Preparing for academic success in 2012: 5 things to do BEFORE classes begin.

Classes at universities in Maryland begin in a few days. Over the past few weeks, there have been questions concerning what can be done to adequately prepare for a new semester of graduate courses.  Part of the answer is in the question itself:  one must “prepare” for the new semester before classes begin.  There are several things that can be done to prepare.  Here are a few suggestions:


1) Remind yourself that you really want this degree.  Think about your career goals. Review job opportunities in the field of your choice so that you’ll know what kinds of credentials you’re working toward.


2) Get your house in order.  Move close to campus, plan your travel times and routes, think about how life at home will run while you’re in school. If you have a family, make a plan for quality time, pick-up times for children, and other items like sharing duties with other family members or friends. If you work while attending school, plan ahead so that you have solid times for work responsibilities, travel between work and school, time in class, and study time.

3)  Have a plan for strong performance.  For example, you can re-read the Guaranteed 4.0 book (also available on Amazon) which discusses re-writing notes, talking with professors, and reading chapters before class. During the PROMISE Summer Success Institute, we provided a free copy of this book to all new students. If you have another system, review that system and plan to follow the tips.  Identify what you did correctly last semester and where you might have fallen short according to that plan. Once you identify gaps are, address how you will make changes for the upcoming semester.

4) Prepare all of your materials in advance.   Get copies of all of the syllabi. Even if the syllabi online are from previous semesters, they will give you an idea of the load and expectations for the course.  Get all of your books. These days, with Amazon, you can get almost any book without having to wait for materials to be available in the bookstores.


5) Make outlines and timelines. Include a timeline for your classes and study times.  In your timeline, include time for professors’ office hours. Think about the times that you can make yourself available for study groups.  Some courses may require projects and you may need to be flexible. Think, in advance, about your flexible times. Begin an outline for each course now, before the start of class.  Make a list of the concepts that you need to learn by the end of the course, and begin to familiarize yourself with some of the terms and concepts.



This is a short list, and you may have other things that you like to do to prepare. We don’t want students to go into class with a notebook and simply wait for the professor to provide all of the information. That method may have worked throughout undergraduate studies, but in graduate school, one must be a proactive learner. In graduate school, the professor will introduce the concept and will present the material, but you will be expected to analyze and synthesize information outside of the classroom. Employ whatever method works for you. Prepare, be productive, and be consistent throughout the semester.  Good luck and have a great year!


The text content of this post was compiled and written by the staff of PROMISE: Maryland’s AGEP

and may not be copied without referencing the PROMISE organization, as “PROMISE: Maryland’s AGEP”.

Creative Commons License
PROMISE AGEP Online Information by PROMISE: Maryland’s AGEP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Published by Renetta Garrison Tull

Dr. Renetta Garrison Tull is the Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) at the University of California Davis. She previously served as Associate Vice Provost for Strategic Initiatives at The Graduate School at UMBC, and was Professor of the Practice in the College of Engineering & IT. She was Special Assistant to the Sr. Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs & Director of Graduate and Professional Pipeline Development for the University System of Maryland (12 institutions). She is the Founding Director of PROMISE: Maryland’s Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate (AGEP) –, and Co-PI for the USM LSAMP. Her research on global diversity in STEM continues, and she is an international speaker, covering nearly all continents, for groups and conferences such as the World Engineering Education Forum, the International Federation of Engineering Education Societies, and the Pacific Sciences Congress. Her personal website is: Connect with her on Twitter: @Renetta_Tull;

7 thoughts on “Preparing for academic success in 2012: 5 things to do BEFORE classes begin.

Please Comment! Leave a Reply.

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

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

Facebook photo

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

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: