With the end of the semester quickly approaching, we only really have two things in mind:
(1) how are we going to survive finals week? and
(2) I can’t wait for summer to begin!
I don’t know about you, but I’m already dreaming of the breath of fresh air that summer will bring: nothing to study for and no 8:30 AM classes that ruin our precious sleep cycles.
But the semester isn’t over yet (unfortunately) and there’s still so much to do before we pack up and leave for vacation! Over the years, I’ve had to learn the hard way that it’s so important that you don’t start slacking off when the end of the semester comes along.
And that doesn’t just apply to studying for finals! There are so many small but important things we tend to overlook in the frenzy of trying to end the semester. Here are just five of them so you can end the semester on a high note.
Thank your professors (and TAs).
I can’t emphasize how important this is. Your professors impact you in so many ways during the semester, even if it doesn’t seem like it. They put a lot of hard work and effort into teaching you the material you need. (And, yes, even if you’re going to forget it the day after the final exam, it still matters.)
By the end of the semester, make sure to send your professor and email—or, better yet, see them in person—and thank them for a semester. I send my favorite professors a more detailed and personalized message and others a generic one.
Some professors won’t care and maybe won’t answer. But, in my experience, this small message can mean so much to them. Professors usually only hear the negatives from the semester and a small appreciation can go a long way.
How to Thank Your Professor:
- Mention your name and the class period you’re in. They have so many students; this can be so helpful in helping them put a name to a face. I also sometimes mention if I’ve sat in the front row for the whole semester. (I had a professor tell me once that he missed me sitting there when I didn’t show up for the last two classes, so they definitely could recognize you!)
- Tell them what you liked about the course. Be it their teaching style or the material itself, this is something awesome to add to really make them feel like they did a good job as a professor.
- Be sincere. If you genuinely hate a professor, maybe you can just avoid sending them a message. Thank your professors genuinely and don’t lie to them about how much you enjoyed the class if you really didn’t. I’ve told professors before that I hated the material, but loved the way they taught it.
Apply for TA positions.
Being a TA can be a big growing experience, but let’s be honest: it looks good on a resume. It shows that you know the material well enough to confidently help other students learn. You also demonstrate a lot of good skills by being a TA, like patience and good communication skills. Plus, graduate colleges will know that you’re good at the material.
If you passed (or are about to pass) a class with an A or A- (or, to be honest, maybe a B+), consider becoming a TA for the class! A lot of TA positions are to answer homework questions that students will have and guide them on assignments. Other responsibilities could be to lead discussion groups, though this is mostly for graduate students, and sometimes teach lectures.
Apply for research assistant positions.
Similar to the last point, it’s also time to email professors about become a volunteer in their research lab or becoming a research assistant. Doing research in your undergraduate years is, in my opinion, such an important and rewarding thing to do.
I’ve had a couple research positions in the past and they: (1) look awesome on a resume, especially if you’re applying to med school, and (2) was actually really fun. I definitely learned a lot from my past experience. All gushing aside, I highly recommend emailing professors and graduate students for TA positions.
In your emails, make sure to include not only an introduction to you, but a brief interest statement (about a paragraph). Here’s a generic one that always worked well for me.
Dear [insert name],
My name is [your name]. I am a [year] [major] at the [your school]. I’m writing in regards to the research assistant posting for the [the lab/study name]. I was wondering if you were still looking for research assistants; I’m very interested in being a part of your team.
The research you are doing interested me because [genuine interest].
[Past research experience, if you have any. Or other experiences that you think might be relevant.]
I have attached my resume for your convenience. Thank you for your time.
Definitely do tweak this as you like, but this is generally the base of all my letters. Make sure not to send the same email to everyone; it’s very obvious when something isn’t genuine. Instead, take the time to adapt this template to every research position you’re interested in.
Also, professors and graduate students are very busy. Maybe you’ll get a reply on the first email you send out. But sometimes, your email will get lost in the mess. In my experience, graduate students have a better chance of replying to you than professors, but don’t be discouraged. Email everyone, even if you don’t get a single email back. And don’t be afraid to email them again following up: you’re not being annoying, trust me, and it shows a lot of initiative and dedication.
Hang out with your friends.
You all know my position on friends by now. They’re so important in uplifting you and helping you be the best person you could be. The friends I made in college are so important to me, and I won’t be seeing a lot of my friends after the end of the semester. They live all over Florida and, quite frankly, I’m very lazy. I will probably spend a whole week in my pajamas catching up on all the television I missed.
( Related: The 7 Friends You Need to Meet in College )
If you’re in the same boat and won’t see your friends until the next school year, make sure to schedule some time for all of you to hang out. Even if it’s something small and lowkey like going out for a quick lunch and coffee or a study date to prepare for finals, it can do some good to see them before the end of the semester.
My friends are definitely a large part of my college experience, and it wouldn’t be right to leave without one last hangout together.
Hang out with graduating seniors.
So this point is similar to the last one, but also a little different. If you’re lucky (maybe unlucky?) enough to be friends with graduating seniors, it’s important to hang out with them before they leave. Every time I think of the fact that there are going to be some people that I will just never see again, I get a little teary. Mostly because I’m proud of them, but also because I’ll miss them a great deal.
I’m in two organizations which gave me the opportunity to befriends a lot of graduating seniors. With the large amount of them, I’m upset that I didn’t start this process a lot sooner because now I can’t hang out with everyone. I’m trying to find the time to meet with them all and have a nice talk before I can’t anymore.
I’ve been scheduling coffee dates and lunch hangs with some of my senior friends to make sure that they don’t leave me without saying goodbye.
But aside from being able to say goodbye, you should talk with graduating seniors to learn from them. They have years of experience over you and can help give you some insight over the organization and life in general. I’ve contacted people to talk about everything from our similar major to what their plans after undergraduate school. You can learn a lot from an hour or so of conversation with them!