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Expert advice for starting strong in the spring semester

Associate professor Thomas Vicino offers a few pro tips for starting the spring semester on the right foot. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

Whether you’re returning from co-op, an experience abroad, or winter break, getting back into the swing of classes for the spring semester can be a challenge. To help, we asked Thomas Vicino, faculty-in-residence and associate professor of political science, public policy, and urban affairs, for some re-entry tips.

“Getting back into the swing of the semester can be a challenge, but it also brings excitement of new classes and meeting new people,” said Vicino, who also is chair of the Department of Political Science. “At the beginning of a new calendar year, many people set goals and resolutions, so there is often a renewed sense of purpose as the spring semester begins.”

The first week of classes, he said, is a time when students and faculty are learning about one another, their classrooms, and what the semester will hold.

New and returning students alike often use the week to get acclimated—to campus, to their schedules and workloads, and to recreation.

“My advice to students is to always ask questions and seek support from others—faculty, staff, and students are always willing to assist,” he said.

Vicino had three specific pieces of advice for all students:

  1. “Get to know your professors. Visit them during their office hours and learn about their work. Professors enjoy meeting students and sharing their work with others; they equally enjoy learning about your interests and helping you meet your goals. Developing this relationship can be important later in your academic career.”
  2. “Keep a calendar up to date, whether it is a digital calendar or a good old-fashioned paper calendar. Successful students schedule time to study, time to eat, time to exercise, and time for recreation. Time management is an essential skill for academic and professional success.”
  3. “Build community and a network of peers. It is important to cultivate friendships and develop a sense of community. In my role as a faculty-in-residence, we seek to integrate student learning outside of the classroom—through programming, activities, and social events. Having the support of a network of supporters is important for success—whether it’s a club, a part-time job, a study group, a sport, or a lab.”