Female student in mask checking her phone outside while sitting under a tree.

Many of us are feeling a sense of adjustment as we head into the fall semester. While this is common in normal times, it may have even more of an impact under pandemic conditions. Whether you’re adjusting to new guidelines, getting used to a new course schedule, a new residence off-campus or a new job or internship, the beginning of a new semester can mean big changes. 

Everyone reacts differently to change and uncertainty. It's common to struggle when things are new, and it's important to recognize the process is different for everybody. Get tips to help with a smoother transition at the beginning of a new semester.

1: Develop a routine

Finding consistency can help us manage change and feelings of uncertainty. Set yourself up for success by focusing on the things you can control, like what time you go to sleep and wake up each day. Pick a day of the week to check in with a friend or family member in person (from a safe distance) or over the phone. Find a spot to relax between classes or a favorite place to get coffee or a snack. All of these small habits will help you feel more in control this semester. 

2: Get organized

Review the syllabus for each of your classes, and make note of important dates and deadlines in your planner or calendar to keep track of assignments. It can also be helpful to break larger projects down into more manageable milestones. Write down tasks you can achieve in short 5- to 15-minute bursts, and be specific about what you want to accomplish. For instance, creating a spreadsheet of important dates or downloading the PowerPoint template for a presentation are both manageable milestones that you can achieve in a short amount of time. Completing these smaller tasks will help to set you up for success on a major project, presentation or paper, so you can feel less stressed when it comes time to turn it in. 

If you need help developing a routine that works for you, check out Peer Wellness Coaching services. They can help you come up with goals, build a schedule, explore self-care options, connect with resources and much more. 

3: Stay in touch

Having people we can talk to and a community to support us helps during times of transition. If you are feeling uncertain or overwhelmed by change, reach out to a friend or loved one and talk it out. If you are unsure who to go to, consider reaching out to Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS). They provide a number of services to students, including screenings, brief individual counseling, workshops and consultations. 

4: Prioritize your physical, emotional health

Your mental and physical health matter, especially when things feel up in the air. Follow health guidelines like washing your hands, keeping physical distance between yourself and others and wearing a mask in public spaces on and off campus. Getting a consistent amount of sleep (7–9 hours per night), eating regular, balanced meals, staying active and taking time to relax are also key in boosting your physical and emotional health. All of these activities can help our minds and bodies feel more balanced through times of change.

5: Find your community

It’s never too late to get involved on campus! Getting involved can lead to new connections with others who have similar interests, giving you a sense of community and belonging on campus. The Center for Student Involvement has hundreds of student groups that cover a variety of interest areas, and the Rec Center offers group fitness classes, specialty classes and intramural leagues that are all great ways to get involved.

Getting used to changes in our lives can take time, and everyone is different when it comes to adjusting to change. If at any point it feels like too much, Counseling and Psychiatric Services offers counseling and crisis services to students. 

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