“[Preparation] is Half the Victory”* – Getting Ready for Next Term

Organic Chemistry Christmas Tree

Image "Organic Chemistry Christmas Tree" Copyright 2010 Brenda Park, used with permission

*“Forewarned, forearmed; to be prepared is half the victory” – Miguel De Cervantes


Ah… Winter Break. ’Tis the season for Santa Claus, late-night parties, and too much turkey (or cookies, pies, and other goodies). Exams are over, marks are trickling out, and it is finally time to kick back and relax! I hope your term one grades are exactly what you wanted. If they are not, don’t despair! You can and will do better next term (stay tuned for my article about how to improve your grades). Regardless of how you did last term, some preparation during winter break will make your life much easier next term. Without further ado, here are some things you should do before heading back to school.

1. Relax and Recharge.

This is the single most important thing to do during Christmas break. Consider this analogy: a student’s “academic energy” is like the electricity stored in a battery. At the beginning of the year, there is plenty. However, that energy gets depleted until there is nothing left by the end of final exams. Winter break is the perfect time to recharge. Sleep lots, spend time with family and friends, and forget school. Let your stress and tension go. I know that some families make a big deal out of Christmas (or out of other holidays during this time), but you must find some time to relax. Going back to school without properly unwinding can significantly impact your academic performance and lead to increased stress, less motivation, and burning out.

If you can only do one thing on this list, do this one. You can catch up on everything else quickly at the beginning of next term if you are well-rested. However, an exhausted you will struggle with your courses even if you have done everything else to prepare.

2. Prepare for the New Term

Once you feel better rested, there should still be some time to get ready for the new term. The following tasks make great starting points:

a. Finalize your schedule

The first thing you should do is to take a look at your second term schedule. Assess it critically and ask yourself these questions:

1. Do I still want to take all of these courses?

This is especially important if you failed a course that is a pre-requisite for another course, or if you’re thinking of switching majors or programs.

2. Is the scheduling arrangement still satisfactory?

Did you like morning classes or afternoon classes in first term? How about whether they are spread out or concentrated in blocks? Is your schedule arranged to suit your preferences?

3. Do you want to switch professors?

Ask your friends about perspective professors and assess critically the comments on www.ratemyprofessors.ca.

b. Sell your old books and buy new books.

Check out this article for specific tips.

c. Read over the syllabus and available material for your courses.

If the syllabus is released already, skim over it to get an idea of what the course is actually about. Syllabi can often be found online. As well, if your school has some sort of electronic platform for your courses, check there to see if your prof has posted any announcements.

If you have bought your textbooks already, skim over the headings and see if you’ve studied any of the topics already. A quick overview will increase your confidence for that class because the topic would not seem so foreign.

I think everyone should set some goals for the upcoming term (and I know that’s not always fun)! It’s so an an important that it warrants its own article, and so keep your eyes peeled for it in the next day or 2 :).


Happy Holidays!