How Do You Get Ready for the Spring Semester?

It can be difficult to come back mentally from the holiday season. Brandon, a Leadership Council Member for the Graduate Nursing Student Academy, shares some tips and tricks to get ready for the spring semester.


Brandon Varilek, RN, PCCN, CCTC

During my first year as a PhD Student, I had a 6-week break between the conclusion of the fall semester and starting the spring semester. And of course, being new to graduate studies, I fell out of “practice” of being a good student over my break. Once classes resumed, I struggled to hit my stride. Through the years, I have a routine that I follow to ensure I am ready to hit the ground running when the semester starts. Here are a couple things that I do and recommend you try as well:

  1. Review the course syllabus and course calendar prior to the course start date. At South Dakota State University, professors always open the courses early for us so we can review the syllabus and course calendar. I find this quite stressful, but also calming. I prefer to look at the course calendar before the actual start of the semester so I know exactly what I need to get done. Seeing a huge assignment list the first day of classes can be overwhelming, so seeing this list before the start of the semester helps me mentally prepare.
  2. Put all assignments from each course on the same calendar on the computer. I am a visual person, so seeing all of my assignments in one spot helps me prioritize without needing to go through each course calendar every time.
  3. Look closely at the end-of-semester assignment. If your classes are like mine, there is often a huge paper due at the end of the course. START EARLY!!! I have learned my lesson on this one. Make sure to dedicate time to start your projects early so you are not in a mad rush for the last week of the semester to finish. My strategy to ensure I look at the final assignment is to set small deadlines about 1 month, 2 months, and 3 months prior to the due date so I at least am looking at the project guidelines and making forward progress.

In all of the anxiety of starting a new semester, make sure that you also schedule some time away from school, whether it is a date with a significant other, time hanging out with friends, or having a Netflix binge session. For me, completing my PhD full time, working as a full time transplant coordinator, and being married with a 4-month-old at home means I have more than plenty of stress and anxiety, but taking time away from school to de-stress with my family gives me the charge that I need to continue on.

I hope these suggestions are helpful to you as you begin the spring semester. What are your strategies? How do you start off the new semester to make sure that you progress smoothly and complete all assignments on time? Join the GNSA and share your strategies by logging into GNSA Connect (don’t miss the introduction board). Tell us who you are, your current school and program, and share your nursing research interests to connect with others.


The Graduate Nursing Student Academy (GNSA) provides high value programs, services, and resources to graduate nursing students enrolled in master’s and doctoral programs at AACN member schools. The GNSA is committed to supporting graduate students preparing for careers as faculty members, researchers, advanced practice registered nurses, clinical nurse leaders, policy experts, and healthcare administrators, among other roles.