Whether you’re a young person at school or college, or a mature student returning to education, the new academic year can appear daunting. There’s so much to organise, so many things to remember, and if you’re embarking on a new course, you might be concerned about your ability to keep up with the class. If you’re feeling anxious or negative about starting your course, you might think that it is inevitable that this will lead to you forgetting things and finding the work difficult. Most people believe that we are ruled by our feelings and these dictate our behaviour. However, William James, who was an eminent expert on the workings of the mind in the late 19th century, and whose work is read today by students of behavioural psychology, questioned this theory. James believed that we can choose to feel positive and in control by smiling and taking direct action ourselves.
If you’ve decided to smile and take action to start the academic year with a positive attitude, here is a step by step guide to taking control:
• Get organised
As soon as you’ve received your timetable or schedule for the term, make several copies. Put one on the wall beside your study area at home, one in your purse or wallet, and keep some spares. You should also print out a calendar and write the deadlines for all coursework for the next few months. Make a list of all the books and other study materials you are going to need. Having read the course contents, you should then write the dates by which you will need particular books and materials onto the calendar.
• Integrate with other students
If you are going to a school or college, join a group that is related to your course, or opt for something extracurricular. If you are a distance learning student, you can join other people on your course in an online group. If you can find a way to connect with people who are studying the same material, you will enjoy the course much more and find it easier to grasp difficult concepts.
• Engage with your teachers or tutors
If you are starting a distance learning course, find out who your tutors will be. Contact the tutors via email, introducing yourself and asking questions about the course. Whether you are learning at home or at college, it is important to establish a good working relationship with your teachers. In addition to allowing you to feel comfortable enough to ask for help when you need it, a good rapport with your tutor will also help you to feel more positive about your studies.
You might be a few days into the new academic year already, but it’s never too late to develop a positive attitude that can foster great success. You don’t have to allow doubts and fears to hinder your progress, you can take action and take control.
I'm a former English teacher and private tutor who is passionate about education. I've been writing professionally for the past three years and have written educational worksheets for use in schools as well as contributing to an educational journal. I've also written on every other topic under the sun!