10 Things To Do In Your First Semester or Quarter of College
Last updated September 28, 2022
Congratulations on starting your first year of college! Whether your college follows the semester or quarter system, there are important tasks to take care of in your first term (aka first few months) of college to ensure you’re on the right track. To help set you up for success, we created a list of 10 things to complete in your first semester or quarter of college.
Finalize your course schedule
In the first few weeks, you’ll take time to get a grasp of what your course schedule is like, which may be different from what you expected when you first registered for classes. Maybe you realize your course load might be too challenging, or you forgot to add a required class - no matter the reason, most colleges and universities allow some flexibility to change your schedule and set you up for a better quarter/semester.
Most colleges and universities have add and/or drop periods, which is a period of time at the start of each academic term that allows students to do the following (depending on school policy) without penalties:
- Add new classes (if space is available)
- Drop existing classes
- Switch an existing class to a different session/time (if space is available)
- Change the grading basis from grade points (a letter grade, which affects your GPA) to Credit/No Credit (CR/NC, which doesn’t affect your GPA)
Students will receive full refunds for dropped courses, and course changes do not appear on official transcripts. However, keep in mind that changes to your schedule may affect your financial aid (for example, most financial aid packages require the student to be enrolled full time - 12 credits). Course add/drop periods may also have different deadlines depending on your school, so we recommend checking with your school’s registrar’s office to confirm these deadlines.
Make sure you have all the right textbooks
While it's ideal to rent or buy your textbooks before the semester/quarter begins, we know it's not always the reality. As we mentioned before, your schedule can change (like needing to add or drop a class) or your financial aid is disbursed at a later date, preventing you from securing your textbooks right away. In addition, if you bought your textbooks, there may be a strict return policy for a full refund or you may not be able to return them at all! So if you're in that situation, it might be best to rent or buy your textbooks and course materials in the first two to three weeks of class as you finalize your course schedule. Make sure you don't hold off on getting your textbooks any later than that, as it's important to keep you on track and not fall behind any assignment deadlines!
Check the status of your tuition and payments
You may still owe some tuition and fees, which can happen for a few reasons - including if you add a new course or your financial aid was disbursed at a later date. Not paying this balance can lead to penalties like late fees or being dropped from a class. Check your student portal to make sure you don’t have an outstanding balance!
Meet with your academic advisor
It’s important that you meet with your academic advisor at least once each quarter or semester. They can help you finalize your course schedule, connect you to great resources on campus, and recommend classes to register for in the next academic term. Building a solid relationship with your advisor will help you in the long run, and keep you on track towards graduating!
Learn how to manage your time
Juggling your classes, your job, and your extracurricular activities can be challenging at first when adjusting to a new routine. It might be helpful to schedule out your quarter/semester to help you get used to your routine, and plan for any major assignments or tests ahead of time. Course syllabi typically provides a week-by-week schedule of assignments, readings, and dates for final projects or tests, which you can usually find in your student learning portal. It can take some time to figure it out in the beginning, but creating a schedule can help you get a better picture of what your quarter/semester will look like and help to avoid overscheduling yourself.
Find your ideal study space
Whether you’re living on campus or commuting from home, you’ll need to have a place to study and do your homework. As you explore your campus, take note of potential places where you can study effectively. If you focus better with noise in the background, your campus coffee shop might be the place to go - but if you need to study distraction free, you may find that a quiet place in the library works best for you.
Go to office hours
Going to office hours is a great way to meet with your professors. During office hours, you and your professor or TA can answer any class-related questions, discuss grades, seek learning accommodations, and more. Going to office hours also demonstrates your commitment to class, and your professor is more likely to remember you in a lecture hall of 50-100 students. Office hours aren’t typically mandatory to attend, but it can make a difference in enhancing your learning experience.
Learn about your campus resources
While college is an exciting time, it can also be a period of growth, learning lessons, and overcoming challenges as you cope with this new way of life. Colleges and universities know this, so they have the resources to help support you! Struggling with a class? Check out your campus learning center. Thinking about getting an internship? Find more information at the career center. There are also resources like the student health center and counseling services to take care of your physical and mental health. These resources are included in your fees and are typically of no extra cost, so make sure to take advantage of them!
Connect with other students on campus
No matter the size or location of your college, it is still a new environment for you that can feel overwhelming and isolating. Know that you’re not alone! Many students experience the same feelings and can struggle or find it intimidating to branch out and meet new friends. Finding a community that can support you in college is important and can help you build lasting relationships. So whether you get to know your new roommate, attend a club meeting, or try out for a sport, there are plenty of opportunities to meet new people!
Learn how to navigate around and in/out of campus
You may be living in a new city or state for college, so it’s important to know how to navigate around it and get to know the new community you live in. If you don’t have a car, your college may have an office that can help you navigate the city’s public transportation system and may provide annual or monthly passes at a student discount. If you do have a car, don’t be afraid to look up directions or use navigation as you drive around and get to know your new city.
Your first semester or quarter of college can bring up a whirlwind of emotions, but we’re here to help! Text #Hello to 33-55-77 for support.