7 Actually-Helpful Tips to Starting Off a New Semester Right

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Shorter days, cooler nights, busier morning traffic, and Fall fashion. The summer is coming to an end and school is starting back up. Personally, this is one of my favorite times of the year! For all the reasons above and more. The brutal heat finally subsides, the flavors of autumn appear on cafe menus, and the holiday season is just around the corner. The not so fun part? School. Even if you absolutely love school, it’s still stressful. If your semester has already started, you know what I mean!

My first semester of nursing school just started last week. While I have still been a ball of busy stress, it wasn’t as terrible because I felt so prepared. Academically, I felt ready to be in such a demanding specialized program for these reasons I’ve already shared with you. Physically, not so much. I miss the summer days of relaxing and traveling. But mentally, I felt totally composed and eager to tackle what was to come because of these 7 steps I took.

1. PLAN!

I do not think I would survive a semester of college, or any school really, without my planner. It is perfect for me to visualize everything on my schedule and have it neatly organized. I use the Happy Planner, and it is AMAZING.

It’s organized in an sophisticated way, with a monthly catch-all page, a full monthly calendar, and vertical daily columns broken up by each week. It’s 100% versatile with special rings that allow you to take out and add in any pages or inserts you want. I personally have a few pocket folders added to hold important slips of paper and receipts and also the Me and My BIG Idea’s “home planner” insert. This home planner consists of a budget, to do list, chore list, and meal planning set up. And it is one of the cheapest planners I have found. I wrote a review of this life-changing planner, including tons of pictures of what’s inside my planner, here. You can also check it out on Amazon here.

Whether you use a paper planner, your phone’s calendar, a hanging calendar, or a bulleted list, it is so important to plan! Plan due dates, study sessions, events with friends, etc. I even like to plan when I will study, clean, or even just relax so that I stick to my schedule. Plan ahead. It’s okay to have to move things around. At least you’ll know that you’ll have to move things around, rather than accidentally double-scheduling something because you forgot.

2. Budget

With my planner, I can easily include budgeting into my planning. In our home, budgeting is especially needful and helpful at the end of the summer. The end of Summer and beginning of Fall is our most expensive time of year, besides maybe the holidays. We have just finished traveling all summer, celebrating our anniversary in July, and about to drop a ton of cash onto school tuition and textbooks.

In fact, we have been in such a need of a financial reset at the end of this summer, that we decided to go on a spending freeze as soon as we got returned home from our last summer trip, our anniversary trip. If you don’t know what a spending freeze is, it is basically just an agreement to not spend any money on anything unless you absolutely needed. The few things we decided that we did need included the obvious monthly bills, gas, and some food. I say some food because we’ve tried extra hard to ONLY buy the food we need. We have been better about using food in our pantry, in our freezer, etc. and not being so wasteful. By going on this spending freeze, we have been able to gain back better control over our finances and save up for the expenses that will come with the upcoming semester and holiday season.

Budgeting through the semester is important so you don’t run out of money! This is especially true if you’re not working and living off of what you made over the summer. Even if you are working, it is helpful to plan how much money you’ll allow yourself to spend on food so you can have enough for the camping trip you want to go on with friends. Also don’t feel the need to spend your whole paycheck – SAVE! You’ll need it one day, trust me.

3. Buy Textbooks Cheap

Now that September is upon us, most college students already have their books for this semester. However, I know you’ll need them again in a few months! I have been able to save probably a thousands of dollars by not buying my books at my school’s bookstore. If you can rent them, RENT THEM. I have found them to be the cheapest through Amazon prime textbooks. That link will take you straight to where you need to be! Secret: Amazon prime is free to all students! You can rent, buy, and even sell your textbooks on Amazon once you’re done with them! The next cheapest I have seen have been on Chegg. I still prefer Amazon, because they can all be sent together, it’s easier to keep track of my rental order, I get reminders when they are due back, and can always easily find the records in my Amazon account. Although Chegg is the next cheapest I have seen them, I have never bought books from there because I have been able to find everything on Amazon for a lower price.

