In my opinion, I believe it is difficult to suggest to someone how to prepare for their first semester. Each one of us will enter into this program from different avenues, so how prepared we are will be determined by what we have been doing prior to starting.
For those who come straight into the program from your undergraduate studies, you may have a better transition to the program, as your mindset will already be in the academic mode necessary for beginning your studies. For others like myself, who have probably been removed from the world of academia for some time, it is going to be a bit of a shock getting back into the groove of things again.
One thing you may have to get used to is the faster pace of each semester. Each course lasts for eight (8) weeks, instead of the normal sixteen (16) that you may be used to. Getting your weekly schedule down pat and prioritizing what you will need to do each day is important to your success. However, once you get that schedule down, you will see that it is easier to plan out your personal agendas and stay on task.
Plan Your Schedule
Another issue to consider is how to prioritize your workload with your everyday life. During my first couple of semesters, I was training for a triathlon, so I had a busy schedule between working full-time, taking classes, and attending my training sessions. I found planning to be a key to my success in the HAD program.
After the first semester, I realized that each of my courses followed the same pattern more-or-less. The biggest differences were the day of the week, the assignment was due, and the day of the week that collaborative sessions were held. While it may sound elementary, I made sure to review the syllabus to ensure I knew the instructor’s expectations and ask any questions I had about due dates, so I could plan everything accordingly.
The last thing I would say about planning for your first semester is think about something you really enjoy doing (i.e. running, painting, music, etc.) that you can use as a stress reliever. As I mentioned, I like doing triathlons. When suffering from writer’s block, I often used these training sessions to help break up stress factors I may have endured throughout my classes, which helped me think more clearly about what I was trying to write. Planning accordingly for your weekly assignments and determining ways to help keep your stress levels under control will be two of the best ways to prepare for your first semester.
Good luck and best wishes to you throughout your studies!