Beginning with the End in Mind

It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. This is a phrase I have heard often. While this may be true, a good start will get you a long way. 

A strong start to the semester comes from taking the little steps that make a big difference:

  • Review your syllabus. Write down all major assignments and exam dates in your online or paper calendar. This way, you can anticipate stress (and reduce it) before it comes. Even if you are still short on time, you can know what is coming your way.
  • Write down questions. Have questions in class that you anticipate will be an issue or hang-up later? Write them down in the margins of your notes. Then, ask the professor or a classmate later. Even though we often find clarity at some point, the things we get caught up on in class are frequently the things that we struggle with in review sessions or on an exam. Addressing these questions throughout the semester will be more efficient than saving them for exam prep, and will also be better for your learning as well.
  • Process your week. At the end of each week, write a one page summary of what you learned. Put the information in your own words, write down key ideas that give you a broad understanding. By limiting yourself to a single page, your thoughts must be concise. This will help you focus on what matters most.
  • Record practice problems. If you’re in an economics class or a math course, write down practice problems from class or the homework after every class. When it’s time to review for a quiz or exam, you won’t have the overwhelming task of developing a practice exam from scratch.
  • Create an exam schedule for each course. At the beginning of the year, make a tentative exam schedule for all your classes. Jot down the exam date and an estimate of how much time you’ll need to devote to studying, as well as the extent of the material covered (is it cumulative? just one unit?). This will prevent test dates from catching you off-guard and will help you plan ahead for big exams. 

Do what you can to start strong now. You’ll thank yourself later in the semester when the little steps add up!