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Students leave the classroom at the Dane Smith building on Tuesday afternoon. UNM officials said having supplies and looking through the materials before the semester begins is the best way to succeed.

Students leave the classroom at the Dane Smith building on Tuesday afternoon. UNM officials said having supplies and looking through the materials before the semester begins is the best way to succeed.

Officials: Best way to survive the semester? Hit the ground running

With the start of the semester and new academic year dawning at UNM, many students might elect to hit the snooze button, wait on buying supplies and keep their brains in third gear for another week or two.

But University officials said setting the tone for the coming months early is key to having a healthy and successful semester.

Sonia Rankin, associate dean of University College, said students will cultivate their characters and discover their passions over the course of the year -- but asking some key questions is important when getting started.

“Ask yourself: 'what am I here to accomplish or become? What steps do I need to take to reach that goal? What tools do I need to achieve the steps?'” Rankin said.

Once students know these answers, Rankin suggests they write those answers down and keep them visible, whether by taping them to their beds, to the dashboards of their cars, or even keeping them in their phones.

She also said staying engaged in class is a vital step toward being successful.

“Go to all [your] classes. Be early to classes. Talk to people in your classes. Have course materials for your classes,” she said.

Rankin saidher own experience in college evolved as she met more people, especially when it came to her area of study.

“I made sure to connect with people in my major and who were in my classes,” she said. "I formed study groups in my math classes and we held each other accountable."

However, there’s more to college life than being in academically good standing. Beverly Kloeppel, executive director of Student Health and Counciling, said staying mentally and physically healthy can make a huge difference in the long run.

“There is a strong relationship between a student’s success and their participation in wellness activities,” she said. “Mood can also be improved by maintaining good health habits.”

Kloeppel said those habits include eating healthful foods, getting adequate sleep and engaging in regular exercise. There happens to be a resource students can utilize to ensure they’re getting all those things.

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“Consider enrolling in SHAC’s Healthy Weight Program. It encourages many wellness activities, as well as one-on-one appointments with a nutritionist,” she said.

Students can visit the Shac's website for more information about the program.

Kloeppel said scheduling and time management was crucial to her own collegiate experience.

“I would calendar all of my project deadlines and exams to anticipate crunch times during the semester,” she said.

Sonny Christopher Haquani, a sophomore political science and international relations major, said he takes time to do the same thing.

“I’m a very visual, spatial person,” Haquani said. “I like to go to the library, take 10 minutes on one of the white boards and just draw everything: my classes, where the rooms are. I’ll plan out my day so I know where the empty spots are during the day.”

Rankin and Kloeppel both said  there is one common behavior among students that puts them at risk for an unsuccessful semester: waiting to crack the book open.

“Get today’s work done today,” Kloeppel said. “Procrastination generally increases stress and anxiety. The stress of many deadlines is part of the college experience, but can be disabling if procrastination sends your level of anxiety too high.”

Rankin cited several UNM studies that emphasized the importance of staying on top of school work, including research led by Dr. Susan Deese-Roberts, a professor at University College, and Therese Baca-Radler of UNM’s First-Year Learning Communities.

“[They found that] if you can really develop strong habits of discipline, self-directed learning and self-management, you will be successful,” she said.

David Lynch is the news editor at The Daily Lobo. He can be reached at news@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @RealDavidLynch.

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