Many students view the beginning of the semester as the easiest part. From the casual reviewing of syllabuses to the inevitable homework-free first week, it’s a blessing compared to the ups and downs we will face in the coming months. And while this all sounds logical, the idea that the semester’s start is carefree could not be further from the truth. In reality, it can be just as chaotic and stressful as finals week.
If you’re anything like me, then the beginning of the semester involves a set of neverending challenges. It means adding and dropping classes at a moment’s notice, frantically emailing professors, and wondering if it’s worth the risk to take that one class with a dismal score on Rate My Professors (news flash: it never is). My point is simply that these first few weeks are the absolute worst. The choices you make will dictate the months to come, whether you like it or not. A slow internet connection during class registration can make or break the rest of your semester. The class you feel unsure about now can easily come to haunt you if you can’t find a replacement. And after the dreaded add/drop date, everything becomes nearly irreversible.
This academic swirl of stress is not all—in your social world, you may find yourself adapting to new groups of classmates, club friends, or even new suitemates. And whatever glimpse of home you got over Winter Break with your own room, loving pets, and a lack of pressure to constantly check your Boston College email, is suddenly replaced by cramped dorms, communal bathrooms, and all too annoying fire drills.
So between class chaos and the return to on-campus living, the first few weeks of the semester are by far the most intimidating. Unless you miraculously had everything planned since class registration, there’s no avoiding the stress.
So as you embark on these next few weeks feeling lost, in a daze, or already behind, remember that the first few weeks aren’t always easy. The stress you’re feeling is not unwarranted. The mirage of syllabus week is just that: a mirage. It’s a continuously awkward phase of trial and error where you figure out if you really need to review each reading for a class or take the time to meet with your professors for every tiny question. It’s about figuring out your study habits and adjusting to new classes where you might annoyingly overestimate or gravely underestimate how much study time is needed for the first assignment or quiz (and you usually don’t find out if you guessed correctly until it’s too late).
But more importantly, it’s about being patient with yourself as you find balance where there seems to be none. When everything appears to be going wrong, when there are already a dozen assignments creeping around the corner, and when you haven’t even figured out your class schedule yet, take a deep breath. This period is about understanding that time management is key as you adapt to new classes and create new routines in the upcoming months. So as you navigate these next few weeks, remember the beginning of the semester is not necessarily what it seems, and know that it’s okay if you’re already struggling.