How to start a successful term

Written by Monica Xiao

The first couple weeks of class are quiet, and it may feel like there’s not a lot of work to do until midterms come. Those first few weeks are an important time to settle into your courses and get into the flow of studying. Here are my tips on how to start a successful term.

Read the course syllabus

I'm sure your profs have asked you to read the course syllabus in detail, so make sure to read every word. As you read through, have your calendar ready as well. 

Here are a few sections to pay extra attention to while reading the syllabus.

Course instructor contacts

Keep a list of course instructors’ and tutorial leaders’ contacts for easy access. This includes their email, office hours and office locations.


If you asked me for only one piece of advice, I’d tell you to write down all the deadlines for all evaluations in your calendar. After doing so, you’ll be able to see when things get busy so you can plan ahead and prioritize tasks accordingly. Sometimes you’ll find brief descriptions of each activity as well. By reading the descriptions, you’ll be able to start brainstorming how the course readings and discussions relate to the assignments. 

Course text

Make sure you’ve got all the required texts before the first class and bookmark what to read for each week. Download all online readings that have download permissions and save them in a folder so they’re easy to access when you need them. Always check under both “required texts” and the weekly breakdown to find supplementary reading material.

Pro tip: You can often find the course texts on the bookstore website about two weeks before the start of class.

Schedule time for readings

Now that you have sorted out the weekly readings, you should have an idea of how much time you need to spend preparing for each week. Look through your calendar and block time for each class, ideally at the same time every week. 

Personally, I usually finish the readings on the day before class so the material will be fresh in my mind. Remember that there’s a difference between scheduling time to read the day before and cramming at midnight trying to catch up. 

Attend and participate in class

After having read the syllabus, you may find that attendance and participation are actually worth marks. Trust me, these are probably the easiest marks you can get in university. If you’ve stayed on track with the readings and assignments, it will be way easier to add to the class discussion. Talking out loud to other people about the course material also helps you understand the material better. 

Think about it this way—if you’ve already spent time doing readings and assignments, put that effort to good use by sharing what you’ve learned!

Check out the Start Strong YU website for more resources to help you start the term right.