The Counselor:: 6 Tips For College Students Headed Back To School

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In the hustle and bustle of preparing for students to come back to school and residents moving back into the halls, I’m filled with the excitement that comes with starting a new academic year. With summer in our rear-view mirror and the fall semester upon us, now is a great time for reflection and goal setting for the upcoming semester. Here’s six ways you can get a great start off to the school year.

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1) Forget about last year (or nah?)

Remember accomplishments and even mistakes. Learn from experience and let it be motivation to conquer the journey ahead. It’s important to know what drives you every morning. Designate your motivation. What drives you? A hater? A powerful verse, poem, or quote? Your family? That ideal job? Or just gaining new knowledge and passing a very difficult course? Place a picture of your motivation somewhere so you’ll see it everyday. 

2) Develop a daily ritual

Establishing a routine helps to produce a more consistent plan for achieving daily goals. Not a person who likes “routine”? Remember the six P’s – Proper Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance. Find out what works for you. I personally like to start my day with quiet time – to pray, or just sit, listen, and think about my purpose and how I want to interact with people for the day. Listening to the stillness of the air reminds me of how slow time moves even when I move so fast. It may sound cheesy, but it helps “get my mind right” and sets me up to obtain my definition of success daily.

3) Set aside special time to get it done in advance

Completing assignments for class can lead to ultimate procrastination. Don’t go into the school year blind by trying to tackle assignments the day they are due. Create a designated study time or “work day” devoted strictly for school business. For example, while I was in graduate school, Fridays from 2pm-6pm was my special time to start on upcoming assignments or to “Get my life together” as I like to put it. During this time (and other study times), I would turn my phone off. I was surprised at how much work I could accomplish in 2-4 hours when I didn’t have my phone to look at every 20 minutes. Although Friday was not the only day I did school work, it was my day to “get ahead”. My motivation for getting work done on Fridays was meeting up with friends afterwards.

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4) Get the squares out of your circle

Connect with people who want to see you succeed. Surround yourself with accountability partners, mentors, and people who influence you to do great things. Most likely, the people who want to see you succeed are people who want better for themselves as well. Cut off (or limit time) with people in your circle who do not have the same thing to lose. It may sound harsh, but you are whom you hang around. If you feel like you are not where you want to be, you may need to examine your perimeter. Don’t get me wrong, uplifting others and being an inspiration to better lives is awesome, but don’t get caught up in life altering situations simply because of whom you hang around.

5) “Me” time.

Even though you may be in school to get a degree in order to start your career, it is important to remember that you are not a student first. You are a person first. Self-care is essential and necessary in order to achieve a healthy balance when it comes to different roles in life. While it is important to keep your eyes on the prize, don’t forget that life is what happens when you’re busy doing other things. While I was in graduate school, Saturday was “Tierra Day”. On Saturdays, I did pretty much anything I wanted to do that did not have to deal with school, work, or the job search. Enjoy life and sniff those flowers that you keep walking by while you can.

6) Celebrate your success

While there’s always room for improvement and humility is a great trait of a servant leader. If you’ve worked damn hard for something, reward yourself. Celebrate your successes and/or tastefully tell the world (via social media outlets) if you feel so inclined. You never know, your successes might inspire someone else. Don’t let someone make you feel bad for being proud of yourself, simply because they’re not.

Most Student Affairs professionals (and other professions in education) tend to live their life via academic year, not calendar year. The fall semester means so many things to me. My favorite thing about the start of a new semester is seeing campus come alive again, but most importantly new goals and new opportunities to improve. Remember, it’s never too late to re-invent yourself, even if it’s mid-semester! It’s ultimately about getting to graduation and with these tips you’ll be one step closer to that goal!

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