The Ultimate College Bucket List for Your First Semester

Welcome to the tribe spring transfers! As you begin your journey at William & Mary, consider adding these to your college bucket list. I’ve compiled a list of academic and social ideas to create the ultimate bucket list for your first semester! 

  1. Join a club or organization of something you’re interested in
  2. Explore all floors of Swem
  3. Attend a lecture or workshop outside of your major
  4. Pet a dog at the Williamsburg Farmers Market 
  5. Host a movie or game night to meet new people 
  6. Attend a formal dance or event
  7. Volunteer for a local charity or community event
  8. Start a study group with students in your class 
  9. Go kayaking on Lake Matoaka 
  10. Find your favorite pancake house 
  11. Attend an AMP Event 
  12. Write a letter to your future self to open on graduation day 
  13. Join an intramural or club sports team
  14. Attend a Career Center networking event 
  15. Participate in a research project 
  16. Take a class outside of your comfort zone 
  17. Have a picnic on the Sunken Garden 
  18. Try a fitness or wellness class 
  19. Create a photo diary of your first semester
  20. Connect with other transfer students!

Surviving Finals Week

Happy Thanksgiving break William & Mary! As we approach the end of the semester, finals week is closer than ever. Now is the time to begin preparations to set yourself up for success. Here are a few tips to acing your final exams!

  1. Start Early 

Don’t leave your studying for the night before. Avoid procrastination and cramming by beginning your preparations early! 

  1. Create a schedule 

Making a schedule for what needs to be completed as well as what to study each day can help you keep track of your studying while avoiding burnout! 

  1. Prioritize Tasks

Try to identify the most important tasks and subjects to study based on due dates and your final exam schedule. Also focus on the areas where you need the most improvement or what holds the most weight on your exam.

  1. Take Breaks

Don’t forget to take breaks every once in a while to maintain productivity. Taking breaks gives your brain time to absorb your studying and also decreases burnout when studying for long periods of time. 

  1. Maintain wellness and take care of yourself 

Utilize campus resources like wellness center classes and make sure you’re taking care of your physical and mental health. Drink lots of water, get adequate sleep, practice mindfulness, and exercise daily to maintain a healthy mindset. 

  1. Ask for help

Exams can be academically and mentally stressful! There’s no shame in asking for help whether it be for academic or wellness purposes. 

Best of luck on finals! 

A Wintery Williamsburg Playlist 

As the temperature gets cooler, leaves start to fall, and Williamsburg transitions into a wintery wonderland, it becomes the perfect time to take a walk listening to a cozy winter playlist. In this post you’ll find a playlist curated by STEP blog writers that captures the holiday feels of Williamsburg for your next winter stroll around campus and Colonial Williamsburg!

  1. Evergreen – Richy Mitch & The Coal Miners 
  2. Holocene – Bon Iver
  3. Heartbeats – José González
  4. Need 2 – Pinegrove
  5. Northern Wind – City and Colour
  6. Savior Complex – Phoebe Bridgers
  7. The Stable Song – Gregory Alan Isakov
  8. Sweater Weather – The Neighborhood 
  9. Winter – Joshua Radin
  10. Sparks  – Coldplay 
  11. Shotgun Down The Avenue – Shawn Colvin
  12. A Light Change – Grouper 
  13. Constellations  – Duster
  14. Simulation Swarm – Big Thief 
  15. Reflecting Light – Sam Phillips 
  16. From the Dining Table – Harry Styles 
  17. Fade Into You – Mazzy Star
  18. Heaven Knows I’m Miserable – The Smiths 
  19. Didn’t Want to Have to Do It – Cass Elliot
  20. Trouble – Coldplay
  21. Where Do I Go – Lizzy McAlpine 
  22. Moon Song – Phoebe Bridgers
  23. Into Dust – Mazzy Star
  24. The Gold – Manchester Orchestra, Phoebe Bridgers 
  25. Moonlight on the River  – Mac DeMarco
  26. London’s Song  – Matt Hartke 
  27. Swollen – Fransisco Martin 
  28. Dark Red – Steve Lacy 
  29. Problems – Pinegrove  

Here’s the link to the spotify playlist!

There is Always Time to Close the Textbook – Emma Dunlop

I think I’m speaking for everyone when I say that the week before Thanksgiving is one the hardest of the entire semester. The air is getting colder, the sun is setting sooner, and final exams begin peeking their heads around the corner. The final trek to break can feel endless, as most students try to cram in exam prep, essays, and final assignments.

But is this week of stress worth the almost-week-long break? For many students, Thanksgiving break translates to Thanksgiving “break from my dorm.” It’s common for students to use their time at home to continue studying for final exams and beginning their final projects. However, there is always time to close the textbook, and what better time than Thanksgiving break? Here are some ways to shake off those academic burdens during your time off.

