After a long holiday, it can be tough getting back into the groove of things in the new semester or year. Even though some time off is integral to our health, it’s still difficult to transition back to our regular lives full of classes, work, and meetings. And just like our muscles need to ease back into working out after time off, our brains need to ease back into full-scale work.

Whether you spent the break lounging around in your pajamas with no thoughts of class at all, or you tried to at least keep up with some school/work stuff, you’ll inevitably need some time to adjust and get back into the swing of things. Follow these six tips to help you get back in the groove at school or in the new year in general!

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6 Back-to-school tips to ace your classes

Boy with backpack, back to school tips
Here's the 6 back to school tips you need to ace your classes and get ahead.

1. Shop around

During the first few weeks of the semester, college students usually have a chance to experience as many professors and classes as they want, but many don’t take full advantage of the opportunity.

If you’re heading back to campus, try sitting in on a variety of classes that you think could be interesting. You’ll be able to get a sense of the workload and the professor’s teaching style for each class before you pin down the schedule. This way, you won’t get stuck with a semester struggling through classes you hate or professors that bore you.

While it may sometimes be impossible to totally avoid classes that give you a hard time, by really making the most of this time to test your options, you can at least be prepared for what is to come. (And this mindset easily applies to your new year’s resolutions too! Once you’ve set your goal, experiment and try a couple of approaches before settling on one that you’re most confident will help you achieve your resolution.)

2. Set a schedule and create good habits

When we develop habits, our brain actually craves doing the habits more and more, because they serve as ways for the brain to rest. This is because it takes significantly less effort to stick to habits than to choose other courses of action.

In the new year or semester, in order to make your workload easier, use a schedule to ensure that positive behaviors (completing assignments on time, studying adequately for presentations or exams, setting aside time for exercise, etc.) become habits that stick. And remember the importance of scheduling time for study, personal time, and relaxation so that you don’t get bogged down in work.

[Check out our guide on how to set good study habits.]

3. Create short-term goals and set rewards for when you reach them

Short-term goals for the semester or the new year not only help you organize better, but they also help you figure out what to prioritize. Plus, the rewards waiting for you once you accomplish goals help you get—and stay—motivated.

[Check out our massive guide on how to get motivated when you just feel like binge-watching Netflix.]

4. Find study buddies

With a new set of courses to tackle, you will need a group of people to dive in with. Get to know the people in your new classes so that you can hold each other accountable as you study together.

If you don’t know anyone in a new class, it gives you a chance to make some new friends so you can survive the semester together. You can even set up some additional virtual “study buddies” like online flashcards to keep track of what you’re learning.

Just be careful about wasting too much time in studying in groups.

5. Start slow and build up to your full power

Small victories help prime us for later successes. You can jump-start this by tackling an easy (but still important) task from your schedule. There’s nothing as invigorating as checking something big off your list to kickstart a semester!

Just don’t feel like you have to get everything going for the semester in just the first week. While you shouldn’t procrastinate too much, an extra few breaks at the beginning of the semester won't hurt.

6. Don’t get behind on studying

If you want a good start the year or the new term, make sure to study right from the beginning. It’s a mistake to wait until you’re already in the thick of things to start studying.

Be sure to learn how to study effectively with LESS total effort, in order to get a head start by studying the right way.

Use these back to school tips to launch your learning

The start of a new semester or year may not be easy, but if you follow these tips, you’ll be back to normal faster than you expect. Just by reading this, you are already committing to a smart start to the year! Relax and know that you’re going to do fine. You've got this.

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