How to Start Your New Academic Year Strong

How to Start Your New Academic Year Strong

By: Haiyi (Yvette) Gong


The start of a new school year can be tough. It may feel like you have forgotten how to learn or how to manage coinciding deadlines. Moreover, it is also the first time since the start of the pandemic that students get to be together on campus and enjoy all that UTSC has to offer. Luckily, we have created a survival guide to help you fight those back-to-school jitters and get you on solid footing for the rest of your academic year. Let's jump into all the useful tips that will help you start the new semester right.


All About Time Management and Staying Organized

If this is your first year studying at the UTSC, this tip is crucially important. There are going to be times when you wish clones exists to help you write assignments for competing deadlines. It has been greatly recommended by students and professors that writing down deadlines on a calendar or planner can decrease the chances of missing assignment due dates. In addition, writing down these dates can help you to visualize what your upcoming week or month looks like, so you can plan your schedule correspondingly. Don't wait till the last minute to start your assignments, tempting though that may sometimes be. Give yourself ample time to create a great project so you don't feel rushed or anxious. By managing your schedule well, you can stay on top of your studies and explore the social and peer aspects of UTSC without worry.


Don't Underestimate Critical Thinking and Note-taking

As we step further into the school year, the pace starts to pick up and lectures become more challenging. Rather than just listening to the professor during lectures, try previewing the material beforehand. This will allow you to familiarize yourself with abstract concepts, then come to class with questions that you developed from the previewing process and listen actively for answers. Most importantly, taking notes and reviewing materials post lecture highly encourages critical thinking skills and will help you to understand those abstract ideas more effectively. Make it your class routine to read through your notes before and after a lecture and see how much more you can get out of your classes.


Establish Short Term Goals

Does that end-of-term research project look overwhelming to you? Well, if it does, you are not alone. Instead of cramming three days before the due date, try breaking down the project into several portions such as outline, draft copy, and final copy. Evenly distribute these “smaller project” deadlines into your calendar and coordinate with adequate time management skills. Approaching assignments in this fashion should ensure a more efficient and qualitative result while keeping your stress at a minimum level. This trick will work with any larger project you know will take more time. It's easier to think about smaller, more manageable chunks when you're feeling stressed.


Fight Procrastination

University life can be very hectic. We all know it's not uncommon for students (or anyone!) to put things off when the term starts speeding up. The key to breaking the habit of procrastinating is to start working immediately once you receive an assignment. Besides, the last tip works hand in hand when fighting procrastination. When breaking up the project into smaller parts, “sub-projects” are more doable and therefore, decrease the tendency to procrastinate.

If you are suffering from electronic distraction, it is beneficial to turn on “Do Not Disturb” mode or use apps like Forest to minimize the chances of getting distracted by an Instagram notification. 

On another note, if you are someone who struggles with concentrating and retaining large amounts of information, check out the Pomodoro Technique and use an app/website like Pomofocus to practice this studying idea!

Study techniques


Don’t Forget About These Student and Campus Resources

Office Hours with professors and TAs are always a great opportunities to ask course-related questions such as help with assignments or clarification on lecture materials. There are no “dumb questions,” so drop by to say hello because our faculty are truly amazing and would love to help you.

If our faculty cannot provide you with the answers you're seeking, here are more resources available here at UTSC to check out:

  • AccessAbility Services is a student and academic service that ensures an inclusive and barrier-free campus for students with disabilities.
  • Athletics & Recreation includes all the sports-related information that you would need here at UTSC. Check out our swimming lessons and athletic workshops!
  • If you need assistance with job searching, Academic Advising & Career Centre is here to help. They also offer a wide range of services such as resume/cover letter critique, academic advising, graduate school application and more.
  • We know that university can be very stressful. If you ever need to talk to someone, Navi is a virtual agent to help you find the mental health resources you need. Also, check out My SSP, a real-time/appointment-based counselling service for all U of T students that enables you to talk to a counsellor 24/7 at additional no cost. 


Self-care is Important

Although grinding for that 4.0 GPA is important, don’t forget to take breaks to avoid burning out. Go for a walk. Talk with friends. Join a club. Or catch up on that latest Netflix episode. It's important to balance your academic responsibilities with good mental health practices. You're not alone on campus. Others are feeling stressed too. Make sure you practice good self-care to stay on top of your priorities and enjoy your time on campus.


In conclusion, different studying strategies work on different people. The tips above will hopefully act as a guideline for you to find the best ways to learn. Now, don’t forget to get a good night’s sleep before midterms or exams and we wish you a successful start to an awesome school year!