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5 Tips To Stay Motivated During Syllabus Week — and My Personal Back To School Playlist

UIC’s Brutalist architecture might be unique in Chicago, but it doesn’t mean it’s attractive. University Hall looks like a giant air conditioner.

Hey, how’s it going? Matt Cuartero here.

I just wanted to take a quick moment to welcome you to my blog here at UIC Radio: M4 – Matt’s Monday Morning Mailbox (although I do not always release on Mondays exclusively). I answer viewer’s submitted questions, and I also like to write about the military, music, video games, and track and field. I also do reporting on school events from time to time. If you’re returning to UIC, welcome back to another great year; thank you for joining me again. If you’re a first year student here, I welcome you too. I hope you’ll find Chicago an exciting city to be in.

With a new year comes new classes, responsibilities, and opportunities. It also comes with what I like to call “Warm Up Season”. I don’t know about you guys, but the first few weeks of school are always my laziest. I don’t know; until I realize that classes are getting serious (usually I am notified by this with a bad grade) I take a long time to get into action and really buckle down on studying. I wanted to provide you with a plan of attack of my own to hit the ground running and get the jump on the semester before it gets a jump on you. Some say the most important part of the semester is the very beginning and I would agree with that.

Step 1: Analyze the syllabus

The first week of class is syllabus week. This is your chance to pull out all of the useful things that you will be going over in class. You should note the following:

  1. Important due dates

  2. Homework

  3. Exams

  4. Percentage Weights

  5. Office Hours

  6. Tutoring

  7. Textbooks/Supplies to Purchase

Go over what is expected and make a schedule for yourself. Set aside time to study every day and make a calendar so you know when things are coming up. Simple as that.

For organizational purposes, I like to use the Google App, Google Keep. Check it out.

Step 2: Go to other lectures

Most classes are usually run by a lecturer. Sometimes, you don’t know if the lecturer is good or not. You’ll most likely know by the first few class periods. If you aren’t learning anything from the professor, no one is stopping you from attending another professor’s lecture instead. Seriously; there’s room. You might have to stop into your actual professor’s lecture at the end of class for attendance, but if you’re not learning, go elsewhere.

Step 3: Start working/studying the first week

I cannot stress this enough. If you do nothing the first week, this will definitely set the tone for the rest of the semester. In the beginning of the semester, your willpower and work ethic is most likely very low. Find it within yourself to just start studying a little bit right away. Even just 30 minutes a day is enough to spark your study habits.

Step 4: Talk to your professor

Make sure that you have communication with your professor. It is their job to help you pass their class. You should know what he/she expects and what they want you to learn. Go to their office hours right away and get noticed as a good student. Effort is always important, and professors appreciate it that you show them that.

Step 5: Pace yourself

College is full of a lot of things to do. The entire point of my guide is so you have time to get a leg up in the beginning of the semester so you can afford to bullsh*t around and afford to go party. If you study and work every day (even just a little bit) you’re always moving towards your goal for the class, and that is very important. You’ll feel better about yourself and when you adopt good study habits, it’ll become second nature to work effectively.

Okay. So those are 5 things that I always think about when in school. It definitely helps me; I hope these help you as well. In addition, here’s my back to school playlist to get you up and at em’!

My name is Matt Cuartero, and I am a Mathematical Computer Science Major here at UIC. I publish every Monday for my blog (M4). Submit any viewer questions to and I’ll answer it as earnestly as possible. Seriously. Ask away. I have nothing better to do.

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