Episode 3: Back to School: Tips and Tricks to Surviving a New Semester!


Carrie: Welcome back, lit nerds! The modcasters are here today to give you some tips and tricks on surviving a new semester. I am one of your co-hosts, Carrie, and with me today is Leigh Ann, Forest, and Lane. And we’re going to actually shoot it over to Leigh Ann, who’s going to give us our first tip and trick of our session here today to talk about: Disability Services. 

Leigh Ann: Yeah, most–because of the name Disability Services, most people assume that these, that this resource is only for people with disabilities, which is not true. Say for example, you break your hand and it’s your dominant hand that you use to take your notes with, what are you going to do? Well, you can just pop over to Disability Services and they can give you a temporary accommodation such as being able to record your lectures or having a note taker or something like that.

Um. They help with pretty much anything from learning disabilities, to pointing you to more resources to help you get any diagnoses you need in order to help you succeed in classes.

Carrie: Yeah, absolutely. And something, um, I don’t know if any of you struggle with but I struggle with because I am a bigger girl. Um, sometimes the desks are a little bit small for me to fit into. And so one of the things that Disability Services can also help with this, if you are in a classroom, and you are unable to fit into those teeny tiny desks, so you can also ask them to move in a table. This has happened in a couple of my classes this semester. So it’s been really beneficial as well.

And so kind of going along with that is this idea of, you know, don’t be afraid to ask for help. And there are a lot of things you can do to ask for help. And one of those is self care. That is super important in a stressful environment like we’re in.

What other–what kind of things would you do for self care?

Forest: I know that getting up and getting out of my room and doing my work in another place that is not in the same desk chair that I go home and sit at every single day is very beneficial to not only that–my pale skin, but, um–


Forest: –my mental health and my anxiety because it helps when I have noises that surround me and so I get a lot more work done that way.

Carrie: Yeah, I completely agree sometimes. Because I guess I’m a commuter student. So I live off campus and so I do have a dedicated space at home to work in but sometimes you really have to get out. And sometimes you just have to get out not to go some place new to take a break, but you really just need to get out and just step away from whatever you’re doing because you need that brain break. I mean, they’re, like, real. 

One of the ways that, um, you can self care, too, is if you need to talk to somebody, it’s okay to talk to somebody. There are services on campus and things like that. I know that in my undergrad I struggled a lot with depression and a lot of that was that I didn’t get out and get to know my classmates. And I didn’t get out and join an organization or anything like that. And so doing those things, um, can be a form of therapy.

What else? What else are some other good tips and tricks you’ve got?

Forest: I know that at St. Mary’s in the spring semester, we often get a lot of days off for Fiesta, Oyster Bake, you know, we also have spring break, and then, of course, all the religious holidays, Easter.

I don’t know what else because I’m not religious, but I know we have a lot of them.

And last semester, I know that I fell into the hole of being very lazy on my days off, especially when they gave us like four or five days off, and then I would get no work done. And so then I would be struggling to finish my class or the work or the semester. So definitely, you know, take advantage of the days off and don’t fall into the trap of them. 

Carrie: Yeah, for sure. And speaking of, you know, not falling into the trap of days off and making sure you stay up with the work:

Read the syllabus. 


Lane: And read the assigned readings

Carrie: Yes, yes. Yeah. 

Lane: They’re assigned for a reason.

Carrie: Absolutely. Um, you, we are paying for our education, and it really does go a long way for helping us, like, making sure we’re getting the most out of our money to make sure we are doing the work.

So as a grad student, and also as a teacher, I’ve had to learn this lesson from two angles: one in my undergrad. I didn’t do that and didn’t do so well, but doesn’t mean you can’t start doing it and get there where you’re wanting to go. But also, as a teacher, I have students myself, who they’re like, ah, I didn’t do the reading. I’m like, Huh, I guess you’re just not going to be successful.


Carrie: Do the readings.

You owe it to yourself, because you have the ability to do it. And seriously, read the syllabus. 

Forest: And then read it again. 

Overlapping: And read it again and again and again. And again. 

Carrie: A lot of your answers will be–

Forest: in the syllabus. 

