Spring Semester Re-Set

Each semester at Princeton affords new opportunities and poses new challenges. Making the most of these opportunities and mastering unfamiliar challenges requires constant adjustments and is an on-going process.  This term you may be enrolled in one (or even two) more courses than usual, taking a course outside your concentration or comfort-zone, engaging in independent work, participating in a spring semester sport, planning out your summer or doing any number of other time-consuming activities in which you are seeking success but also balance. At Princeton, each new combination of courses, projects, commitments, and activities may require you to adapt and adjust.

In addition to rest and rejuvenation spring break can be a time for reflection. After midterm week is an excellent time to step back, take stock and recalibrate your approach to the semester, individual courses, or a big end-of-year project to maximize your satisfaction and success. Here are three methods for doing so.

1. Keep track of how you spend your time. Carefully considering how you are spending your time by conducting a “time audit” can be extremely illuminating and useful. You can use this Weekly Planner Template  to monitor and record the ways you use your time—but there’s lots of ways to do it, including easy to use apps. Research shows that simply keeping track of and being aware of how you spend your time is one of the best time management, anti-procrastination strategies of all. You can start to really deal with your procrastination by attending a practical, yet illuminating workshop.

2. Assess the effectiveness (and efficiency) of your approach to individual courses. In many courses at Princeton you don’t get a lot of feedback. A midterm may be your best opportunity to get specific, concrete input on how much you’ve learned; it’s where instructors make clear their expectations for you and the criteria they use to evaluate your performance. Use this guide to analyze your returned exams to gain important information that can inform your approach to learning in the course going forward. Identify a few things you'll do differently and ask your professor or AI for their opinion and for advice about how they approach learning in the field. If you don’t, you’re ignoring the most useful information you’re likely to get all term.

How you think about and receive feedback is crucial. It can be hard to accept if you didn’t perform up to par; but remember scores and comments are not personal, they are not a commentary on you or your ability. It’s the best information you have about how you did on that task—and can give you valuable insight into how effectively you prepared for it. To lessen the emotional attachment, imagine that the exam you are analyzing is not yours, but someone else’s: what advice would you give this other person based upon you analysis of the returned exam? Try to approach the comments clinically; what’s being said, what is revealed about the instructor’s criteria of evaluation, what’s most useful?

3. Work with a McGraw learning consultant.  Our consultants are skilled at prompting the kind of reflection and analysis discussed above. We can work with you to develop a manageable schedule that accounts for ALL that you are doing this term. Together, using the feedback on your exam and your reflections, we’ll develop an approach to individual courses—and ALL your courses—so you get the most out of them and achieve success. Make an appointment at a time that suits your schedule so you can “re-set” your semester.

updated 3/4/2022