Back to School
Returning to campus after a much-needed break can be marked by mixed emotions. You may feel eager to see your friends, anxious to begin new courses, and dread waking up for 8 a.m. classes.
As you start thinking about your return to campus, you probably are making mental notes of everything you need to do, such as buy books, figure out where your classes are, learn about updated COVID-19 policies, and more. Before you know it, the excitement you feel can be overshadowed by feelings of worry and nervousness.
Returning to campus can be challenging, whether your break was two weeks or two months, and it is normal to feel some apprehension. The change in pace, routine, and environment can feel like a lot to handle all at once. The good news is that you can start to prepare for your return to school before you even step foot on campus. Taking concrete, actionable steps to prepare for your return will help to make you feel less worried and more ready to take on the term that lies ahead.
Did you spend your break lounging poolside or cozied up by a fireplace? Or perhaps you completed a rigorous internship? However you spent your break, your day-to-day life at home likely looked very different than your day-to-day life at school.
If possible, it is best to try to get into the swing of your old (or maybe new) routine before you are even back on campus. Take a look at your schedule; what time does your first class begin? A few weeks before returning to campus, try gradually waking up earlier than you usually do, so that you are prepared to make it to that early morning class on time on the first day and beyond. You also can start adjusting what time you are going to sleep.
If you lived a life of leisure during break, where there was not much structure, you can begin to get yourself back into a routine by making a schedule of your daily tasks. You can even create a mock schedule that you plan to follow once school begins.
Do you believe that you have a good understanding of your school’s updated COVID-19 policies? Even if you do, it’s a good idea to check your school’s website or any emails that you may have missed (or been purposely ignoring), to ensure you haven’t overlooked any essential updates on:
- vaccine mandates
- protocols for potential exposure
- social distancing guidelines
- quarantine guidelines
If not already required, it can’t hurt to test before you return to campus and encourage your roommates to do the same.
Get Organized for Success
Don’t wait until the day before classes to get organized. It can be easy to procrastinate on getting your textbooks and school supplies and setting up your study space, but these activities are essential to your academic success.
Carve out time, well in advance of your return, to purchase or borrow textbooks and pick up other materials that you need for class. Thoughtfully consider the school supplies that will work best for you. For example, do you prefer to have a separate notebook for every class, or one big binder with organized tabs? Do you like having a portable day-to-day planner, or a whiteboard calendar that you update as needed in your room? These small details may sound unimportant, but they set you up for success in the long run.
In addition, you are going to want to make sure that you have an idea of how you can keep your study space clean, organized, and clutter-free. Sure, the library can be great, but it’s always nice to have your own space for the times when the library is overcrowded, or the walk to the library just doesn’t feel worth the reward. Getting organized before classes will help you to feel prepared and to get your mind back into school mode.
Set Goals for Success
If you are struggling with the thought of returning to campus, try setting some goals to help motivate yourself. Keep in mind that your goals don’t necessarily have to be related to academics. For example, you can set personal goals to start a new hobby or social goals to make new friends or join a club.
Whatever type of goals you create, make sure that they are SMART goals. This means that your goal is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-Bound. So, a SMART goal would sound like, “I will read three fiction books before move-in day,” or “I will set aside time to study and complete assignments each week, Monday through Thursday from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.” Goals can help to make you feel excited and encouraged to return to campus.
Returning to campus isn’t an easy transition for everyone. You may feel homesick, nervous about your workload, or apprehensive about living with new roommates. It is normal to feel worried. For this reason, it’s important to take care of your mental wellbeing during this transition.
Stay Connected: If leaving home is emotionally difficult for you, find ways to stay connected with your friends, family, or even your furry friend back home. Ask your loved ones at home if they would be interested in creating a scheduled, standing phone call or facetime call with you anywhere from once a day to once a week while you are on campus. The call doesn’t have to be long, just enough to help put you at ease until you feel more comfortable being back on campus again.
Prioritize Rest: Your break may have been filled with non-stop action, but it’s time to slow down and get back into the swing of things. Starting the semester on the brink of burnout is a recipe for disaster. As you prepare to return to school, shift your priority from overloading your schedule with activities to rest and recovery, to help make sure that you are returning to campus feeling refreshed and ready for any challenges that come your way.
Take it Slow: Don’t try to do everything all at once as you prepare for your return, as it may cause you to feel overwhelmed. Instead, make a list, a few weeks before your return, of everything you need to do, and try to check off one or two of the items each day. Your checklist will help to keep you on track and to prevent you from panicking about your preparation tasks.
Create Some Playlists: Music can be used to encourage productivity or simply to boost your mood! Create some playlists that you can use while you are at school. You can make one for studying, one for relaxation, and another for hanging out with friends. If you need to make a long drive or catch a flight to get to school, you also can create a playlist for your trip!
Stay Positive: It is okay to feel negative emotions such as sadness, anxiety, or fear, but try to keep a positive attitude to offset those feelings. When a negative thought about returning to campus pops into your head, try reframing it in a positive light. For example, if you think to yourself, “My classes are going to be so hard, I am sure I will fail,” try thinking instead, “This new semester may be challenging, but if I stay organized, I can succeed!” Staying positive isn’t about lying to yourself or suppressing negative feelings, but instead, it’s about giving yourself a different perspective.
Bandlamuri, S. (2020, January 14). The 6 easiest ways to transition back to school after a holiday. Thrive. https://thriveglobal.com/stories/the-6-easiest-ways-to-transition-back-to-school-after-a-holiday/
Indeed Editorial Team. (2022, July 5). What are college students’ smart goals? (with benefits). Indeed. https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/career-development/college-students-smart-goals
Vaughn College. (2021, September 14). Vaughn welcomes students back to campus: Tips to get back into the college groove. Vaughn College. https://www.vaughn.edu/blog/vaughn-welcomes-students-back-to-campus-tips-to-get-back-into-the-college-groove/