How to Mentally Prepare for a New Semester

Human head and a wrench. Mental health. Flat graphics. Vector Stock illustration.
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Everyone knows that a new semester is hectic, which is why people can dread it or feel overwhelmed.

Students can mentally prepare for a new semester by getting their textbooks and supplies. They should get enough sleep, relax, exercise, have a positive mindset, make a plan to deal with any anxiety they have about school, set goals, set up their planner, and find something to look forward to.

Let’s explore the 18 things you can do to mentally prepare for a new semester.

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Celebrate the end of the current semester or the end of summer

Below we will go over all the responsible tips for how to mentally prepare for a new semester, but having fun can also be a big help to your mental state. 

Before you get serious about the new semester, make sure that you take some time to celebrate the end of summer or the current semester! 

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Be prepared 

Being prepared will reduce your stress over starting new classes. 

You can be prepared by getting your textbooks and school supplies. You can find out exactly what you need from our post Everything You Need for Online College: School Supply List.

You should also make sure that you are comfortable with how to use the required software. 

Check out our guides on The Basics of How to Use Zoom for Online Classes and How to Use Canvas as a Student: Step-by-Step Walkthrough

Note: As an online student, you can’t just go into the bookstore the first week of classes, so you need to make sure that you order your textbooks a couple of weeks in advance to allow time for them to ship. 

Find out When, Where, and How to Buy Cheap TextbooksOpens in a new tab..

Find ways to save money on school costs 

The costs you face at the start of a new semester can significantly contribute to stress for students.

Having a budget can help reduce stress by ensuring you aren’t running out of money mid-month and can pay your bills.

You can also find ways to save money, such as getting deals on textbooks or reusing school supplies.

Practice good sleep hygiene

Lack of sleep can cause a lack of alertness and impaired memoryOpens in a new tab.. This will not only hurt your schoolwork but your daily life.

One of the biggest benefits of online school is that you can set your own schedule, but you still need to make sure that you are getting plenty of sleep. 

Figure out when you work best and plan on working on school then. If you are a night owl, work then. If you are a morning person, work then. 

If you have scheduled classes, a job, or family responsibilities that require you to be up earlier, try to gradually start going to bed earlier and waking up earlier until you are going to bed and getting up when you will have to for the school year.

Doing this gradually will be less painful than a sudden shift at the start of school. Your body will thank you. 

Give your body the fuel that it needs 

Your brain uses a ton of energy, so you need to make sure that you are giving your body the fuel it needs. 

This means eating breakfast and eating healthy foods.

People talk about “brain food” for a reason. Some foods that can help you concentrate Opens in a new tab.and think clearly are berries, nuts and seeds, broccoli, and eggs.

No one is saying to stop eating all junk food (I’m not sure I could get through courses without bribing myself with chocolate), but also make sure you are eating plenty of fruits and vegetables. 


Don’t put your self-care on the backburner for school. Taking the time to still take care of yourself by exercising will help you in school. If nothing else, take a break from schoolwork to take a walk.  

Practice relaxation 

You should also take time to relax.

You can:

  • Meditate
  • Listen to a body scan meditation
  • Do breathing exercises such as counting to 4 while breathing in, counting to 4 while holding your breath, and then counting to 4 while breathing out
  • Start a gratitude journalOpens in a new tab. and write down a few things you are grateful for each day

Have a positive mindset 

A new semester is a fresh start. Remind yourself why you are taking the class and how the class can benefit you. 

Challenge any negative thoughts (I like to literally envision a stop sign) and redirect your thoughts to more positive areas. 

If you start the semester dreading your classes, then the semester start is going to feel stressful.

Try to adopt a positive attitude that this is going to be a great semester! Use positive self-talk (give yourself a pep talk) or create a mantra such as “This is going to be an excellent semester!” or “I am prepared to succeed this semester!”. 

Having a positive mindset will not only help you feel mentally prepared for a new semester, but it will also make your classes seem more interesting and go by faster

Acknowledge and create a plan to deal with your feelings and anxiety 

Many people have mixed feelings about a new semester, such as excitement, apprehension, and anxiety. Let yourself feel however you are feeling, and then come up with a plan to deal with these emotions. 

