We love the feeling that the first weeks of fall semester have: those still-warm days but cool nights, the laughter and conversations of students and friends along Northrop Mall, and the buzz of excitement as classes and new work projects begin.

Here are five ideas about how to take advantage of this time to set yourself up for a fantastic season, whether you’re new to campus or are coming back for the millionth time!

Give Back with Your Time and Talent

Do you have a passion for supporting future leaders? Or want to be a part of an organization where your professional skills can be put to good use? 

  • Aislinn leads the CCAPS Mentor Program and recommends alumni and professionals from a variety of experiences consider giving back in this meaningful way. 
  • Liz volunteers time at her children’s school, participating in various classroom activities and projects. 
  • Courtney recently joined a Twin Cities nonprofit board of directors, where her experience in fundraising will benefit the organization during their upcoming capital campaign.

Whether it’s supporting students in their future careers or contributing to your local community, find something that speaks to your passion. You’re likely to get more out of it than you expect!

Say “Yes!” to Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone

Aislinn recalls being invited to a team retreat with coworkers that included axe-throwing as an activity. She was nervous, intimidated, and afraid of embarrassing herself in front of new colleagues, some of whom she had never even met. But she said "Yes!"

It turned out to be one of the best experiences she has participated in. The entire group was positive, uplifting, and encouraging, which put her at ease and made her happy to have tried something new. Stepping outside your comfort zone can be daunting, whether during a meeting, presentation, conference, or new activity.

Just do it!

Improve Your Work or Study Space

The past three years have changed the way that most of us study and work. With the opportunity of flexible work comes the challenge of setting yourself up for both physical and mental comfort. 

Courtney and Liz suggest: 

  • If you’re at home, move away from the kitchen table and set aside a personal space to study or work. It will help make sure you have the ability to concentrate or take those Zoom calls without interruption.
  • Schedule a stretch break! You’re likely not getting as many steps in as you used to, so take 15 minutes to walk around the neighborhood or do some light stretching. 
  • If you are at work or on campus, schedule a time to reconnect with classmates, friends, and coworkers over coffee or lunch. According to hundreds of studies, having close friends at work or school directly correlates with happiness, engagement, and success. 

Reflect on Your Habits

Ask yourself, what’s one habit you’d like to change this fall? It turns out, those small changes can really add up! 

Aislinn realized how much time she was aimlessly scrolling through social media each day. She decided to revisit reading as a hobby, something she enjoyed throughout her childhood but missed when she was working on her undergraduate and graduate degrees.

Aislinn has now read over 50 books so far this year, and discovered the genres and authors she likes most. Getting her friends and family involved in something she loves has also added to this great experience.

Simplify Your Obligations

We love this phrase, which has been attributed to many: “No is a complete sentence.”

Yet sometimes in the heat of being asked or “voluntold” to take on a responsibility, saying no can feel blunt or even disrespectful. Many of us are socialized to lean into yes, especially when a task or responsibility is being presented as an opportunity. But knowing your limits and remembering that it’s okay to assert yourself can be liberating.

It takes practice to feel confident with this new mindset, and when you’re feeling shaky, a script can be helpful. For an email response we like: “I appreciate you reaching out. I will have to decline at this time, but please keep me in mind in the future. Thank you!”

The Takeaway

The most important thing to remember is that you don’t have to do all of these things at once. You don’t need to accomplish these in a week, or even in two months. Bookmark this page or create a weekly friendly reminder in your calendar to check in with yourself on a weekly basis and see what you can adjust and work on each day. 

One small step at a time will help make this fall a successful one!

Proud University of Minnesota alumni all, the authors are equally proud to serve the CCAPS and the University in the following roles:

Courtney Barrette

Courtney Barrette, BA '05
Director of Engagement and External Relations


Aislinn Hernandez

Aislinn Hernandez, BA '19
Manager of Alumni Engagement and Annual Giving


Liz Hruska

Liz Hruska, MA '03, BA '00
Career Advisor