9 Things to Do Before the Semester Starts
I make the same exact mistake pretty much every semester. I wait until the last possible moment to register for my classes and have to take whatever I can get. I don’t even buy supplies until at least a couple of weeks into the semester.
But for the upcoming semester, I’ve been on top of my game and I encourage you all to do the same. So for those of you who procrastinate like me, avoid rushing to do a million things the week before classes are scheduled by taking a look at these nine things to do before the semester starts.
Check Your Financial Aid
Getting your financial aid in order should be a top priority. Complete your FAFSA as early as possible to get it out the way. When you do your FAFSA early on, you have the chance to fix any issues with your application and get all of your paperwork together.
On a similar note, if you have scholarships or plan on getting any, get your applications in before the deadlines pass. Not having enough money should never be a reason not to go to school.
Register for Classes
We’ve all been there: The semester is getting closer and closer but you still haven’t registered for classes yet. Even after receiving emails from your school reminding you to register, you still somehow manage to forget about it. This can be a huge setback.
Register for classes as soon as possible so that you can get classes that fit into your schedule instead of getting stuck with the leftovers. Registering early also means you get to pick your professor.
You can be sure that every student at your school is browsing Rate My Professors to find instructors with a 4.0+ rating. The last couple of weeks before the semester starts, the pool of available professors starts to look like Walmart at the end of Black Friday — the only things left are what nobody else wanted.
Start Looking for Books Online
I know some students like to wait until the semester begins in order to buy their books. For certain classes, that’s a good choice. But some classes will require you to have your books within the first couple of classes.
When you start looking for books before the semester kicks off, you can find tons of deals from students trying to make some cash from their old books. Search Craigslist and Facebook groups to find students who are getting rid of their old books. Local classified sites are great if you need books that were specifically made for schools in the area. This is usually the case with community colleges.
Of course, there are also online companies that specialize in selling and renting used textbooks — like Chegg, Half.com, and Amazon. As the semester gets closer, popular textbooks will sell out quickly.
If you’re worried about buying books only to find out your professors don’t even use them (this has happened to me so many times), you can return your books without penalty within a certain window with the sites mentioned above.
Sell Your Old Books
You should not only be on the lookout to buy new books, you should also try to sell your old ones. There are plenty of ways to sell your textbooks. All the sites I mentioned before (Chegg, Half.com, Amazon, and Craigslist) are great options to find students that want to buy discounted books. Your school might even have a buy-back program.
Get Supplies Before Everything’s Sold Out
If you go to Walmart, Staples, Office Depot, or any other store that sells school supplies right before the semester starts, you’re going to find a lot of empty shelves. Not only are college students shopping around, but high school, middle school, and elementary school all start in the same general timespan in the fall.
Try to take advantage of early sales if you can. Aside from the regular supplies like paper, pens, and notebooks, you also need to look out for laptop deals, calculators (Those TI-83’s can get pricey) and other supplies that get nice price drops over the summer.
Get Your Work Schedule Setup
A lot of students work and go to school. Preparing for school in advance helps decrease the amount of scheduling conflicts you’ll run into in the middle of the semester. Put your job on notice of when the new semester starts, in case you need to change your work schedule.
You might have to take a morning class one weekday that you typically work on. See if your job will be able to work with you. I know from personal experience that some companies are strict on scheduling, but try to see if they have any flexibility. The longer you wait, the less likely they’ll be to cut you a break.
Set Some Goals
I’m trying out something new for the upcoming semester — I’m setting goals. In the past, I’ve slacked off heavily on studying and put off assignments until the night before they’re due. One of my goals for this semester is to start my assignments within two days of receiving them.
Setting goals like this will give you some direction and something to strive for. Your goals might be to get at least a 3.0 GPA this semester or to not miss a day of class. Come up with some objectives you want to achieve before the semester starts. Setting goals has already helped me become more focused and optimistic about the fall.
Get a Head Start If You Can
Assuming you plan on taking my advice and will register for classes soon, you might have a chance to get a little head start this summer. Some professors will upload a class syllabus or send an email out to that explains the course load for the semester, so use those to your advantage.
If there are any reading assignments or other things that can be taken care of in advance, do them. I’m not suggesting you spend your entire summer doing school work, but getting a general idea of what you’re going to be learning and completing readings ahead of time will make the semester so much easier.
Do Something Fun
Last but not least, make sure you do something fun before the semester starts. Once classes begin and you have to study for tests, write papers, and make presentations, you’re not going to have much free time.
Squeeze in as much fun as you can because once school starts, it’s time to focus. Go on a vacation, spend time with friends, visit your family, or do something else you enjoy. You can’t get the time back, so make the most of it.
Image: Robert S. Donovan