Carrie: Yes. 

Lane: Well, and one thing I think most students get overwhelmed by, especially from what I’ve experienced as an English major, is that they look at the syllabus and there’s so many readings and they think, Oh my god, I don’t have time. So it’s really going to help you out in any semester if you organize and prioritize your time.

That way you can get all of your readings done in a timely manner. And also to know your limits. If you are involved and if you’re full-time and if you’re working jobs, you got to know what is your breaking point because you don’t want to get there. 

Forest: Know when to say no.

Carrie: Yes, absolutely. And there are a lot of you know, Leigh Ann talked a little bit about Disability Services, but another great service on campus–If you’re not an English major, we’re not going to hold that against you. But even English majors need some help with writing, so non-English major, English major, whoever you are, we have a Writing Center on campus who can provide you assistance and help you get the grade that you want on that paper.

Leigh Ann: And make sure if you do go to the Writing Center, try not to go the day before–

Carrie: Yeah. 

Leigh Ann: –you have an assignment is due. Give yourself a little bit of time and read your assignment before you come.


Carrie: Yeah, that will help. Um.

One thing that I learned the hard way, too, is communicating with my professor is absolutely key. So that is something that since being a grad student I have tried to do constantly, because I am a commuter. And I do take grad classes which are usually in the evening. My professors’ office hours are usually over by the time I get to campus and so I try to send emails and things like that or schedule time outside of their listed office hours on the syllabus, which is another thing you can find on there.


And so it becomes really important, especially if you’re struggling with something or you–something has come up that’s unexpected–family emergency, personal emergency, whatever it is. I know we talked a little bit about the characteristics of a Marianist University last week.

And the professors really are phenomenal, but the only way they can be that way and help you be successful is if you communicate with them.

Forest: Mm-hmm.

Carrie: Any other tips and tricks? 

Leigh Ann: Read the syllabus.


Carrie: As you can see that one is probably at the top of our tips and tricks list. I know that that’s a little piece of paper, we get it the first day of the semester and we’re just like, Oh, hmm, doesn’t seem to be that important. But really. 

Leigh Ann: Like, the professor prints out–usually prints out the syllabus for you, multiple copies of the syllabus to hand out to you at the beginning of the semester, and you’re just gonna shove it into one of the pockets of your bag like it doesn’t matter?!


Leigh Ann: Come on, son!

Forest: I bring mine with me every day–

[Sounds of agreement.]

Forest: –and every day that we go to class I mark it off. 

Carrie: I do, too. 

Forest: That’s a success, one more day marked off. 

Lane: Yes. 

Forest: I can check what my reading is for next week. Yeah, I can mark that one off next week. What a great thing! 

Carrie: And it really helps you because we are all so busy. I mean, not only are we students, but we’re employees and we’re girlfriends and boyfriends and we’re mothers and fathers and all of these things, and, and you really have to be able to keep all of those roles in order. And as Lane said, being able to organize, to prioritize, and really just this idea of self care, your syllabus sets up that whole framework for your ability to do that.


I think…I think that’s a pretty good list of tips and tricks. 

Forest: I agree. 

Lane: You could also…We talked about the Writing Center, we talked about the Disability Services, you can also go to the library and–

[Sounds of agreement.]

Lane: –ask for help finding any sort of book that you’re looking for. Because we know that the little Discover tab on the Blume Library doesn’t always get you where you’re trying to go. Yeah, and Wikipedia is not a great–


Leigh Ann: The librarians can help you find not only books that we have in a library, but they also have interlibrary loan. So if we don’t have a book here on campus, they will literally order it for you from another library so you can borrow it. 

Carrie: I know that when I came on as my first semester here as a graduate student at St. Mary’s, I was having to do a research project for Dr. Hill. And it’s been a long time since I’ve done research. And so the librarian literally took two hours out of her day to sit with me and show me how to search for articles and scholarly journals. And it was the most valuable thing, I think, I learned maybe in my whole life.

But yeah, so that’s our that’s some of our tips and tricks. What would be some of yours? Anyways, that’s it for us. Have a great semester, y’all.

Enter your email to subscribe to notifications from this site

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: