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How to Prepare for the Spring Semester

by Nicole Cortino

Spring registration is nearing and students have a lot to consider when planning their course schedule, especially with Flex@Pitt, the University’s online and in-person hybrid teaching method. The first day of spring term classes is Tuesday, Jan. 19 and the last day will be Saturday, May 1.

Students may feel the upcoming spring semester will be compressed. However, this is not entirely true, because the course schedule itself will be the same length it has always has been. Every semester is 15 weeks long, but the spring semester will run for 15 weeks straight.

There will be no classes on Tuesday, Feb. 23 and Wednesday, March 24, which are the student self-care days replacing spring break.

Beth Tiedemann, the director of Academic Advising and registrar, joined the University’s Academic Calendar Committee that organizes the school year’s calendar for the entire university system, not just Pitt-Greensburg.

“The schedule has to work in regards to housing, moving students in and out for the semesters,” Ms. Tiedemann said. “It needs to work for graduate students, students who are in the sciences and are taking labs — it’s extremely complicated.”

And so, just as the committee considers hundreds of factors before finalizing and proposing the following academic year, Ms. Tiedemann encourages students to think about their preparations for next semester as well.

Here are some factors Ms. Tiedemann recommends students consider to get ready for Spring 2021.


Reflect on the Fall Semester

“I think it is very much individualized,” Ms. Tiedemann said.

She suggested students consider the following questions:

  • Which classes were successful, and why?
  • Which classes were not as successful, or difficult for me to keep up with?
  • What challenges need to be addressed before starting the next semester?

“I think students really need to reflect on their own learning style, their self-discipline and motivation,” Ms. Tiedemann said. “For some students, being online has been awesome. These students are able to take more credits than they are used to. For other students, it’s been difficult if they didn’t have the self-discipline before the semester. That discipline is not going to come out of thin air. It’s something you have to train yourself for.”

Ms. Tiedemann suggests answering some of these questions to help develop this self-discipline and succeed in spring:

  • How do I learn best?
  • Which learning styles or strategies do I benefit the most from?
  • How I retain information best?
  • What factors of online learning may need to be addressed for me to be more successful?

“Students should consider what proportion of classes they want in-person compared to remote, and also think about how many credits they can handle compared to how many they need to take,” Ms. Tiedemann said.

“In some cases, students may need a class but not have a choice to postpone it. They may have to take it in a form that it is given. We do have more faculty for the spring that are going to try the hybrid form of classes,” Ms. Tiedemann said. “So, in some ways, there’s even more to consider in the spring compared to a regular semester.”

Students can take proactive steps to see which courses are available in the spring, and out of those courses, students can check which ones are available in the form they need.

“We’re going to have an extra course schedule that will include whether spring courses are hybrid, or only online. This will help students decide whether they are going to be commuting, staying on campus, or staying home,” Ms. Tiedemann said.

Finally, make sure to set an appointment with your academic advisor.


Find Extracurricular Activities

Some students have avoided joining or returning to clubs, organizations, and other groups, because they feel it will overcomplicate their new schedule. However, Ms. Tiedemann feels it’s the opposite.

Students who are interested in getting involved should ask themselves:

  • Am I involved in sports?
  • Do I want to apply for leadership positions?
  • How could I expand the small circle of friends I have, or the groups that surround me?

“I think that extracurriculars are very important because we’re all so isolated and wrapped up in our tiny worlds in our house, or dorm room, and I think that everyone’s well-being is very important,” she said. “I encourage extracurriculars to have some sort of normalcy, even if it’s virtually.”


Regularly  Check Your Email

Ms. Tiedemann understands the difficulty of reading every email that enters the inbox, but it’s important to do so emails pertaining to scholarships, new courses, class scheduling, etc. are not lost when that information is needed the most.

“I was really afraid for the fall semester. I sent out multiple emails thinking, ‘Students are not going to realize that classes started 3 days early,’” Ms. Tiedemann said.

Susan Isola, director of media relations, said Justin Antoszewski is another important resource for information, as he ensures students can easily find information elsewhere.

“He is the Communications Associate, the person that handles our website and social media. When decisions are made and confirmed, he does his best to post it onto our website so that students can easily find information there by using the search button, or our calendar,” she said. “He also tries to push that information out into social media. He uses Facebook and Twitter predominantly because that’s where the majority of our students are.”

Staying informed will help make preparing for such an uncertain semester easier.

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