By Bianca Chan
Ah September…how did you come around so quickly? How can I possibly start thinking about school when my mind is still in the educational refuge of summer? It’s easier than it seems – just follow these 10 tips and you’ll be well on your way.
Check out cuLearn…you know, the course website where instructors, teaching assistants and students interact with each other through discussions, shared course material and more. Explore your courses and navigate the site so when the crunch is on you’ll know exactly where everything is, or at least have a good idea.
- Course outline
Studying the syllabus is a crucial step in getting stoked about school. See exactly what topics you’ll be learning about over the semester or year, learn how your grades will be broken down, and prepare your reading lists and chapters.
The next step, naturally, would be to jot down your deadlines – you know, the ones that are described explicitly right in the course outline! Having a reliable notebook that you can carry with you in your backpack is always helpful when you’re planning your weeks and months, both for social and academic occasions.
Splurge and get yourself a really nice agenda, use your calendar app on your phone and computer – even a notebook from the dollar store will work.
- Textbooks (Cha-ching)
This part will probably be the most painful on your wallet – getting textbooks is a notoriously expensive beginning-of-term chore. I know I like to be the first one to highlight and break the spine of mine, but there are alternatives to buying new that are easier on your wallet.
The bookstore often sells used copies of textbooks as well as new ones, and also has a rental program. Check out bookstores that sell used texts (Haven Books is an example), look for used versions on Amazon, Craigslist and Kijiji, or reach out to students who have taken the course in the past. If you buy used though, make sure you get the right edition! And don’t forget – you can sell your textbook at the end of term if it’s in good condition, and make a little of that money back.
- Distance exams
If you’re a distance student (a.k.a. someone who lives at least 100 kilometres from campus), you can start your online distance exam application, which will allow you to take your exam locally (where you live) and have it supervised by an approved proctor.
FYI, you must fill out an application every term and before the deadlines listed here.
If you are a local student, no need to worry about an application. You write your exams at Carleton at the scheduled time.
- Accessing your courses remotely
Gaining access to your classes as an online student can be a little trickier than figuring out where your classroom is before the first day. It’s important to decide how you will access your course and test it out. If you’re in a web course, your point of access is cuLearn. If you’re in a recorded course, there are several ways to make your first day of school easy. Check them out here. Heads up – if you want the Video On Demand service, you have to register in the class AND the Video On Demand section in Carleton Central. Do that before classes start to avoid delays.
- Study habits
Initiate some study habits before the storm of assignments, exams, midterms and readings crash down upon you. Set up a space in your home and pick out a public library or regular study space. It’s also helpful to make sure you have all of the tools needed for studying; get yourself a pad of paper, a package of pens, a calculator (if needed), download a dictionary/thesaurus, get a package of caffeinated tea or coffee. If this isn’t your first rodeo, you know what you like and need.
- Library resources
Take advantage of what the library has to offer because it’s all for you! There are databases, journal articles, encyclopaedias, citation resources, archives, subject and course guides, government information and a list of all books (online and in school) that the library owns. There are so many more resources – see for yourself.
- Reconnect socially
Even if you’re taking online courses, that doesn’t mean that you don’t have classmates, professors, teaching assistants or other people that you interact with. Reach out to them, introduce yourself. Reconnecting socially is all part of getting back into the school groove.
The first weeks of school can be exhausting, both socially and academically. Be sure to get enough rest (about eight hours) so that you can be ready to go when it counts.