When I received an email from my professor listing all the textbooks we needed this semester, I did a double take. I glanced at the calendar, and couldn’t believe it—it was August again! In an instant, I realized that my days of napping, meandering around New York City with friends, and exploring new restaurants were soon to be over. Instead, I saw a future of waiting in long lines at the department store, late nights spent cramming at the library, and furiously jotting down notes in lecture halls.
As a rising junior in college, these visions (and soon-to-be realities) come each August. And in the first few weeks of class, I’m sure my classmates sitting behind me have observed my tight, tense shoulders and fidgeting— products of my back-to-school anxiety.
But over the years, I’ve worked out some helpful tips to minimize the stress that comes with going back to school. Here are five pieces of advice.
Do your back-to-school shopping far in advance
It’s true that back-to-school season means great deals and countless options for school supplies — but it also often means frantic crowds at the stores and the specific items you want being out of stock due to high demand.
To avoid getting caught in the back-to-school rush, consider signing up for any rewards programs that your local stores offer. Throughout the year, CVS frequently offers me coupons 40% off any product. I take advantage of these deals and gradually get what I need over the summer. Come fall, I have little (if any) shopping to do.
Add your classes to your calendar ahead of time
One semester, I strolled into a class’ first meeting 15 minutes late because I couldn’t figure out which classroom to go to — and then when I finally I figured it out, I got lost on the way there. After having to face stares from the entire class as I burst into the room sweaty and out of breath, I swore I would never make such a mistake again.
Since then, I’ve figured out my class schedule as early as registration allows. Once my schedule has been set, I input my classes into my Google Calendar, along with the professor’s name and class location. Even better, I have the app set to notify me 10 minutes before a class starts, so I have time to think about where I’m going and how to get there. Using my calendar has saved me so much stress, and has helped me walk into the classroom early and with confidence.
Make a budget
For many students, including myself, summer means more time to work, which also means more money in the bank! Having that extra income from working full-time at a private equity firm this summer helped me make a few big purchases (like new suede boots for fall and a set of AirPods), see some Broadway shows, and even order the occasional appetizer at a restaurant.
While these small luxuries may seem, well — small, they are things that I just can’t afford to do when I only work part-time at my work-study position during the school semester. To help myself adjust to this loss in income, I evaluated my credit card statements from each month this summer, totaling all of my expenses for restaurants and things I splurged on. I then made a budget. I averaged my monthly food costs over the summer and cut it in half, because I know I’ll have to cook more instead of eating out.
Start new habits a few weeks before school
The summer before freshman year, I was as much of a night owl as one could be. Working the night shift at a retail store and the lack of homework meant staying up until the wee hours of the morning aimlessly browsing the internet and sleeping into the late afternoon (simply because I could).
As nice as that was, I couldn’t carry those habits over into the school year, especially since my schedule called for 8:30 a.m. classes. During my first week of college, not only did I struggle to stay awake — I also came very close to oversleeping a few times, and could barely bring myself to speak in class due to my fatigue.
So in the weeks before my next semester, I switched up my routine. I stopped all screen time at 9 p.m., and made it to bed by 10. By the time school rolled around, my body was already used to my college routine — and waking up early was no problem.
Carve out time for your social life
Being the perfectionist I am, I strive to turn in my best work for assignments and develop good relationships with my professors. But despite being an extrovert, I sometimes get so caught up in my work that I isolate myself socially, turning down offers to go out or staying up way too late.
To make sure I get the social time I need, I try to book “friend dates” once a week. These can be as simple as catching up over coffee over the weekend, hanging out in the quad, or a sit-down dinner. Spending time with my friends reminds me that I’m not going through back-to-school stress alone — and that I have a wonderful support system by my side.
Originally published on August 26, 2019.