Gearing Up for a New Semester

The end of the year is almost upon us, which means that a new semester—and a new start—has just about arrived. Here's what you need to know to get off to the best start.

Last Semester Doesn't Matter: However you performed in 2013—for better or for worse—is water under the bridge now. The only thing that matters now is how you move forward in 2014. It's your chance to either keep going with awesome results, or fix things if you're not happy with them.

Attend Class: If you form no other habits, at least go to every class you can. It's debatable just how much information the human brain can retain, but whatever it is, it's still higher than the 0% you'd retain if you skipped class. Plus, each class you skip is anywhere from $25 to $200 you're giving the school for free.

Take Notes: Although there's a difference between "good" and "bad" notes, just the fact that you're right something down matters. Not only will you have a reference to look at later on, but the more ways in which you process the information, the likelier you are to retain it.

Keep Deadlines: Do whatever you need to do to make sure your assignments get in on time. It'd suck to do all that work and lose 10% or more right off the bat, especially if your work was A+ material.

Find What Works: If you need absolute silence to study, hunt down a graveyard-like spot on campus. And if noise is your thing, pull out your books at the cafeteria. Because many students tend to peter out near the end of the semester, either do what it takes to maintain good effort, or plan in anticipation of a fall-off.

Get Help: Your profs may or may not be available to help you break down every single concept, but your TAs and classmates are. Ignore any thoughts that your TAs have their own work and milk their knowledge as much as you can. It's your degree and your marks, not theirs. And because your classmates are in the same boat as you, form study groups as a way of boosting your understanding of class material.

Read: Your textbooks costs hundreds of dollars. Would you spend the same amount on a pair of shoes, only to leave them collecting dust on a shelf? Pull out your books, go through them, Google what you don't understand, and watch your knowledge skyrocket.

Wikipedia: Everyone should know by now that the online encyclopedia giant isn't what you use to cite in an essay, but it's a great starting off point. It's got millions of articles on just about every topic, and can give you easy understanding on a puzzling concept. Just make sure you check Wikipedia against academic sources to make sure you're getting the right information.