Heading Back to College? How to Prep for Fall Semester

Oh, August. You are still very much a summer month, yet your arrival reminds us that break is coming to a close. Whether you’ve spent these past few months on a beach towel or in an office, there is a shared awareness that school is upon us. This summer, I had the privilege to intern at Sheppard Pratt Health System before my final semester at my university. As I sit in the cubicle I will depart from a few weeks from now, I write this post to offer four tips to fellow college students on how to prepare for the return of the academic year.

  1. Find a fall schedule that fits your current needs. Most registration periods for fall courses began in the middle to end of spring semester. Maybe at that time you were in the heat of finals, and as a result, you chose courses to ease, or fit with, the fired-up mentality you had. If you found yourself working at an equally strong pace during summer, or browsing Netflix at your leisure for example, you might need to make appropriate adjustments to your fall schedule. Jumping from a carefree mindset to a whirlwind of courses may be a startling jolt to one person, or a beneficial wake-up call to another. Similarly, a lengthy course load might cause burnout for the student who has been interning, or match the swift pace they established from continuous productivity. Assessing where you fall on that spectrum now will help your transition later.
  2. Set goals. We are eternally grateful for not only the sunshine summer brings, but also the time it allots for creating achievable goals. Even if you are still working in some capacity during the break, the air of academic freedom should inspire you to start a list of what you want to achieve during the fall semester. This activity should not cause undue stress if your aims are feasible given your future schedule. Take into account that there is no obligation to physically write a list; rather, you can devote a few minutes to brainstorming improvements in one or more areas. For example, set a date to have your resume materials in check before a career or club fair so you are prepared in time. Perhaps consider a daily workout routine that will give you the endorphins you need to manage academic stress. The goals can be whatever size as long as they inspire, rather than inhibit, your progress.
  3. Reflect. Sometimes we are so caught up in what we are doing at the moment that we forget to take away valuable lessons from our experiences. What we fail to realize is that we are constantly learning even in the midst of perceived monotony. Therefore, making an active effort to muse over our impressions is invaluable. Think about the events of summer and how you envision incorporating, or rejecting, aspects of them in the future. For example, you may have learned there are certain settings you thrive in and others you do not. When similar events and situations emerge in the future, you will already have a grasp on how best to navigate the environment.
  4. Take some pressure off of yourself. This is probably the most important tip of all. When we are away from our inner circles and our daily college routine, we tend to spend time thinking of how we are going to return better than ever, both physically and mentally. In metamorphosis, a caterpillar enters the chrysalis or pupa stage (think cocoon) and from there becomes a butterfly. You are a human being, not a flying insect, so fortunately, you are not responsible for morphing into the ideal version of yourself in time for the fall semester. I do recommend taking advantage of the recharging effects of summer, yet I would personally avoid creating an unrealistic expectation for yourself. Without realizing it, you have grown in this time, so capitalize on that gain and put to rest any additional stress.   

Hopefully some of these tips will be useful as you head back to school. Or they could be just the springboard for your preparation as the semester begins. Let me know how it goes in the comments below!

Outside her role as a Sheppard Pratt Health System marketing intern, Anne is finishing her dual degree at the University of Florida. After graduation, she plans on pursuing clinical research before entering grad school for her PsyD. Her long term goal is to become a licensed therapist and researcher in mental illness.