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Planning Out Your Semester: Some Tips and Tricks

By Rachel Day, 4th-year Gender Studies student

By now, you should have received your class syllabi and be finishing up readings for week one. If you’re not, then this post is definitely meant for you! I am a bit of an organization and planning expert; it’s a trait that my friends both love and hate about me. As a fourth year student now, I definitely have the planning skills down pat. Here are some of my personal favourite tips and tricks to help you plan out your semester—the organized way:

Get ahead and stay ahead on readings

I know readings are awful and they’re basically the last thing you want to do, but they are important. It took me a couple of years to learn this so don’t make that mistake. A good strategy (one that I employ religiously) is to start a reading as soon as I finish one. Maybe not the exact second I finish, but I don’t wait until week 4 to read week 4’s readings. To ensure that I retain the information and can reference to it for an essay if need be, I make sure to take notes on the important stuff and record the page numbers.

Make an assignment planner

I would advise doing this the moment you receive all your syllabi, but doing it at some point within September is key. There are a bunch of different formats and templates you can use to make this planner. You can go the fancy, colourful and pretty way, or the simple pen and paper route. It’s your semester and your assignments so you track them however you want. I like to include details like the weight of the assignment so I have that somewhere I can easily refer to. Then, when you submit the assignment, highlight it off your planner. It’s incredibly satisfying!

Sticky note dates to contact your professor/TA

In your planner, sticky note 1-2 weeks before each assignment due date for you to email your professor/TA to set up a meeting to discuss said assignment. I prefer to meet with them once I have a topic and/or a working thesis just to talk about my ideas and make sure I am on the right track. Feedback from your professor before you start writing is always handy. Since making this a habit, my grades have significantly improved.

Take advantage of your productive hours

You know you best. As much as campus and peer learning assistants and professors try to push you work within a specific set of hours, you need to find hours in the day that work for you. Maybe you like working 2-3 hours every day before breaking for a meal or small social event, and then getting back to it. Maybe you prefer working 5-9pm and sleeping in instead. Of course, don’t pull all-nighters because you need sleep to function.


Here are some last-minute-self-explanatory tips: make good use of campus resources (The Writing Center, Student Academic Success Services, Peer Mentors, etc.), schedule in social hour with friends or with yourself, and try to get your 150 every week.

Photo courtesy of Cindy Schultz under Flickr Creative Commons Attribution license 2.0.