Preparing for a Better Second Semester

Students sometimes feel like they’ve run a marathon when the first semester of school ends. Depending on individual circumstances, students may truly have put in more effort than usual this semester. Students who didn’t meet your (or their own) academic expectations may feel anxious about the end of winter/ Christmas break. This article lists four (4) things you can do as a parent (or that adult students can do themselves) to renew themselves and prepare to improve their second semester performance.

Four Tips for a Better Second Semester

Regardless of grade level, most students feel they can improve something about their first semester performance. Here are some tips to help your child (or yourself) prepare for academic success the second semester.

1. Write Long and Short – Term Goals: One of the best ways to improve performance is to create academic goals and write them down. I always have my students write a weekly academic goal in their journals. Their goals must have one summary sentence that lists exactly what they want to improve and at least three steps they will take to make this happen. Each week they re-read their goal and steps and write a paragraph about how they’ve done. About 99% of my students reach their weekly academic goal.

Before the first semester ends, talk to your child about how they feel they’ve done so far this year. Instead of writing their goals down, have younger children draw a picture of themselves achieving their goal. Encourage them to set other school – related goals (such as reading a set number of pages, chapters, or books each week) if they can’t think of a class – related goal. Adult learners can list their goal and action steps in the front of a notebook they use frequently. Both methods encourage frequent reflection on progress.

2. End the First Semester Positively: If you or your child will finish their first semester after winter/ Christmas break, make sure to prepare (them) to finish strongly. Insist that your K – 12 students “unplug” from technology over break and spend some time reading and thinking creatively. The last couple of days before break starts are perfect for encouraging your child to think about first semester successes, too. Include things that may seem unimportant to children – like turning in all homework – in the list.

As the break ends, remind them about their successes and goals as they return to school after the break. If your child is afraid there’s nothing they can do about their first semester grades, reassure them that a lot can happen in a couple of weeks.

3. Re-organize School Supplies: Remember how prepared you (or your child) were when school started in the fall? You made a trip or two to the store, got everything on the supply list, and made sure your child’s name and subject were on folders, notebooks, and other supplies. Backpacks were set out the night before with folders in them, homework done. If your child is like most students, by now lockers have filled with graded work, broken pencils, and leaking pens, and it all explodes out as soon as the door opens!

Treat the start of the second semester like the start of a new school year. Have your child bring home all the folders, notebooks, and school supplies in their lockers. (Tell them to throw away those broken pencils and leaky pens!) Inventory everything during winter break and replace folders that are ripped or folded in half. (The durable plastic folders with pockets are the best I’ve found so far.) Replace lost, broken, or damaged items with extras you have at home or old ones from previous years that are still in good shape. Once students are organized, they will be able to find what they need to get their work done.

4. Adult Students: Buy Your Books Early. Adult students can prepare for the new semester by getting their books for next semester early. Certainly, don’t buy books for any classes you may need to drop or change, but go ahead and buy a book from a class in your major. Even if you need to wait until financial aid is deposited, you can still buy a book or two a few days before classes start. (Keep your receipts and pay attention to the bookstore’s return policy!)

Once you have a book or two, skim through the titles and headings in the first few chapters. Look at any maps, charts, or diagrams you see to preview the first week or two of classes. Once the second semester starts, it’s “full steam ahead” with a heavy reading load! Ease yourself back into things by casually reading a chapter or two in each book. (Don’t go overboard and start highlighting or writing notes yet.) This will give you a base of information to build on once classes start.


Some students may feel anxious about the start of the second semester for various reasons. Adults can help their children improve by encouraging them to set short and long – term academic goals, thinking about their first semester successes, and re-organizing and replacing school supplies over winter/ Christmas break. Adult students can get a head start on second semester reading by buy a book or two early and reading them casually to create a base of information. This also helps reduce college student’s anxiety levels by getting a jump on traditionally heavy academic reading loads. Adult learners should keep their bookstore receipts and educate themselves about the store’s return policy in case they need to change their schedule.

I hope you found this article helpful. Please take a minute to leave a comment, Like this post on Facebook, or Tweet the post via Twitter using the buttons on the right side of my blog page. If you have questions about whether a tutor is right for you or if you would like advice for your unique situation, feel free to E-mail me using the “E-mail Jeff S.” button on my Wyzant tutor home page. I’m happy to help!

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