A big part of this plan will be identifying stressors. If writing long papers makes you nervous and you are signed up for an English class, or public speaking causes anxiety and you see you have to give an oral presentation, come up with a plan for how you will deal with these situations.

For example, schedule plenty of time to write your essay and then make an appointment with your school’s writing lab to provide feedback. 

Set goals

Crumpled notes, Notepad with Goals written on it and someone's hand writing, and a lightbulb

Create a list of goals, big and small, for the semester. This will help get you in a success mindset. 

Your goal could be as small as interacting more with your fellow students or as big as getting all A’s. 

But make sure that you set goals that are realistic and accomplishable for your situation instead of comparing yourself to everyone else.

Write them down and put the list somewhere you will see every day. 

Get organized

When I am stressed, I tend to avoid things and let them pile up, but this only makes things harder. Staying on top of your responsibilities will help you to feel less stressed and more prepared for a new semester.

Before the new semester starts, take the time to catch up on cleaning or laundry.

Go through your to-do lists or create a new one and set up your planner. 

Use your planner

I think marking a task off in your planner or daily to-do list is one of the most satisfying feelings. I love it!

Check out this pretty plannerOpens in a new tab. on Amazon.

Set yourself up for this feeling by reading your syllabus for each class and writing down all your assignment due dates and exam dates in your planner. If you have any questions, message your professor.

Write down your professor’s preferred contact method and information at the front of your planner. That way, you have it and don’t have to search through the syllabus. 

I would recommend going a step farther and planning out when you need to work on it so that you have set aside time in your schedule to do your assignments and study. It also makes it so that there is no chance of you forgetting or letting something fall through the cracks. 

Keep in mind that your professor may deviate from the syllabus, so your schedule isn’t set in stone (though I have found professors are more likely to stick to the syllabus for online classes).

Don’t forget to schedule time for fun things! Despite how hectic school can be (or maybe even more so because of it), you need to practice self-care and do things you enjoy!

Determine your learning style 

There are three main learning stylesOpens in a new tab.

  1. Visual learners who like graphs and diagrams, reading instead of lectures, flashcards
  2. Auditory learners like listening to lectures or group discussions 
  3. Kinetic or hands-on learners who like hands-on experience

Knowing the best way that you learn can help you feel mentally prepared for a new semester. 

Create a designated workspace 

Clear and set up a designated workspace for you to study and do all your assignments. This will help you associate the place with being productive with school, which makes it easier for you to focus.

If you aren’t able to have a quiet workspace, check out our tips on How to Study When It’s Noisy: Tips to Block Out Noise and Concentrate.

Be mindful

Practice mindfulness by focusing on being present. When you are doing schoolwork, stay focused on that, and when you are with friends and family, be present with them.

When you feel your thoughts drifting to what you’re not doing or all the things you need to do, stop, take a few deep breaths, and refocus on the present.

Have something to look forward to

Think about what you are looking forward to this semester, such as a class you are particularly interested in or a requirement that will be fulfilled after this semester. Finding something you like about the school semester will make you feel more excited about starting a new semester.

It is also helpful to have things you are looking forward to outside of school, such as a trip, event, or even lunch with a friend.

Focus only on school until you get a routine

For the first week or two, only focus on school. Don’t make extra plans or work more hours. Leave your schedule open so you can determine how much time your schoolwork will demand and create a schedule. Once you have a routine, you can start to add in everything else.

Put your best foot forward

Put your best foot forward man standing with direction arrow to move forward

Be prepared, have the materials, and have a positive attitude. Start by putting in the extra effort.

If you study more than necessary and find out that the test wasn’t that hard or spend extra time on the assignment and learn the teacher is an easy grader, then you can adjust as needed, but since you don’t know, put in the extra effort!

Message your professor and introduce yourself. This (combined with working hard) will make a good first impression and help you build a good relationship with your professor. 

For more information on proper email etiquette, check out our post: How to Email Your Professor (With Sample Emails).

Now you know how to mentally prepare for a new semester, you can feel confident and calm about the start of the semester. Ready to succeed!

For more tips for starting a new semester, check out:

For more general tips on succeeding with online classes, check out 20+ Ways to Prepare for Online ClasseOpens in a new tab..

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