Campus News

Make the most of your study era: tips and best practices for a successful school year

Carolyn Barnes August 24, 2023
students walking in hallway

Are you a new graduate student at USC? How about a returning student? Graduate school is an exciting journey that can be both exhilarating and overwhelming. To help you make the most of your time, we’ve compiled a list of essential tips and resources to guide you through your academic and personal growth. From building connections to managing your academic responsibilities, we’ve got you covered!

The Department of Population and Public Health Sciences Student Affairs office is in Suite 205 of SSB 1. Students are invited to make appointments or walk-in at any time. Meet the team here and here.

1.   Get organized

Bookmark important sites and make sure you have all your program information in an accessible place for the start of the new academic year.

Add to your checklist:

  • Explore and bookmark MyUSC and USC Student Life for resources and information for your life as a student.
  • Keep the student handbook for your program, as well as course syllabi, in a safe place for easy reference.
  • View the USC Schedule of Classes and write down the academic calendar and any deadlines you will need to be aware of.

2.   Don’t wait – get to know your student support team

Your new motto? “You can’t be too early, but you can be too late!” Make it a priority to introduce yourself to your student advisor and faculty program director during your first semester. Reach out early and often – they are there to help you identify and achieve your goals, and to address issues early so that you can reach your full potential. Students can reach out directly at any time, and faculty are more than happy to provide introductions for any students that might desire it.

Add to your checklist:

  • Schedule a meeting with your student advisor via email.
  • Schedule a meeting with your program director via email.

3.   Leverage career services from the start

Your career development and job search start now! Use your first semester to dive into career exploration and start shaping your future. Students should see a peer advisor when seeking a student’s perspective on campus resources, and other opportunities for student success and transition to their career post-graduation. Peer advisors can also give feedback on resumes and share strategies to having an optimal experience as a student in PPHS.

Add to your checklist:

4.   Create a plan of attack for your Practicum or Thesis

It will be here before you know it! By being pro-active now, you can help ensure you are completing your thesis or practicum in a way that serves your academic and career goals – and avoid unnecessary stress over last-minute deadlines. You will want to stay in close contact with student support staff and faculty members, and utilize any resources provided by student services.

Add to your checklist:

  • Review thesis or practicum requirements, and make note of deadlines in your calendar.
  • Work backwards and plan for completing each item on time.
  • Get in touch with your advising staff and faculty, and plan to meet regularly during pivotal periods.
  • Start thinking about possibilities for your thesis or practicum. You may find it helpful to keep an ongoing list of your preferences.

5.   Embrace this time of exploration

Take stock of everything USC offers, including a wide variety of academic and extra-curricular activities, clubs and events. You may be surprised where expanding your horizons leads you personally and professionally.

Add to your checklist:

  • Explore Experience USC and EngageSC activities, student groups, events and other ways to get involved.
  • Read the weekly We Are SC News & Events email.
  • Follow or get involved with the student association for your program and degree level.
  • Subscribe to Department email newsletters to receive the Department of Population and Public Health Sciences weekly events digest email.

6.   Learn how to network – and start early

True networking means building trust and forming enduring professional relationships, and that takes time. Start getting to know your classmates, professors, and support staff early, and make a point of attending events to expand your connections.

Add to your checklist:

  • Get to know other students in your program by forming a study group and participating in student organizations, events, and activities.
  • Embrace the chance to meet with faculty mentors and have them get to know your work and abilities.

7.   Know where to find support

Don’t hesitate to reach out if you’re facing challenges. Remember, it’s never too early to seek help. Whether that means overcoming an academic roadblock, or prioritizing your physical or mental wellbeing, there are resources at USC to support you. Take the time to discover them now, so that you know where to turn when needed.

Add to your checklist:

  • Make sure you have contact information for your professors, TAs, and student advisor. Get in touch even if your question seems small – tackling an issue early is always the best approach.
  • If you need to discuss accommodations, reach out to the Office of Student Accessibility Services.
  • Become familiar with USC Student Health and how to obtain physical and/or mental health services should you need them. Bookmark the Be Well section of the Student Life website for links to a variety of support services, including mental health and relationship and sexual violence prevention services.
  • Bookmark the Find Support section of the Student Life website. The resources listed cover the gamut, from resources for first generation students to resources for veterans to assistance with basic needs.