1. Plan out your study schedule for the weeks following the break.

For me, I start to de-stress once I have a plan. If I know how I’m going to accomplish my end-of-semester goals, I’m more comfortable taking time for myself and fueling my body. And, it helps reassure me that I have enough time to get everything done!

2. Make a study playlist in preparation for finals season.

Music is a great way to spice up your studying. With a peppy playlist in hand, the motivation to study after the break is sure to pick up. Say goodbye to study dread during break!

3. Engage in some activities that take your mind off of your classes.

Wind down with a spa day, eat out with some friends, or start crafting for the holiday season. These are great ways to take your mind off school, while still fueling it for the weeks ahead.

It can be hard to completely step back from academics during such a busy time in the semester, but preparation and planning are on your side. Use these tools to ease your mind and make memories during your days away from due dates.

Emma Dunlop is a sophomore intending to major in Marketing here at William & Mary. A transfer student herself, Emma spent her first semester of college in London and arrived on campus in the Spring of 2023. In addition to starting as a STEP blog guest writer this semester, Emma is also a member of the William & Mary Accidentals, the Student Environmental Action Coalition, and Women in Business. She is so excited to get writing!

4 Spots That Make W&M Special 

William & Mary is the second oldest university in the country, so campus has been witness to decades of academic success and historical significance. Over time William & Mary has gained specific 

The natural beauty and historical charm of these four key spots help make William & Mary’s campus unique and special. 

  1. Wren Building 

Starting off with arguably the defining building of William & Mary is the Wren building. Not only is it the oldest academic building in America still in use, it is also still home to some classes such as religion. It’s become a tradition that most W&M students try to take at least one class in the Wren building. It also serves as a symbol for the academic journey of students. Students begin their academic journey through the Wren Building during convocation and also conclude their W&M journey back at the Wren Building on their way to Commencement. 

  1. Crim Dell

Crim Dell is another key picture that you’ll see when looking up William & Mary’s campus. The beautiful bridge over a small pond is picturesque in all four seasons and is home to many species of wildlife! (You might spot a turtle when walking from Sadler to ISC!) There’s also a superstition that walking across the bridge with a loved one bonds the two together forever. 

  1. Sunken Garden 

What makes our main garden so special is that it’s sunken! Sunken Garden is located in the center of campus and between two rows of academic buildings. The sunkenness creates a grass border perfect for relaxation or studying! It also serves as a place to hang out with friends and is usually the main location for special events like homecoming and formals! 

  1. Martha Wren Briggs Amphitheatre

At William & Mary we are blessed with the backdrop of Lake Matoaka on the outskirts of campus. The Martha Wren Briggs Amphitheatre frames the lake which makes it the ideal place to observe it or attend outdoor concerts! There’s also sometimes special events like sunset yoga that take place underneath the amphitheater stage itself. 

Favorite memories from my first year – Ellie McMahon

There are a lot of words that William & Mary students use to describe GGV. Lack of air conditioning, communal bathrooms, and subpar just to name a few. Though its reputation precedes it, GGV is arguably the best place to build a community as a freshman. For me, no air conditioning on the third floor meant spending more time in the shared lounge, and many of my hallmates did the same as we formed quick and long-lasting relationships. 

There were so many opportunities thrown at me the first few weeks of freshman year. The club fair with over 500 student organizations, all the tabling at Sadler, and the countless events we were dragged to by our OAs. But none of them impacted Lion K like IM softball. When sign-ups first rolled around in September, our group GroupMe was frenzied on the guys’ side and almost silent from the girls. There was no way my third floor girls hall was forming a softball team, but plenty of the guys downstairs had played baseball in the past or were looking for some way to occupy their Sunday nights. Whatever it was, the Zaddy Lions were born. Even though my floor wasn’t involved in this team in any way whatsoever, if we were anything as a group, we were enthusiastic. In the beginning of freshman year Lion K did everything together- meals, Target runs, birthday celebrations- there was no reason we wouldn’t cheer on our softball team as well. 

On the night of the first game, as the actual team was in the lounge strategizing, the third floor was doing arts and crafts. Each of us carried a letter on a plain white sheet of paper, enough to spell out Lion K with a hand drawn lion in the middle. Nothing will ever compare to the reaction we got when we arrived at the IM field just as the first pitch was being thrown. The whole team loved the signs and it was so much more fun to watch than I expected. These people I’d known for less than a month had become my closest friends which meant we spent every waking moment together. 

From that week forward, we showed up to every game, signs in tow, until they got too worn to carry. By the end of the season, each player had his own superlative, ranging from Girlboss Gari to Risky Robbie. These signs were made out of posterboard (and turned out to be a lot more durable). Each year since then, the Zaddy Lions have reunited over their love for softball, each coming from new friendships and organizations, but never forgetting the relationships made in GGV. Even the girls have made it to a few more games, proof that freshman dorm camaraderie is something that lives on forever. 

