Nine Tips to a Better Semester for Creatives

As the summer draws to a close, many of you students are dreading the first day of this fall semester. The days of staying up all night, sleeping in until noon and spending the rest of the day lounging by the pool are almost over. Or maybe you read our post on 10 Ways to Not Waste Your Summer as a Creative, and spent your summer refining your skills. Either way, the Fall semester is almost upon us and we want you to be prepared to have your best semester ever! Just like our productive summer post, here are nine more helpful tips to having a better semester for creatives. 1. Take Notes! Take notes, take notes, take notes! Yes, this first tip may be an obvious one, however it is one of the most important things you can do to ensure educational success, aside from just going to class. At Digital-Tutors, we take our notebooks with us everywhere - sometimes even to lunch - just in case there's something important to write down. It's nearly impossible for someone to remember everything from a lecture, that's why it's imperative to take good notes. Note taking helps in the retention of information presented in class. After class, don't just cram those notes into the bottom of your backpack and take them out once your next exam rolls around. Keep them neat and organized, and review them within 24 hours of that lecture. Another good tip is to compare notes with classmates in case some information is missed in the note-taking process. Luckily we live in a time where taking notes no longer have to be handwritten with pencil and paper. There are numerous apps and programs available to students these days to make note taking more efficient. One of these popular apps is Evernote, which is available for both Windows and Mac operating systems as well as pretty much basically any mobile device. Another great tool is StudyBlue, a free note-taking and flashcard study app. With StudyBlue, students are also able to share notes with classmates. Sometimes you'll get lucky and find past exams posted on the StudyBlue website as well. semester notes 2. Work in Groups Some people despise working in groups and some people think it's awesome. It probably all depends on who's in your study or work group. Either way, you'll need to get used to working in groups because they're a part of life and will always be, even after graduation. So don't stress, and use working in groups as a learning experience. Working in groups gives you the opportunity to work with different types of people. People are different, and so are their workflows. So use this as a chance to improve your skills or even pick up new ones. If your group is creating an indie game, you may pick up tips from a partner that improves your character modeling and texturing workflows. That being said, you don't want to be that one person in the group who has nothing to contribute and holds the rest of the team back. One way to have a positive group project experience is to always be prepared when you meet with your team. Go into your group meetings knowing what's going to be discussed, pre-read notes and if you were delegated a task, such as rendering, make sure to have it completed before the next time you all meet. You don't want your partners to give you a bad report on peer evaluations. Houdini rendered image of a mouse next to a mouse trap   3. Don't be Afraid to Ask Questions Throughout your education, you've probably heard the cliché,  "There's no such thing as a stupid question." Whether that statement is true or not is still up in the air. However, it's more than likely if you have question in one of your classes or at work, someone else has that same question as well. So don't be afraid to ask if something is unclear. Asking for clarification is much better than remaining confused and costing you valuable points on your next class project or exam. Also, by asking questions, it shows that you are somewhat paying attention to your instructors and getting involved in class discussions. This can only help in the long-run when it comes to building positive relationships with your professors.   4. Don't Stay Up All Night Unless you're lucky enough to only get afternoon classes on your schedule, you'll want to reconsider staying up until all hours of the night playing your favorite games or catching up on Netflix. However, project deadlines are inevitable and always looming on the horizon, so pulling an all-nighter might be hard to avoid - especially during finals. Many medical studies show that sleep deprivation can have drastic side effects on your health from anything such as obesity, memory loss to death in extreme cases, which seems kind of dramatic... Check out some of these surprising side effects of sleep deprivation from WebMD - yes, we found evidence to support our claims. In addition to all of these serious side effects from lack of sleep, studies also show poor sleep schedules can negatively affect creativity, which is obviously detrimental to students in a creative field. For more information, check out our article on the negative effects from lack of sleep. So put down that sugary energy drink and get to bed this semester! coffecup_woodfloor 5. Get Involved on Campus Getting involved on your campus is one of the best things you can do to set yourself up for future success while in school. The benefits are numerous. First off, campus involvement is a way to make friends and for networking purposes, which we'll discuss later. Take time to find an on-campus club or organization that appeals to your interests. Most campuses have an online database filled with clubs ranging anywhere from a film maker's club to a Quidditch team. If you find out your school doesn't have an organization that you're looking for, start one yourself. Chances are there are others at your school who share the same interests. Use campus involvement to put your skills to work and gain valuable experience. For example, if you're an aspiring graphic designer, apply for a job at the campus newspaper designing print advertisements. Opportunities are endless; you just have to know where to look. 6. Become a 'Lab Rat' Just as an athlete spends most of his or her time in the gym, a computer graphics artist should spend most of their time at a computer. However, more than likely you'll be spending more time in a lab than you'd choose, so making the most out of your time there will greatly benefit you in the long run. Deadlines and quick turnarounds on projects will keep you up late or possibly the whole night. Unfortunately, it comes with the territory of being a computer graphics student. One way to make those long nights in the lab easier on you and your classmates is to rely on each other for support. The struggles you have with a project might be different than the person sitting at the computer next to you. By acknowledging each others difficulties, you can work together to overcome them. Having that support system in the lab will benefit the class as a whole and form lifelong friendships. lab rat 7. Network The phrase "it's not just what you know, but who you know" gets thrown around a lot in the professional world. Whether this is 100 percent accurate or not is undecided. It is true however, that having a solid network of classmates, instructors and industry professionals can only benefit you. They may not be able to directly get you that dream job, but they might know someone who can. There are many other benefits to networking as well. One of those, is building a solid rolodex (might be an out-of-date reference, but you get it) of contacts for the future. Maybe you're a front-end web designer and you need someone to work on code for the back-end. By networking properly you will have enough contacts to fill that need when working on future projects. Or who knows, someone in your network might call you up in the future wanting your help on their next project. Another benefit to creating connections with seasoned professionals in your field is to have a source of advice or guidance. These people may come in the form of instructors, former bosses or internship supervisors. People love to give advice, you just need to know who to ask. 8. Build Your Portfolio/Demo Reel Your demo reel and/or portfolio is how you showcase all of your projects that you would like future employers to see. From your experiences in school, you should have opportunities to fill your portfolio with quality work, whether from one of your classes or campus involvement, as discussed earlier in this article. Remember though, value quality over quantity when selecting pieces to include in your demo reel. You don't want potential employers to see incomplete projects or work that is anything shy of your best. If you don't have a portfolio or demo reel set up yet, take time create one with one of the popular resources below. Also, check out our blog post on demo reel and portfolio tips from industry professionals. Portfolio resources: (Course available) 9. Intern! If you haven't already, do your best to find an internship in order to utilize your skills and build your résumé. Internships are one of the best ways to ensure employment upon graduation - especially in a creative field! Employers want to hire people who've had first-hand experience in a work environment. Having four years of pizza delivery experience while in college won't get you far in a creative profession. However, if you don't have the experience to land one of these valuable intern positions don't stress! Just follow steps mentioned in this blog post and you'll be well on your way to your first internship. Discover and apply for available internships at or Or, if there's a specific company you'd like to work for, visit the career section of their website to find available positions. Also, many schools have their own career services department that will help you on your way to landing that dream job.   In Conclusion...  Many of these tips are quite easy to put in place. By applying some of these useful yet simple tips, you'll be putting yourself leagues ahead of the most of your peers who just go through the basic motions during school. If you have any other tips for having a productive semester, be sure to share them in the comment section below!