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Week 2

Now you've had a chance to settle in a little, hang your lights, and plaster the wall with command strips and decorations. That, or it looks like you just moved in besides the futon, TV, and mattress on the floor and you plan to let it remain that way until you move out for the Summer.

You've had a chance to check out your classes and find some study nooks. Now, it's time to understand what those classes will need from you and get a feel for the environment of the class. Usually by the second week, professors will make it clear whether or not you will need the textbooks "required" for the class. Sometimes they're the backbone to the structure of the lessons and homework. Other times, they're tools to supplement students' understanding of lecture material. In the case of the latter, if you're not someone who learns by reading textbooks, you might save yourself a nice chunk of change by simply going to class and studying via the worldwide web (and YouTube). This is why after freshman year, I always waited until at least the second class in syllabus week to see what the professors had to say about the different textbooks for their class.

Another thing I recommend to begin during your second week is understanding how time-consuming and involved each of your classes will be. What are the associated homework loads? How do you feel about the professor and his or her teaching style in comparison to your learning style? What are your thoughts about the class culture as a whole? These are all important questions to address sooner, rather than later. If you know that looking at a single PowerPoint slide with a block of 400 words for the duration of the class is not going to be an environment that fosters success for you, it might be time to see if there is another section you can switch into.

As you begin to understand what each class will require of you, come up with organizational systems you know you will keep up with. Maybe that means a big binder for each class that you will remember to swap out each day according to your class schedule. Maybe you're like me and remembering anything at all seems to be impossible before that first sip of coffee... This is why I've always preferred a color-coded file folder that has a section for each class. With all my papers organized loose-leaf into a single portfolio, I had enough room to fit my file folder and a textbook and/or notebook in my backpack and have what I needed for pretty much all of my classes for the week.

My last piece of advice for the second week is not to let the idea of the workload consume you. We seem to be built to be able to manage day-to-day patterns and challenges much easier than thinking of all the projects we have to bring to fruition in only a few short months. I remember syllabus week always overwhelmed me until I started to realize that once I built my schedule and routines in a way that would allow me just enough to swallow piece by piece, day by day, I'd be able to survive (and so will you).

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