Happy New Year, and welcome to Winter Quarter 2008! Hopefully everyone enjoyed a relatively safe holiday season filled with Starbucks gift cards and cheap New Year’s Eve champagne. After the extended winter break, it always seems so difficult to return to school. Paying a full month’s rent after spending the previous two weeks trapped at home is an unappealing – although unavoidable – way to begin the new quarter and the new year. Trading our holiday tinsel for overpriced textbooks certainly isn’t the easiest way to dip a toe into the new quarter.

Of course, the biggest problem of every school year seems to be implementing a method of slotting time for schoolwork. We live in a town and time of distractions. With the constant temptation of Facebook plaguing us and the curious forces called the Spears sisters impelling us to check PerezHilton.com every 30 seconds, focus should be goal number one this year.

To begin, invest three dollars into an assignment notebook, just like the ones forced on us by administration during our middle school years. Spend the first week filling it out for the entire quarter – transfer your syllabi straight from the sheet onto those dated pages. Seeing all your schoolwork in one place can alert you weeks ahead of time as to how screwed you are in terms of the quarter’s workload. For an added stress, highlight everything in bright pink. Thinking this far ahead, and seeing it on paper, can result either in what the successful few call “time management” or what I call “deliberate procrastination.” If you are of the latter group, as I am, assigning homework and projects to certain days while highlighting them will emphatically – if not completely – spur you to work. It’ll also make you feel worthless when you realize you haven’t started. Hey, you knew it was coming and your task book has a lot less sympathy for you than the servers at Zodo’s.

In addition to learning organizational skills, this is the year to learn how to study efficiently! Some days I cringe while watching people take notes from their original version of notes, which were taken from the professor’s online lecture notes. Avoid ruining those 200-dollar textbooks with your chicken scratch notes. Writing things down over and over works for some people, but if you’re eager to salvage as much textbook money as possible, in addition to saving time usually spent studying at the end of the term, then make an effort to find a new friend in flashcards. These little study buddies are not only inexpensive, but highly transportable. Spend 20 minutes a week transcribing key terms, concepts and skills onto note cards and stick them in your newly purchased Coach clutch. Are you stuck in line at the bank? Waiting for the bartender to notice you? Working the elliptical at the RecCen? Bored with your boyfriend’s dedication to Halo Three? Pull those flashcards out of your designer handbag and quiz yourself – grade improvement guaranteed. This year, show the world it’s possible to be both beautiful and brainy.

But remember – while organization and efficiency will ease your start into the cold of Winter Quarter, there is no way to maintain a steady avoidance of icebergs without remaining healthy. Now I don’t mean to sound like your mom, but it is cold season, and one of the most prominent reasons why people fall behind this quarter is due to sickness. Stay healthy. If you feel a cold coming on, forego those cases of Rockstar and Mountain Dew for those lemon-lime flavored, effervescing Airborne tablets. If you’re feeling feisty, drop one into a gin-and-tonic and let me know how it goes. Starchy foods may be satisfying during cold weather, but remember to preserve your immune system by supplementing those super-sized fries with winter fruits and vegetables. And if you do get sick – as invariably many of you will – take a box of tissues to class. Don’t pull it up, my mom always said, blow it OUT.

Stay warm this quarter, kids. Do your work, stay on task and stop watching so much reality TV. Good luck!