Settling Into September

September comes with that inspiring back-to-school essence. Whether you’re beginning your first AU course or in the middle of your fifteenth, September still inspires. It may be the flurry of back-to-school ads, the reappearance of school buses, or just the ingrained habit of many years. Whatever it is, school and September just go together.

Although I take AU courses year-round, September still feels like a new school year. My course start dates are staggered throughout the year, but I always plan to begin a course September 1. Before jumping into course work, though, I take a few days to settle into the new school year by doing the following:

AU review. The start of a new school year is an ideal time to review AU itself. When I log into myAU in September, I take time to look around what else is online besides my course. I check out what’s new on the Student Services tab to make sure I’m getting everything I can out of my AU education. Fall is also a good time for me to click on the Library tab, access the AU Library website, and review library services so I’m prepared when I need materials. I also check the Community and Student Help tabs for a refresher on what support is available.

Clearing off desk space. I should probably do this more often, but September seems like a good time to clear the decks for study. Like any flat surface, my desk seems to attract a myriad collection of objects, not all related to school work. The first week of September, everything comes off the desk and doesn’t go back on unless it has a clear purpose. I discard dozens of to-do lists, eliminate several water bottles, and thin out a small forest of pens from the clutter. While I’m at it, I tidy up my desk drawers and rearrange my study space.

Find what’s lacking. With back-to-school sales in full swing, September is a great time to stock up on study aids and desk essentials. I’m stocking up on yellow highlighters, page flags, and sticky notes. Wandering through the aisles of an office-supply store can prove inspiring; sometimes I don’t know what I need?or what’s out there?until I see it.

Revising habits. September is the student equivalent of New Year’s. I find it a good time to reflect on study methods and work habits and see what’s working, what’s not, and how to improve. Does my study schedule reflect my peak thinking time? What’s interfering with my school work and how can I reduce or eliminate distractions? What good habits can I incorporate into my study time and what bad habits should I discard?

Making plans. Although many AU students don’t follow a traditional semester, there’s still a rhythm to the study year. I take a heavier course load from September to April so that I can have more free time in the summer. I take time in September to map out the next year’s worth of courses so my study schedule runs smoothly. I enter enrolment dates on my calendar so that I don’t miss any deadlines.

There’s a whiff of autumn in the air. Summer is on the wane and September tells us it’s time to re-focus on our studies. But before you crack open a fresh textbook and plunge into school work, take a little time to get settled this September.

Barbara Lehtiniemi is a writer, photographer, and AU student. She lives on a windswept rural road in Eastern Ontario. Follow Barbara on twitter @ThereGoesBarb.