Notes on a New Semester

The winter months (and wintry weather!) at Princeton present the opportunity to get organized for the upcoming spring semester. 

Welcome back, my fellow Princetonians! I hope that this finds you refreshed and rejuvenated as we begin the second semester. And if it doesn’t, fear not: this time of year has its own challenges, including bicker (for students who opt to join selective eating clubs), course shopping, and independent work deadlines. Thankfully, this post is aimed at a wide audience. In it, I will share a few reflections on the start of a new semester, which I hope will be of use both to the rested-and-ready as well as to the I-never-had-a-breakers among us. So, if you’re interested in beginning of the semester musings from someone who has now been through the process six times, read on!

Reflect on the last month. As we all know, Princeton’s schedule is unique: we finish class, take a nice nearly monthlong break, come back to the frenzy of reading period and finals, take another break, and once again find ourselves back in the cycle of attending lectures, labs, and precepts. To the uninitiated, it can be dizzying, but even for us “veterans,” this is still a strange time of year. So, I simply encourage you to spend some time reflecting on how January went for you, especially in terms of personal wellbeing and academic achievement. Going into the new semester, are you seeking to maintain momentum, or start fresh after a fall term that could have perhaps gone better? Your answer here can inform goals for February and throughout the new semester.

Think carefully about your classes. For the next few days, you have the opportunity to change them with relative ease (and at no cost!). This will not always be the case. Further, you’ll be stuck with these classes for an entire semester, so now is a most excellent time to think about whether or not you want to stick with them. I understand that personal and family situations vary, but I would highly encourage you to design your schedule around your own interests as opposed to those of your family or peers. At the end of your time here, your name will be on that fancy diploma—and not anyone else’s—so why not take ownership of the education it represents? (For additional scheduling help, I would recommend taking a look at my colleague Raya’s post about choosing classes for a balanced semester.)

Seize the opportunity to get organized! As busy as things might seem these first couple weeks, especially in the wake of intersession, remember that things typically only get more hectic from here on out. In a few weeks, assessments will begin in the forms of papers and tests, readings will pile up and schedules will begin to look more chaotic…you know the drill. So, while you have relatively more free time, use it for productive ends! Some ideas: clean your room, do your laundry, stock up on groceries or snacks, and acquire any necessary school supplies (such as new notebooks!) And check out my fellow PCUR Nanako’s post about how to get organized for the beginning of the semester!

Take a moment to be grateful. This may sound cliché, but to dismiss it as such would be to ignore its deeper truth. You attend an eminent institution of higher education, at which you have unparalleled opportunities for self-cultivation and all manners of enrichment. Capitalize on them! We could all do better at this—I certainly know that I could. But perhaps if we all spent just a bit more time thinking about how lucky we are to be here, we would foster a climate of gratitude in which we encourage each other to make the most of each day, each class, each semester. I think that would be nice. Don’t you?

Thanks for reading, and make it a great semester, Princeton!

—Shanon FitzGerald, Social Sciences Correspondent