Starting the Semester Off Right: Tips From the National Committee 

Colorful notebooks, new books, gel pens, and sticky notes. As a child, starting a new semester always meant shopping for new school supplies with my mom, writing out my schedule on a big board in my room and picking out my new school outfits. It was always a new adventure filled with endless possibilities. 

Even though I live alone now and instead of new colorful notebooks I think of updating my resume and organizing files on my drive, I still love the process of preparing for a new semester. As we get older it’s easy to fall into the mundanity of everyday life and sometimes we just need a shot of novelty to bring our child–like enthusiasm back to the surface. 

A new semester is almost like a new season of your favorite TV show; new plot, new characters and new opportunities. Except you’re the director, producer, actor and audience member all at once. Staying in film terms, I imagine that for a lot of us the Fall semester is something of a “PR special”, involving starting new positions in PRSSA Chapters, networking opportunities and preparing for ICON! 

Whether you’re super type A and reorganize your whole life before the first day of classes or you simply set a few goals, everyone has their own rituals for a new beginning. I asked the National Committee to share some of their tips on starting the semester off right and making the best out of it. They all answered three questions: 

  • What is one thing you do to prepare for a new semester? 
  • What is one PR–related goal you have for this semester? 
  • What is your biggest piece of advice for other students? 

Sankalp Sharma, National President

New semester preparation: “In order to best prepare for a new semester I like to take time to really get my weekly schedule planned out. Since I have to go to work along with school, I make sure my work can be balanced out throughout the day and I still have time for class as well.”

PR goal: “One PR–related goal I have for the semester is to broaden my knowledge of different fields of PR. I want to be well–versed in as many fields of PR as I can before I graduate college.”

Tip for other students: “My biggest piece of advice for other students is to create a weekly plan for their schedules so that they don’t get overwhelmed and have time for social activities as well!”

Melina O’Neal, vice president of career services 

New semester preparation: “To prepare for a new semester, I declutter my space by reorganizing storage and removing items I haven’t found helpful. When my area is clean, I find that it easier to motivate myself since I feel more on top of everything already!”

PR goal: “This semester, I’d like to learn more about strategy within PR. I feel strong in the writing aspect, but want to make sure I have developed a well–rounded base of knowledge during my final year of college.”

Tip for other students: “When an opportunity arises that I’m interested in but not totally confident about, I always tell myself “Just do it. If it doesn’t work out, you’re just back to where you started.” This mindset has really helped me when I run for leadership positions, do interviews for internships or anything I’m nervous about in my life. If something doesn’t work out, you’ve still likely learned something new, showed interest and put your name out there!”

Milagros Orcoyen, vice president of events and fundraising

New semester preparation: “To me, staying organized is essential. I always create a Google Drive folder before a new semester starts. Then, inside the folder, I create sub–folders for each class. If necessary, I also create additional folders for any specific projects or assignments.”

PR goal: “As PR students, we all know how important networking is. My goal this semester is to connect with as many peers and professors as possible! I look forward to attending events and networking sessions and learning from and about those around me.”

Tip for other students: “Be a lifelong learner! Don’t forget that learning doesn’t stop when your classes end. Join different clubs, read books, attend events, connect with peers and professionals, ask questions, and be curious!”

Ava Kendrena, vice president of member services 

New semester preparation: “I prepare for the new semester by getting a new planner and writing down my school and work schedules and some important deadlines. This helps me stay organized and plan out my school, work and PRSSA deadlines more efficiently. I also check my class Canvas pages to see if my professors have posted the syllabus. If so, I go over the syllabus and purchase any textbooks needed to prepare myself for the first day.”

PR goal: “A PR–related goal I have for this new semester is to seek out more mentors and try to participate in more in–person networking opportunities. As I enter my final year in college, I want to ensure that I’m becoming more acquainted with industry professionals to make my job search after college easier. I also want to gain more knowledge in music PR, because that is ideally the industry I want to enter after graduation.”

Tip for other students: “My biggest piece of advice for new students is to become involved in clubs and organizations right away! Being involved on my campus is the way I met some of my best friends in college, and it has helped me grow both professionally and socially. If you’re a new student, try to explore your campus as much as you can. Once you familiarize yourself with the best places to hang out or study, your campus experience will be much more enjoyable because you will know where to go to relax or decompress.” 

Bella Kendrena, vice president of digital communications

New semester preparation: “One way that I prepare for the new semester is by organizing my schedule. I love using the Microsoft To Do app to make different lists for each of my classes. I also have a list for PRSSA and other extracurriculars. It is great because I can set reminders on due dates and stay on top on all of my work.”

PR goal: “One PR–related goal I have for this semester is to add more writing samples to my portfolio. Writing is a fundamental skill in PR and I would love to gain more experience writing in AP style and feel more confident demonstrating my writing abilities.”

Tip for other students: “One piece of advice I have for other students is to get involved with your PRSSA Chapter. There are so many opportunities to expand your network, gain hands–on experience and learn insights from our industry. Regularly showing up to meetings, joining a committee and getting involved in your Student–run Firm are incredible experiences that have helped me personally grow as a PR student. I would recommend all students do the same!”

Teo Ignacio Landoni, vice president of diversity, equity, inclusion & belonging

New semester preparation: “I organize my Google Drive for the semester. I read and download the syllabus and class schedules of all the classes I signed up for. Then I upload them to the folder in which I keep all assignments.”

PR goal: “I plan to help my Chapter leaders prepare for their District Conference while I keep working on ICON material.”

Tip for other students: “My mantra these days is: “You can always start over”. If you feel like you haven’t paid attention last semester, or your performance was not the best, you have a new opportunity now to start over with a different approach. This also applies to projects, team assignments or even situations on our personal life. If you feel like you can do better, start over.”

Megan vanVollenhoven, vice president of professional development

New semester preparation: “Before a new semester starts I like to add my class schedule into my Google Calendar. After my professors send out the syllabi, I add all of my assignments into the calendar as well. This is so helpful and keeps me organized during the semester.”

PR goal: “As I start the first semester of my junior year I am planning to improve my content creation and social media skills. I’m interning for my university, and I can’t wait to apply what I have learned in my classes to this new role.”

Tip for other students: “My biggest piece of advice for other students is to try something new. Whether you are a rising senior or a freshman, search for opportunities you haven’t taken advantage of. Stepping into a new role or getting involved in a new activity can be a great way to meet more people on campus and feel more connected to your community.” 

Whether it’s meticulous planning, embracing new strategies or fostering connections, each member’s insight reflects the essence of starting anew. As we embark on this “PR special” Fall semester, let’s find the excitement in the new beginning and continue our college journey with curiosity and passion.

Barbara “Basia” Stachurska is the 2023-2024 National Vice President of Brand Engagement. She’s a senior at Emerson College pursuing a Bachelor of Science in public relations with a psychology minor. Originally from Warsaw, Poland, she joined PRSSA right after moving to Boston in 2021 to connect with other PR students and professionals. She served as Historian and Social Media Chair of Emerson PRSSA before transitioning to the National Committee. Apart from her interest in PR and communications, she loves graphic design and aspires to incorporate it in her future career. You can connect with Basia on LinkedIn.

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