As a junior in college, I know as well as any student that the beginning of the school year can be intimidating. There are new routines, new assignments—and fall 2020 comes with even more adjustments than usual. But in the face of new challenges, we’re also given new opportunities to grow. So, here are some tips for starting off the school year strong.

Staying Organized

Being organized really is important. It’s something we’ve all heard a million times but that’s worth repeating. One way to stay organized is to keep your workspace clean. A clean space can relieve stress and help you stay focused on assignments rather than clutter. Now, I will be the first to say I am not a tidy person. I know it is not easy, but even if you commit to cleaning just one day a week it can be beneficial.

I also recommend setting a game plan as early as you can. Make sure you have the items you need for classes and keep your books together so you don’t lose them. Having to run around desperately searching for books right before class is not an enjoyable way to spend your time (I speak from experience).

Having a physical copy of your schedule can be a great idea as well. Many people choose to buy a planner to write down day-to-day assignments or meetings. I recently found Chipper, an app where I can do all of that electronically. It’s been my secret to success so far this year. The app is free and allows you to schedule school, work and life events. Whatever you decide to use, even if it is just a notebook or to-do lists, I encourage you to give it a try.

Setting Goals

Taking your schedule into consideration, I recommend setting goals for yourself. Whether big or small, commit to a process that works for you for doing assignments and readings. For example, you could set deadlines or time limits for how much consecutive time you’ll spend working on each project. This can provide routine and help you feel productive and more in control of your time. Plus, believing in yourself and your work will help you to do a good job!

Other techniques that can help you motivate yourself to accomplish these goals are to tell someone else what your goals are—adding an extra layer of accountability—and to establish a reward system for yourself.

It is proven that making your goals public makes you more likely to work towards completing them and succeed in them. That could mean telling a friend or mentor, posting your plan on social media or even mentioning it to your parents. Having social support helps to keep you accountable to yourself and others.

You can also set up a reward system for yourself (because who doesn’t like rewards?). It doesn’t have to be huge or expensive. A reward could be allowing yourself a candy bar, a favorite drink, a nap or an extra hour of TV. It is whatever works for you! Set a goal and schedule then reward yourself if you stick to it.

Reach Out

It is perfectly okay to reach out and ask for help when you need it. Talk to your teachers, academic advisers, school counselors or tutors. There are resources there for you if you ask for them.

If you’re a high school senior this year, you may be looking for colleges in addition to everything else going on with school. If you need advice, your academic advisors are great resources. If you are interested in learning more about Cornerstone, we have resources too.

If you want to explore Cornerstone University as an option for college, check out our website to plan a visit or apply.

You also have social support in friends and family. Ask for help or advice. As much as we may not always want to admit it, our parents have a lot of life experience they can share with us. Trust me, you can be an independent adult and still reach out to the fountain of knowledge parents have.

Take Care Of Yourself

Whether it is your physical, mental or emotional wellbeing, it’s important to check in with yourself and be mindful of how you are doing, especially in a year full of so many unknowns. Taking care of yourself is an important part of having a good school year.

Doing simple things like eating properly and getting enough sleep can have a huge impact. If you are struggling with anxiety from the many changes, talk to someone you trust to get support and professional help if needed.

In the end, remember no matter what grade you are in it is normal to feel overwhelmed at the start of the school year as you’re adjusting your daily routines and expectations. There are some unknowns ahead, but there is also so much learning to be had. You can do this. Have a great year!