Surviving and thriving in your first semester


Making the transition from high school to college can be difficult. However, there are strategies and techniques that incoming students can use to make the upcoming year a successful one.

Becca Burt, academic coach, said that finding a study group can be a great way to get work done. However, not all study groups are created equal.

“You’re going to have friends who are wonderful friends to hang out with and great to spend time with, but when it comes to studying, they might distract you more than help you focus,” Burt said. “Studying in groups can be really effective, but you need to find people who help you focus rather than distract you.”

While study friends can be helpful, there are also going to be times when you have to miss class in your first semester. Burt recommended that students find someone who can catch them up on notes and assignments.

“There’s going to be a day where you’re sick or you have a conflict or something,” Burt said. “If you have a friend in that class, you know you can reach out to someone and say ‘Hey, could I get a copy of your notes? What did I miss?’ “

But how do you make these friends? Burt gave advice on connecting with new people.

“Try sitting next to different people on different days, see who you find a connection with. Maybe you find that you live in the same residence hall, maybe you met at an event on campus, you know, find some commonalities,” Burt said.

Burt advised students not to get discouraged if keeping up with academics seems difficult at first.

“A lot of students have to study very differently in college than they did in high school, so figuring out that rhythm, what works, what kind of environment you need to be in and what time of day works best for you, that’s going to be a process to figure that out and it takes time,” Burt said.

Burt and the other Academic Success Center staff are available to help students with time management, studying techniques and a variety of other topics; Burt recommended that first-years visit her office in the Tiger Learning Commons when they receive their class schedules.

“That way we have an idea of when your classes are during the day, so we can sit down and talk through ‘Alright, let’s look at your schedule for a week, let’s see what your breaks are, where you are going to be on campus, what you could be doing during that time to be productive,’ ” Burt said.

Sophomore Andrea Cruz, who recently gave a presentation on time management at a TEDxTrinity event, also emphasized the importance of planning and time management. Cruz uses an online planning app called Todoist, and she says that it has helped her greatly with juggling her academic responsibilities, as well as her personal life.

“What I do is I go on my laptop, I make folders for each of my classes, and then I input all of the dates and all the assignments from each class from the syllabus,” Cruz said. “Like Sunday night I can look at it and be like, ‘Oh, I have a test on Tuesday and I have an essay due on Thursday, and I can plan my time around that.’”

Cruz spoke about what motivates her lifestyle of diligent planning.

“My motto is that if I can make it easier for my future self, I’ll do it now because then it’s always just like, I’m saving myself the time and the effort to do things,” Cruz said.

While academics are important, students should also focus on their physical and emotional well-being. Senior Tyler Cagle, a resident assistant for the Isabel McFarlin residence hall, reminded first-year students to focus on self-care.

“Spend time with your friends in general, do things that make you happy, make sure you exercise and try and stay in shape or at least get some physical activity in because it’s a lot better for your brain if you do,” Cagle said. “I think enjoying the little things is something that helped me with a lot of the stress that I felt.”

Students interested in learning more about Trinity’s Academic Success Center can contact [email protected] or [email protected]