at the university and worried about feeling down in your first few weeks? Why not take a look at our blog on “Overcoming the Freshers Blues”!