4 Ways to Tackle the Start of a New Semester

By Amy Perry


August 6, 2018

4 Ways to Tackle the Start of a New Semester

As we approach the new upcoming semester, the list of “to-dos” can be overwhelming.


If your list looks anything like mine, it includes:


  • Changing my syllabus (dates, content, policies) - I’m old school and like to give the students a hard copy, and I may or may not have a grad assistant to help with all that copying!

  • Copying / Updating my Learning Management System content for each section (structure, gradebook, welcome note, resources, etc.) - Setting up the gradebook always takes me the longest and is the most tedious.

  • Integrating Outside Resources - for those of us using publisher resources, like Connect, we must get that organized and set up with assignments and due dates.

  • Preparing and refreshing content, power points, lectures, etc. - I never want to walk into the classroom, or my office the morning of, unprepared. And in my field of political science, things change quickly, and I want to offer my students the most updated information.

  • If I can, I will organize hard copies of exams, and get my paperwork organized for the semester to come.

  • Perhaps this should be at the top of my list, but my office always needs some cleaning. Clearing out clutter, cleaning off the dust, organizing, and stocking my cabinet with goodies is a must for me to feel good about starting the new semester.


Paradoxically, to-do list always seems to grow longer and longer as the semester approaches. To keep on top of things and avoid that sinking unprepared feeling, I have four suggestions that I use to help insure a positive and successful start to a new semester.


  1. Prioritize that list.

    I am a firm believer in the power of list making! When setting your schedule and making your to-dos, list the tasks according to your priorities. Determine what you can live without being done on day 1. If you don’t get everything accomplished, then at least the most important tasks will be taken care of. And then, don’t sweat it! You know that the semester takes a little bit to get going, so if there are few things you still have to take care of during those first few weeks, so be it. It will get done.

  2. Organize.

    I have a ridiculous fondness for manila file folders - I don’t think you can ever have too many! Whatever your organizational system may be, one of the keys to a successful semester is starting off prepared.

    1. Take time to clear out the cobwebs from last semester (spring or summer). Clean your space. Not only will this prepare you physically, but also mentally, for the new semester.
    2. Make adjustments, if needed, for a happy, welcoming space where you feel comfortable and inspired. There’s nothing worse than dreading going to your office. While you’re at it, ensure that it feels welcoming to students as well.
    3. Use those manila file folders (or, get some that you like better!) to organize templates, master copies, paperwork, and anticipated paperwork. Label the folders for your needs and have them prepared. This will help you to stay on top of things and prevent that huge stack of papers that we all dread going through.
  3. Attitude is everything.

    Creating a personal space that you like promotes a positive attitude towards the work you need to do. I also like to prepare for the semester by printing out the roster and familiarizing myself with my new students a couple weeks prior. We are so honored in our task of imparting knowledge and skills to our students, and I enjoy the anticipation of getting to share that, and getting to know, a new group of students. It starts the semester off on such a pleasant note!

  4. Eliminate things that stress you out.

    Methods that don’t work. Excuses. Negativity. Clutter – mentally and physically – is draining. Nobody has time for that. Chuck it!

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Amy Denn Perry

Amy Denn Perry is a lecturer at Texas State University, teaching introductory government courses in the Department of Political Science. She is a proud alumna of Texas State University, and is a huge supporter of the athletic department, especially football. In addition to lecturing, Amy tutors student athletes, loves the outdoors, good books, and good movies. She is currently continuing research on Presidential Supreme Court nominees. Amy has served as a Digital Faculty Consultant since January of 2018, and is passionate about her students and her role in education.