Priscilla Blossom
August 19, 2015 7:30 am

Through the years, I’ve experienced my fair share of first days of school. Some have been good—like my first day of Kindergarten where I got to play on a computer for the first time ever (it was a long time ago). Others were not so good—I hid in a bathroom for my entire lunch period on my first day of high school and proceeded to walk out with toilet paper stuck to my shoe (but hey, I survived). For every new first day of school that passed, I learned new tricks to make the next one a little better and a whole lot more enjoyable. These are the things I wish I’d known back then.

No really, get a good night’s sleep

This seems like a no-brainer, but many of us stay up so late thinking about our first day that we start to resemble Walking Dead characters by the time we walk into class. And if you’re that drained, you won’t be able to focus on what your professors are saying. This is especially bad if they’re anything like my old chemistry instructor who actually gave away some answers to the midterm just to make sure we were paying attention. Catch some Z’s and you’ll feel refreshed and able to handle anything that comes your way, good or bad.

Plan as much as you can before 

Pack your backpack the night before. If you’ve got a supply list, shop ahead of time. Don’t wait until the morning of to figure out what you’re going to wear. Charge your phone, tablet, laptop batteries, or better yet, bring your chargers along with you. If you know you get cold easily, throw a sweater in your car. If you tend to get hungry between breakfast and lunch, stock up on snacks. Anything to lessen the day-of stress.

Study up on your schedule

Memorize the hell out of that piece of paper because there’s nothing worse than realizing you lost your schedule and you’re already 15 minutes late to French. Seriously, not fun. Also, figure out where each class is. By the time I was a junior, I knew all the best paths to get from my writing classes to the anthropology department and, a la Rory Gilmore, which coffee cart I would hit up in between. This will save you time and sanity.

Keep a notepad handy

When I started school, we didn’t walk around with cellphones 24/7, so the best thing to do was to have a small notepad and pen handy. This was useful for everything from exchanging numbers with new classmates, writing down a schedule change or a new locker combination, or jotting down a quick note to self about a book recommendation or an on-campus event I didn’t want to miss. Plus, if you run out of cellphone battery (or your school has a no cellphone policy), a notepad is good backup.

Choose your seats carefully

Humans are creatures of habit. I’m not sure why, but every first day of school, you usually end up picking a seat in class that determines more or less where you’ll sit for the remainder of the year (or semester). If you don’t have assigned seating, pick a spot where you’ll be able to pay attention to lessons and still be comfortable. I made the mistake all too often of sitting near the back and then either having some incredibly tall person sit in front of me, blocking my view, or some chatterboxes beside me, making it difficult to hear the teacher. Also, pick the right area to sit in for lunch. You don’t want to end up sitting too close to the bathrooms or near a busy hallway getting trampled while having a meal.

Be social, but don’t worry if you don’t make friends right away

This was a hard lesson for me. Your school day and your classes will always, ALWAYS feel shorter if you know you’ve got a friend nearby. They don’t have to be your BFF, just someone you can make random chatter to about the lesson or where to go for lunch or what happened on Game of Thrones last night (Just kidding! GoT isn’t on until next year). Most of us are feeling a little apprehensive the first day, so suck it up and just say hi. Or if you want a better excuse, ask your neighbor if they have an extra pencil or piece of paper. Trust me; it works more often than not. This way, when you more than likely miss a class or two, it’ll be nice to have someone to ask for notes or lesson recaps. Plus, when it comes time for exams, you’ll welcome the chance to have a solid study buddy. But also: Don’t freak if you don’t already have a bestie in every class. It takes time but it’ll happen.

You’ll learn so much on your first day of school, though most of it has nothing to do with the subject matter in your classes. The first day of class prepares you for a lifetime of firsts: first internship, first day on the job, first dates, first day of being the parent of a kid who is going off to school. The subtle lessons you pick up now are ones you’ll use for the rest of your life. Have fun!

[Image via Paramount Pictures]