From us to you: Our top tips for starting the school year off right

We’ve seen it all in our combined 30+ years of teaching – the goods, the bads, what works, and what doesn’t work – in terms of student success.  So what better way to help kick this year off with a BANG than to share our top tips for back to school.  Take ’em or leave ’em…but we hope you’ll take ’em.  🙂


  • On the first couple days of classes, highlight all of the key dates on each of your syllabi. Also, plug them into your monthly calendar (whether it’s a physical planner or on your phone/tablet).  This way you can easily see ahead of time which weeks will be busier than others and budget your time accordingly.
  • Set specific times in order to plan your time between your academic life and social life. College should be a balance!  Set specific hours during the day (such as between classes, 8:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m., etc.) to studying and completing assignments.
  • Early in the semester, establish a place on campus (beyond your room) where you can get schoolwork done without distractions from roommates and/or friends.



  • Be sure to read, reread, and reread (again!) your syllabus. Not JUST on the first day of class, but all semester long.  This is your class Bible!  Pay attention to dates of exams, assignment due dates, etc. so nothing is a surprise.
  • Don’t wait until the last minute to do your assignments. I can’t tell you how many times I have had students who had to get projects done using materials that might sell out at the bookstore, or can’t be found off campus.  Plan ahead!
  • Don’t be afraid to talk to your professors. We are here to help you succeed.  Email you professors to find out if there’s a good time to meet, or go to their office hours (depending on the preference of the professor) and ask questions.  We’re here for you!



  • Avoid procrastination like the plague! There’s nothing worse than the feeling of not being prepared, or cramming to finish an assignment at the last minute.  Trust me, planning and working ahead goes a long way, and can make a HUGE difference.  When it comes to studying, review your class notes and content regularly, not just before an exam – it will make retention so much easier.
  • Don’t over-stress about letter grades. Sure, everyone would love to get straight As, and I’m not saying that getting Ds and Fs should be your goal in college, but there’s so much more to gain than a 4.0, and many more things to visit your professor’s office about than fighting over a couple points.  Faculty (and future employers) value resiliency, involvement, proactivity, and professionalism.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it – especially when it comes to mental health! There are so many resources at Mercyhurst, and our campus is filled with kind, supportive people who want you to succeed in a happy, healthy way.  College can be hard, so make sure you’re taking care of yourself.



  • Map out your routine before school even starts. Have a plan of how your days should go and try to stick with it.  Write down your schedule (everything!) so you don’t get overwhelmed and you can still fit everything in, including gym and fun time!
  • I even suggest starting your “routine time” a few days or weeks before school begins. Try getting on a schedule of getting enough rest so that you are ready to start your days earlier once the work begins.
Jennifer Craven

Jennifer Craven is an instructor of fashion merchandising at Mercyhurst University.