4. Make Wherever You Are Home

College students are all in so many different stages of life. They are fresh out of the nest freshman, young married students like me, older married students, retired students, etc. Whether you live in a dorm, a sorority house, an apartment with your spouse, a house with your kids, or by yourself, make it home. You may be only temporarily living in your college town just for school or it may be your permanent home. Maybe you’re renting or maybe you own. Wherever you live, make it yours. Decorate it. Furnish it. Hang pictures. Even if you will only be living there for 4 solid months, it’s worth it.

My husband, Donovan, thought I was crazy for taking the time and money into decorating our first apartment even though we only lived there for 8 months. But when it was all finished, he realized how much “settling in” and marking our names on it made it that much more comforting and relaxing, and he thanked me. I have always found that I even studied and focused better when my dorm room or apartment felt like my own environment and within my own comfort level. It’s so so worth it.

5. Clean Out EVERYTHING

You’re beginning a whole new, FULL chapter of your life – make room for it. Throw away old papers and don’t start off with clutter. Go through your email and delete those thousands of old emails, subscriptions you never look at, and unread spam mail. Start off with an empty inbox so you’ll actually know when an important email from your professor comes in. Clean out your phone and delete unused apps. Transfer your pictures to a different device and delete them off your phone. You will end up putting SO much information, downloading school apps, and taking tons of new pictures of your notes and outings with friends. You WILL need all that space!

6. Set Goals

Speaking of starting off fresh, there’s something about a new (school) year that always gives me the courage to improve. Each school year I like to make new school year resolutions. They don’t have to be extreme or hard-reaching. It helps me to set even the obvious, easy goals so that I give myself more accountability for them. Your goals don’t even have to be school related. For me personally, my goals for this semester included goals of every aspect of my life. You can make goals regarding your grades, a skill you want to learn, personal or spiritual improvement, your health, your social life, or even bucket list items you want to accomplish in the next few months.

7. Have fun!!!

Make friends, put yourself out there, choose a party or night out with your friends over studying every once in awhile. Your studies are so ridiculously important, but so is your social life!! College memories are some of the best – no matter what kind of college student stage of life you’re in. Succeed in all aspects in your life, even the fun ones. The days will be LONG, but the years will be oh so short.

— How did you or do you survive college? Share your tips with me below! —

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24 Comments

  1. I wish I had done a few of these when I went to University! I always got super organised at the beginning of the term with planners etc. but as the year continues I would forget to write things down as all the work overwhelmed me! I also think it’s so important for your environment to feel like home no matter how long you’re staying there; I love home comforts so much!

    • Hannah Rooks

      It definitely does get difficult when you almost don’t even have time to plan! I love having a homey home too. What is home if you aren’t comfortable?

    • Hannah Rooks

      Oh my goodness, you rock! That is awesome that you got that much education. And you’re working in an awesome field! I’m glad my tips can work for you too. Thanks for reading!

  2. These are super tips!! I’m thinking of heading back to school soon and I’m sure the only way I will manage everything with family and school is with planning and many of the same tips you mentioned here!

    • Hannah Rooks

      I’m so glad to hear you love your HP too! They are so helpful. Thank you for your sweet wishes! Thanks for reading, Morgan!

  3. These are all awesome tips! When my husband and girls head back to school and our boys go back to college I work on my own goal setting. Staying organized helps me be more efficient as I work on a variety of projects.

  4. These are lovely tips that my daughter could use! My son’s going to college next year and could use this too. It’s really important to find a planner that works for you, this planner is amazing!

  5. Your #1 tip is the money maker! 😩 You definitely have to plan strategically to have a successful semester, these are very helpful I’ll pass them along to my sisters too. One just started her very first semester of college (just graduated hs) & my other sister just started her 1st semester of her junior year in college.

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