Reflect on the Fall to Prepare for the Spring Semester

The break between semesters is a time to rejuvenate mentally and physically and reconnect with family and friends. For most Princeton students, it's also a time to engage in reflection, to think back over the semester, as well as a time for prospection, to look forward to the spring term to envision what you hope it to be like. Deriving useful insights by taking time to reflect, as these students have done, can help you plan effectively so that you actually achieve what you envision for yourself.

Learning consultations and workshops can aid you in this process, and our online resources, including those designed for virtual learning, can be used to increase your preparation and confidence for your course work and independent work. 

You surely learned a lot about navigating Princeton this past term, and about how to engage and learn effectively under these new circumstances. You’ve probably already made some changes or adjustments along the way. None the less, it’s useful, outside the rapid pace of the semester, to take stock and clarify your take aways. To do so, ask some or all of the following questions:

  • How were you taught and tested and what new professor expectations and academic demands did you encounter?
  • What was unfamiliar or surprising about instruction, materials, assignments and grading?
  • What adaptations on your part worked—and didn’t? What might you do differently?
  • What did you realize you wish you had done during the term when Dean’s Date and Finals came around? How can you incorporate that (e.g. office hours, weekly review, study groups) in your routine?
  • What lessons do you want to ensure you remember going into the spring term?

You might also identify questions or issues that require further reflection and analysis prior to the spring term. Many times we gain awareness or recognize an issue or challenge but don’t immediately have a viable, actionable solution. Give yourself adequate time to really think through what you can do to meet the challenges you encountered and will likely encounter in the coming term. It’s helpful to phrase these as actual questions to yourself as this requires you to be specific and concrete and puts you in a solution-oriented mindset.

For example, you may have observed difficulties managing assigned readings (a challenge familiar to almost all Princeton students). Can you phrase that issue as a question that you can investigate and answer, such as: “How do I complete the large amounts of reading while also getting out of them what’s most important for the class—and be able to use it in precepts?” Another example familiar to many would be: “How do I use p-sets, past-exams and other resources to prepare for the really hard, complex exam-level problems in my quantitative problem-solving courses?” Both of these questions formulate a fundamental issue in specific terms—that’s key if you are going to turn your reflections into plans and actions.

To identify solutions, you can ponder your questions on your own, look to Principedia and other McGraw resources for Princeton-specific advice, talk with classmates and friends, and meet with a McGraw learning consultant, and broaden your investigations even further. The solutions you find or create will become the basis of your plans for the spring.

With respect to managing big reading loads, for instance, if you realize you need to get better at taking more streamlined reading notes and also make time to prepare for precept more intentionally, you’ve identified both new skills to develop and concrete actions you can implement. McGraw learning consultations as well as McGraw workshops (synchronous and recorded) are ways to enhance your skills in these and other areas that this kind of reflection and planning help to identify.