How to Make the Best of a Brand New Semester

Welcome to the start of another year, where cries of “New year, new me!” echo around us. But although the calendar year has started afresh, there is one major calendar that has not reset – the academic year. If your fall semester didn’t go the way you wanted it to, you may feel like there’s no point in doing a reset once you’re halfway through. But learning from the mistakes of the fall semester can actually make your spring semester the best it can be!

A great way to jumpstart your spring semester is to reflect on how the fall went. It’s really common to get down about your perceived failings, but the best way to learn is through making mistakes. As a tutor, I like to point out to my students that if they didn’t make any mistakes on their homework, I would never know what they need to work on! If you notice you’ve made a mistake on a math problem, for instance, try to reframe it for yourself by thinking, “How interesting!” instead of “You dummy, you did it again.” Curiosity and self-generosity will get you farther than negative self-talk any day of the week. 

One fun exercise to try is “Start Stop Keep” – it’s an interesting framework to organize your thoughts about what you’ve done in the past and how you’d like to continue. Here are some sample questions you can ask yourself:

  • What would I like to start doing? Example: I could start reviewing class notes weekly so studying for a big test isn’t intimidating.
  • What would I like to stop doing? Example: I could stop scrolling on my phone at night so I can go to sleep earlier.
  • What would I like to keep doing? Example: I could keep writing in my Line-a-Day journal before bed as a way of winding down.

Our world seems to be filled with voices shouting about optimizing every minute of your life in order to be the very best version of yourself. And while self-improvement is an admirable goal, it shouldn’t mean that you become afraid to make any mistakes at all. Mistakes are a valuable part of learning, and nothing to be ashamed of. It’s important to make mistakes in a safe environment, like school, so you can learn how you want to do things differently. As long as you see your mistakes as a life lesson, you can make them work for you.


Applerouth is a trusted test prep and tutoring resource. We combine the science of learning with a thoughtful, student-focused approach to help our clients succeed. Call or email us today at 202-558-5644 or info@applerouth.com.