Getting Ahead Before Getting Back to School


The final days of summer tend to fly by and before you know it, you’ll be back on campus navigating your way through yet another school year.

To help you get ahead, here are some easy tips to avoid becoming overwhelmed by the transition from fun to (basically) living at the library.

Connect With Your Professors

Email your professors before the start of the school year to touch base. You can introduce yourself, explain what you hope to gain from the course, and inquire about any advice they may have for managing the course load. Once classes have started, you can follow up on your initial communication by talking to them in person when you meet your professors face-to-face. Communicating with your professors before the beginning of classes will demonstrate initiative and allow you to develop a more personal relationship with them before the term gets too busy.

Why You Should Get to Know Them

Whether you are a new student or in your graduating year of university, establishing a relationship with your professors is essential for two key reasons. First, it’ll allow them to know you by name when you participate in class discussions and recognize who you are when you email them in the future. Thus, instead of feeling like just one of hundreds of students the professor might teach across multiple classes, you’ll have a more personalized educational experience,

The second reason is that you may eventually need one or more of them to write you a letter of recommendation. Many graduate programs require letters of recommendation as part of the application process so having a network of professors who know you on a personal level gives you a great advantage. Similarly, potential employers may also like to see letters of recommendation. Better yet, professors can tell you about job opportunities with employers they know and help you land your first job outside of university. These are valuable relationships just waiting happen—don’t miss out!

Ask For The Course Outline Beforehand

It’s been my personal experience that the official course syllabus doesn’t become available until just a few days before the start of class. There is usually a sample syllabus online that details what will be covered in the course, but because this is usually a syllabus from a previous semester, deadlines, assignments, and course readings are likely to be inaccurate. This shows your professor that you’re dedicated to your success in the course and are ready to get to work!

Why You Should Ask for the Reading List

Acquiring the reading list from your professor ahead of time will allow you to get a jump start on the course readings so you don’t become overwhelmed later on. As an added bonus, you’ll walk into class already familiar with some of the material. Obtaining the reading list in advance will also provide you with the opportunity to get first dibs on the (always extremely limited) selection of previously used textbooks before everyone else snaps them up. This can literally save you hundreds of dollars.

In addition, having the syllabi for all your classes early on will give you more time to organize your course load, create a study schedule, and plan your calendar around deadlines so you’re already optimized for success before your first lecture.

Set a Meeting with Your Academic Advisor, ASAP

It’s in your best interest to connect with your faculty’s academic advisor, go over your course selection, and make sure that you’re on the right track. While September can be a busy time for them due to the influx of first years, squeezing in an appointment here will give you time to add and drop courses before the deadline.

This is especially crucial if you’re a first year. I attended university with some classmates who either did not know who their advisor was or set up a meeting with them until their second year or later and this definitely caused them to run into some difficulties.

Your advisor can also direct you to any additional academic resources offered by the school that you may want to make use of. For example, most institutions have learning centres where you can be paired with a tutor to help you study for and complete assignments for certain classes. These services are completely free and can give you the extra support needed to ace your classes.

Explore Extracurricular Activities on Campus

Extracurricular activities are a great way to meet new people, discover new interests, and blow off some steam. Look for an activities bulletin board or Facebook group and keep an eye out for when your school will be having their clubs fair. Links to extracurricular activities may also be available online through your school website.
Start looking early so you can figure out what you want to do and add your name before spots fill up.

If you can’t find what you’re looking for at your institution, you can always take initiative and start an extracurricular yourself! When I attended university I often saw the Quidditch Club competing on campus. Trying new things allows you to meet groups of people you might not otherwise encounter. Potential employers are likely to love seeing a diversity of experiences on your resume, so participating in a few extracurricular activities that are completely different from one another can demonstrate your varied interests and the fact that you readily adapt to new situations and challenges.

The key to transitioning back to school is preparation. Getting a jump start on getting to know your professors, understanding your course outline, setting an appointment with your academic advisor and signing up for extracurricular activities will definitely help you have a positive and successful experience in the coming academic year.

About the author

Jennifer Caven Jennifer graduated from McGill University with a BA in English Literature and Communication Studies before going on to study Public Relations at Ryerson University. In addition to writing, her passions include cooking, travel, and reading. In her spare time Jennifer can be found binge-watching her favourite TV shows and attempting to prevent her cats from destroying her apartment.