Coming Back Strong Your Second Semester: 8 Tips

Carolina Jacobs

Feb 27, 2023
second semester

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Maybe your first semester at college didn’t go precisely as planned. Perhaps you felt overwhelmed and disorganized or enjoyed your newfound freedom a bit too much, making some poor decisions. Either way, you have an academic record to redeem and the confidence to rebuild. 

What matters is learning from your mistakes, not letting them drag you down or doubt your abilities. You can return and hit one out of the park with the right approach when classes reconvene. Here are eight tips for coming back strong in your second semester. 

1. Get Organized 

Your first to-do is to get organized by investing in a planner. Many schools give out paper versions, and you might prefer the extra space for writing specific notes about upcoming events and assignments. However, you could also find that using an app suits you better if you’re used to having your information at your fingertips. 

Sit down with your syllabus for each class when the second semester starts and write down your crucial due dates. Include your exams — set a reminder at least a week out from each to give yourself adequate study time. 

Repeat a similar process each Sunday evening by sitting down and charting your week. This step is particularly crucial if you juggle outside responsibilities like work and parenting with your studies. Create daily to-do lists with time estimates for each task. Ensure you leave adequate time each day to eat right and exercise — you can even pencil in your workouts. 

2. Create a Quiet Study Space 

Dorm life can be exciting — but it’s also short on privacy and long on interruptions. Alternatively, you might be sharing a home with noisy roommates or family members. 

If you dwell in the dorms, consider a bed tent. These create the illusion of privacy, letting you study in peace. They also block light and let you get your Zzzs when your roommate burns the midnight oil. A quality pair of noise-canceling headphones or some earbuds that you can use to drown outside chatter also nips disruptions in the bud. 

If you share house and home with others, create signals for when you need quiet. For some, a closed home office door does the trick. Those studying in a living room or kitchen might want to keep a special “thinking cap” handy that they can put on to signify “do not disturb.” 

3. Identify Resources 

If you struggled academically the first semester, you might need a little extra help. Fortunately, many campuses offer free tutoring services. Check with your school office for information on peer tutoring programs or talk to your professors — they may know of study groups organized by classmates. 

If you have a bit of extra cash but less time to spend on campus, consider online tutoring help. You’ll find no shortage of professional services, many featuring reasonable fees. Some universities even partner with such outfits to provide all students with free 24/7 help when needed, all from the comfort of their couches. 

4. Join in Healthy Activities

If you fell in with the wrong crowd your first semester, you haven’t condemned yourself to a party lifestyle. You don’t have to give up your old friends, but start spending less time with those whose idea of fun is a keg party. 

Instead, get involved in healthy activities like intramural sports or school clubs. You’ll meet others who share your interests without needing alcohol to smooth social interactions. 

5. Get Your Diet Back Up to Snuff

Are you living on the ramen diet? Those springy noodles might fill your belly but offer little in the way of nutrition. The wrong diet can impede your academic performance, making concentration more difficult and sapping your energy. 

Work that cafeteria plan if you have it and treat your plate as a clock, filling half with nutritious fruits and vegetables in every hue. Save 15 minutes for starch and 15 for protein. Chow down on plenty of fish and nuts, too — both foods contain nutrients that boost your brainpower. 

6. Practice Daily Self-Care 

You might not have much spare time if you work and raise a family while going to school or tackle a heavy course load. However, self-care is crucial. This tip doesn’t mean taking a mid-semester spa holiday — it refers to doing those things that protect your mental and physical health. 

Make time for exercise. It helps clear the cobwebs out of your brain by infusing them with fresh oxygen and juicy, positive endorphins. According to the World Health Organization, you should get at least 30 minutes most days of the week. 

Likewise, tend to yourself before bed. Brush your teeth and wash your face. This advice may seem silly — but you’ll recognize its value if you’ve ever tumbled into bed with your contacts still in and woke up with them glued to your eyeballs. 

7. Talk to Your Boss

Most bosses are happy to accommodate your educational pursuits. After all, your degree will only benefit them if you stay with the company after graduation. However, they also don’t like last-minute surprises. 

Therefore, talk to your boss early in the semester about upcoming dates you’ll need off for exams and class projects. Think carefully about what to prioritize if they refuse — they should accommodate your request if you give them adequate notice.

8. Hone Your Focus 

Finally, you need to hone your focus by shutting out distractions and taking care of your brain. You can do the former by turning off your cellphone, even locking it in a drawer if you can’t resist the siren song of visual notifications. Get to your quiet place and hang your “do not disturb” sign. 

Furthermore, it would benefit you to spend some time in meditation each day. It’s far from hocus-pocus. Recent scientific studies have shown that those who meditate regularly alter their brain functions to quiet activity related to mind wandering. You might find that spending two minutes sitting in silent reflection each night results in fewer afternoons reading the same paragraph three times. 

Coming Back Strong Your Second Semester

Perhaps your first semester didn’t go as you hoped. Now, you have an academic record to redeem. That’s okay — fortunately, you get a second chance. 

Follow the tips above for coming back strong in your second semester. You can rock straight A’s with the right approach and still enjoy the college experience. 

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