How to Start a New Semester Strong

This guest post was written by Scarlett Ho, a third year International Affairs and Political Science major with a minor in Law and Public Policy.

The first few weeks of school, coming back to campus for the spring semester can be exciting and rejuvenating. However, after having enjoyed a much-deserved winter break, students might find it hard to adjust to their new class schedule. (Especially when the winter weather in New England is so uninviting). No matter what grades you got last semester, this is the chance to start anew. Here are a few tips on how to start a new semester strong and to get the most out of your college experience.

1. Plan Ahead:

We have all heard this before: First week of classes start, and we think they’re easy and manageable. We waste our time on random things until realizing days before, an assignment is due. So, we pull an all-nighter and as you can imagine, the final grade turns out to be a disaster. How can you ensure this does not become a vicious cycle?

Read the course syllabus

Since the first week of school just started with new professors and the course syllabus introduction, take time to read it in detail. Highlight assignment deadlines, pay attention to required readings and examination dates and put them on your calendar. Clarify with the professor if needed.

Define workload

Once you understood the syllabus and know your deadlines, how do you go about planning your semester? If a term paper/project is due at the end of the semester, the easiest way is to break the task into smaller chunks, which you could tackle little by little. Create to-do lists and long-term goals to guide you along the way and keep track of progress. For instance, if you got a paper assignment, this is what the to-do list can look like:

  1. Research and pick topics/research questions
  2. Meet up with professor to discuss in detail
  3. Go to the library for academic books/journals
  4. First draft due
  5. Go to Northeastern Writing Center/Peer advising
  6. Revise
  7. Finish the essay
  8. Proofread

2. Maintain a Neat Environment:

According to a study by Princeton University Neuroscience Institute, a cluttered and chaotic environment restricts your ability to focus. As such, a clean and organized working desk, good lighting and room setup are crucial in determining productivity. Even when you look at your co-op workplace, things are kept at a minimal and the office is usually well ventilated with sufficient light.

Make sure you maintain a neat dorm/apartment to have a conducive environment for studying. Set aside small chunks of time or work between breaks to clean up and put away unnecessary things. If the setup of the room is a problem, try going to the library.

3. Get Involved With Campus Activities:

While academic classes are important, school clubs and organizations are also a good way to establish a connection with the school and build up your resume with leadership positions. Since most jobs focus a lot on your ability to interact with others, getting started with school organizations can be a good way to demonstrate you are a team player. In my previous interviews, I was asked questions such as, “Tell me a time when you had a problem with one of your team-mates and how did you resolve that?” Getting involved on campus not only gives you the experience of working with peers, it also opens doors for you and prepares you for the real world.

The other aspect of getting involved is by helping a professor do research. Was there a class you have taken before that fascinates you and aligns with your professional interest? If so, get in touch with the professor and see if you can help them out in anyway. Professors can be great mentors that can guide you along the way throughout college.

So be sure to take advantage of what Northeastern has to offer, both academically and socially, and make the most out of your college experience!

Scarlett Ho is a third year International Affairs and Political Science major with a minor in Law and Public Policy. During fall 2014, she studied abroad in Belgium where she interned at the European Parliament. The summer prior to that, she interned for Senator Warren on Capitol Hill, and previously Congressman Lynch in Massachusetts. She can be reached at for any questions ranging from resume writing, job searching to her experiences.

Photo Source: Yellow Page College Directory

5 Apps For A More Productive, More Awesome Semester

appsThe new semester is coming up fast, and its time to prepare. So while you’re being forced to download an app you neither want nor need (looking at you, Facebook messenger), take a minute to download some free apps to make your life easier and more efficient this semester.

RefMe: Here’s the situation – you have a paper due in an hour and you can’t remember the difference between MLA and APA citations. We get it. RefMe can help. Simply scan the barcode of the book you just referenced and you instantly have every form of citation you could possibly need. Chicago style? Easy. APA footnotes? No problem.

Evernote: This is one of the most useful apps you will ever download for a new school year. Make a list of employers you want to meet during that networking event and check them off as you go. Write a grocery list during class that you can access on your phone in the middle of the supermarket so you don’t forget pasta sauce again. Type notes on your computer and record the class lecture at the same time, and it will immediately be available on your tablet, your phone, and your computer so you can review that case study on your walk home.

White Noise: Getting out of the house every now and again to study in a new environment is refreshing, but not if the person a table away is talking on his phone like he’s never heard of an inside voice. WhiteNoise is an easy-to-use white noise generator that helps you block out distractions so you can study in peace.

Duolingo: You’re studying abroad in Spain next semester, so it’s high time you refreshed your Spanish language skills. Duolingo teaches you grammar & vocabulary with quick activities you can do a few minutes a day on the T. You’ll have your Spanish down in no time!

StudyBlue: StudyBlue means you can study whatever you want, wherever you are, with portable flashcards. Create a set of flashcards on your computer or your phone through StudyBlue, and you can access them at any time on your phone or tablet.

Want to make this the best semester ever? Add a couple of new apps to your phone or tablet. You’ll be smarter, more efficient, and better looking (probably).

Lindsey Sampson is a junior International Affairs major with minors in Social Entrepreneurship and Writing. She enjoys writing about Millennials in the workplace and social media as a marketing tool. Follow her blog here and tweet her @lindseygsampson.