At least twice per year, students across the country pack their bags and set off for another semester of college. While college can be an enjoyable and rewarding experience, success is ultimately dependent on hard work and preparation.

If either you or a loved one is planning for a brand new school year or semester, here are seven essential back-to-school tips to keep in mind!

1. Get plenty of sleep the night before

The first day back at college—whether it’s spent in class, moving into a new dorm, or participating in orientation—is an important one.

Particularly if your first day will be spent driving back to your college campus, it’s critical that you get ample rest the night before. Failing to do this could put you at risk of driving while drowsy.

While it might be tempting to stay up late for one last night with hometown family and friends, make sure you go to bed at a reasonable time and get the proper rest your body needs!

2. Make a packing checklist

One of the worst feelings is arriving at your college dorm room only to realize that you left an important item at home. Fortunately, a little organization can help you avoid this gut-wrenching feeling!

Before you leave home for your next semester of college, create a packing checklist of items you will need to bring with you. Be sure to add clothes, accessories, books, extra furniture, toiletries, and any other items you see fit.

When it comes time to pack, carefully cross each item off your list and check twice for anything you might have missed!

3. Arrive a few days ahead

Depending on your college’s schedule, plan to arrive on campus at least a few days ahead of when classes are scheduled to start.

Arriving early will provide you with ample time to unpack, locate different campus buildings, organize your daily planner, and relax before you dive headfirst into your studies.

Be careful not to arrive too far in advance, however, as you might be stuck on campus with little to do before everyone else arrives!

4. Nail down your studying routine

The 2011 National Survey of Student Engagement found that the average student spends roughly 15 hours studying each week. Given the amount of time you will spend with your head in the books, it’s critical that you nail down a studying routine that works for you.

Different environments work for different people. While one student might be able to listen to music while studying, you may require complete silence. While you may prefer to study at the campus library, another student might prefer the solace of their own down room.

It’s important that you create an environment that is conducive to your own productivity. Eliminate anything that might distract you from working efficiently!

5. Find an extracurricular activity to enjoy

While it’s important to put your head down and be diligent during your time at university, it’s also important that you strike a balance between schoolwork and socialization. Without friends, breaks, and activities that can help you take your mind off your studies, you can easily get burned out and even depressed.

Fortunately, college campuses are loaded with all types of extracurricular sports, clubs, fraternities, and sororities that help you connect with others. The average student spends at least four hours in leisure and sports activities each week!

Your first or second semester of college is the perfect time to get plugged into an extracurricular activity, as your course load will only increase as you progress through your program!

6. Foster a healthy lifestyle

While the “Freshman 15” may be a myth, it contains some level of truth. One study reports that the average student gains 2.7 pounds during the school year. Beyond gaining weight, an unhealthy lifestyle can impact your ability to succeed at college.

An unhealthy diet and lack of exercise are a recipe for fatigue and poor performance in the classroom. Don’t skip meals, and make healthy food choices, and monitor your portions. If you’re of legal drinking age, drink in moderation.

What’s more, there are plenty of ways for you to get exercise while at college. Work out at the on-site gym, join an intramural sports team, or ride your bike around campus!

7. Don’t neglect family and friends

Amidst the chaos of a college semester, don’t forget to check in with your family and friends. Not only will this give them peace of mind that you are doing well but it will also be beneficial for your own mental health.

At least once per week, block out some time to make a simple call or FaceTime to a loved one!

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