Author bio: Hi everyone! My name is Ellie and I’m a junior here at W&M. I’m majoring in Chemistry with a minor in Hispanic Studies and hope to incorporate a bit of both into my future career. I’ve always enjoyed writing but have never been able to pursue it seriously, and I’m so happy to be able to write for the STEP Toward Success Blog as a guest writer!

 A Reflection On Being A Sophomore 

This semester has gone so fast, and being close to halfway through my sophomore year makes me appreciate the past year while also being overwhelmed by the impending future. To think that in under 6 months the class of 2026 will have completed half of college is inconceivable. Being a spring transfer student, last spring was my first semester here, so I still feel relatively new to William & Mary. This semester I’ve prioritized new experiences and opportunities by taking advantage of the plentiful resources William & Mary has to offer. I’ve had the opportunity to explore my interests while also stepping out of my comfort zone through joining clubs, a research lab, and new jobs. 

I sometimes compare myself to where I was a year ago, but with a year of new experiences, opportunities, jobs, and classes it’s important to recognize the growth and development in my interests and career readiness. Consciously pursuing things that will make me step out of my comfort zone has helped me discover the joy in first experiences. 

This semester I’ve had the privilege of joining a research lab group which has not only helped me expand my knowledge of animal behavior and biological conservation, but also the importance of networking and professional development. Our most recent lab meeting focused around a discussion of grad school. From hearing the stories of grad students, I found this discussion to have sparked curiosity and questioning of my own future. It also sparked the question, What does it mean to be a sophomore? Not exactly a new student, but close enough to be considering life beyond graduation. Questions of grad school, gap years, and future careers. How to prepare for life beyond graduation while balancing all realms of being a current college student. In my eyes, being a sophomore is recognizing that now is the time to not just think about the future, but to set yourself up for future success. 

My best advice for sophomores from being one myself is to make the most out of your time here at William & Mary. Continue pursuing the things you enjoy while also stepping out of your comfort zone to consider new perspectives. Now is the time to try something new, explore your interests, make connections, and learn more about yourself, others, and the world around you.

First Generation Celebration Week 

First Generation Celebration Week is coming up! Students identifying as FGLI (first generation and limited income) have the opportunity to participate in a mentorship program, attend a graduate school application Q&A, and receive free swag this week! Here’s a rundown of the events happening during First Gen Celebration Week:

FGLI Mentorship Program Kick Off Luncheon 

November 6


Sadler Center, Tidewater AB

First Gen Day Celebration 

November 8 

Sadler Terrace 

Free cookies and swag 

FGLI Graduate School Application Q&A Panel

November 8

7:15 – 8:15 pm

Boswell 342

Learn more here:

Course Registration 

Course registration for the Spring 2024 semester is right around the corner! Starting November 10th, returning students will have a designated day and time to pick their courses for next semester. This process can be stressful, but there are many things you can do ahead of time that will make you more prepared. Here are three tips to a successful and stress-free registration!

  1. Know what classes you’re going for

This one is a given, but have your list of classes you want to take. Make sure to check your major requirements as well as the general college requirements. 

  1. Have backups in case your classes are full

Since a lot of classes at W&M are smaller, around 30 students, the possibility of a class becoming full is a potential obstacle. Having backups of classes that would fit with your schedule and maybe satisfy the same requirements as your preferred classes can be a good thing to have on hand. 

  1. Copy the CRNs to a document

The easiest and fastest way to add classes during registration is through the CRNs. CRNs or Course Registration Numbers, can be found on the open course list or Banner’s course list next to the class number and name. Adding all of your CRNs to a document allows for easy copy and pasting to batch register for all of your classes at one time. 

Good luck! 

Learn more about course registration here:

Tips For Balancing Work And Academic Life 

From someone who currently works two jobs while also a full time student, there are times where it can be overwhelming to balance everything all at once. Here are a few things that I do to keep myself from burning out that might be helpful to those with similar schedules. 


  • Each Sunday I like to look over my week to be aware of important events, tasks, and anything else that needs to be done. This way I have an overview of what my week will look like and an awareness of some tasks that I need to complete by the end of the week. 


  • Recognizing what needs to get done each day and the ranking of importance of each task is extremely helpful for staying on track with limited time 
  • I developed a Need, Want, Can system to rank the importance of completing each task on a given day
  • For example, if my chem homework is tomorrow, I would categorize that as a need task for that day
  • If I have an essay due two weeks I could work on it if I finish all of my need tasks for the day, therefore it would be categorized as a Can task

Time management 

  • I like to insert blocks into my schedule that are dedicated to a specific task or topic. For example, if I have a lot of schoolwork to do, I’ll block 2 hours into parts of my day to complete as many tasks as possible. This can be helpful to ensure you’re making time for everything that needs to be done. 
  • Also, being aware of how long certain tasks take can be helpful for considering time blocking and prioritization of tasks 

Dedicate time for yourself away from work

  • One of the most important aspects of balancing both work and academics is dedicating time for yourself. It can be easy to get wrapped up in all the things that need to be done, but it’s crucial to set boundaries for your physical and mental health