Tips for highschool?
I’ve been meaning to make a masterpost about this for a long time so I guess I’ll do that now. thanks for the reminder!
so, bear in mind that these are just things I’ve seen that work for me or friends. I’m breaking this into the main areas that I see need addressing: organization, grades, tests, balancing time, extracurriculars, college, social, general
- clean your room. this sounds sarcastic and mom-like, but honestly, going into high school is a really good time to reevaluate a lot of things because it is a transitional time in your life. I suggest making a few piles: throw away, rehome, relocate (in your home), and keep. find organizational systems for things (no more piles on the floor), and make your room a space that you’re comfortable spending time. if this means redecorating, do it! you’ll likely be spending some good time here, be it studying, hanging with friends, relaxing, or sleeping, so make it a space that’s enjoyable and multifunctional.
- keep track of your assignments. I like to keep mine with me in a 2-inch binder, divided into sections for each class(which are separated by dividers). then transfer these to an expanding folder with a section for each class every quarter or semester (whenever the binder gets too thick). I especially like using the binder dividers with plastic sleeves between each section so I can keep notes or papers I’ll need year round there. it is *essential* that you keep assignments till the end of the year. teachers mean it when they say that they want you to keep things. this will come in handy when studying for finals. other options include a folder for each class, a smaller ½-inch binder for each class, an expanding folder for all classes, etc.
- put assignments where they belong. do not just throw them in your backpack. it’s easy to do when you’re feeling lazy, but it ultimately causes more grief.
- buy a planner. this is just one system of organization but its worked remarkably well for me. spend some quality time looking at them. I’ve found that university supply stores often have a better selection than office supply stores, but they can be found in either place, as well as bookstores often. look through and consider what you do and don’t like about each one, and make sure that its shortcomings are ones you can overlook. you’ll be spending a year with this thing after all, and if you’re like me, you’ll be looking to it daily. here’s what I have to say on planners:
- mine runs august-july, and I buy it towards the end of july each year (because I have a terrible memory & need to have one I can look to at all times). I use the mead brand, because I like the way they look and the font they use. I like to have a planner that has a monthly calendar with a box for each day, followed by a full page spread for each week with roughly ten lines below each day.
- I use the full calendar spread to write all of my events out. my planner is color coded, using a six-pack set of highlighters (though I use them so often that I buy a twelve-pack so I can renew it halfway through the year). I have a color for school, one for social/misc, volunteering, sports, various extracurriculars, etc.
- I use the weekly spread to write assignments and daily tasks beneath the day they’re assigned. I write them in “class–task” format. I’ve met other people who prefer to write lists of things that are due on the days they’re due. do whichever works, or a combination of both. I like to write check marks next to completed tasks, and x’s next to uncompleted tasks. other people highlight them or cross them out. you do what works best for you
- one of the most important pieces of advice that I’ve ever heard is to start school the way you want to finish it. the first three weeks of any class or year are going to be the ones where you make the habits that stick, so try hard and figure out what works for you then, and you’ll be able to keep it up all year long, especially by setting little goals like “get a B this quarter, now next quarter, etc.”
- if you use an online score reporter or grading program, have a regular schedule for checking your grades (ie. every other monday) so you don’t fall behind
- make sure to ask teachers about your grades if you notice anything different. that can be, “hey I saw that this assignment was missing but I’m positive that I turned it in on time?” or “hey I’m wondering why I got this score on this paper, what can I do to improve?”. teachers like to see this kind of determination
- google test stress tips, and figure out how to minimize your stress. the most helpful things I’ve learned are the following:
- figure out where you carry your stress. ie. I carry stress in my shoulders, so I make sure to relax them while I’m testing
- take deep breaths. corny, but effective
- bring your stuff. remember to double check that you have your number two pencil or your calculator
- do everything you can to prepare. there’s nothing more you can do than walking into a test and thinking to yourself “I’ve done everything I possibly could to prepare for this, and that’s all I could do. whatever happens now happens.” this applies to when you’ve spent weeks preparing, and for those times you forget till the previous night and cram as much as you can.
for a lot of people, high school is a really busy time. if this is you, then you need to figure out how to manage that time and balance it between your various activities.
- write it down. it’s really helpful to have a schedule, so you don’t surprise yourself with how much you planned to fit into a limited time.
- estimate your time. if you have eight assignments one night, write down how much time you think it’ll take you to finish each task. this will help you prioritize.
- SLEEP. sleep is so important. like…… SO important! even if you forgot your test till 9:30 the night before. you’re not gonna do well if you haven’t slept. you may think “well I’m not going to do well if I haven’t studied either…” but trust me, you need some sleep. realistically you need 9 hours. set a bedtime for yourself. but honestly in high school that’s pretty impossible so aim for at least 8. I personally put sleep before school. if it’s my bedtime and I haven’t finished things, I call it a night. (this is where being able to prioritize comes in handy).
- if you absolutely cannot put sleep over school. still go to bed! you’re not going to get anything done if you’re falling asleep on your textbook (yes I’ve done this). estimate how much time you’re going to need to study/finish/whatever, then set your alarm so you can wake up early to finish, and still have enough time to eat breakfast and get ready to go.
- you deserve a social life. believe that! I’ve found that I can’t study in groups, but if you can, then that’s a good way to see friends more often! I don’t see friends on weeknights unless I’ve miraculously finished everything, and still have energy leftover (this is a rare occurrence). figure out what works for you, but I don’t recommend spending time with friends till you’ve completed your checklist. it’s really easy to convince yourself that that reading that’s going to take an hour will only take 20 minutes when you’re out with friends and having fun.
- trying to balance extracurriculars too. read on…
doing things that aren’t 100% academic during high school are important. they push you to think and interact in new ways and settings, they’re fun, and they’re good résumé and application builders.
- do things you’re interested in. there is no reason to join a club that you’re not interested in. many high schools have dozens, and if not then they have an easy system to set up your own. if you’re committing your time to something, then you should only do so because you want to. if extracurriculars aren’t your thing? that’s ok. don’t do them. as long as you feel like not doing them won’t close any doors for you down the road, then that’s totally ok.
- try to find a variety. if music is all that you’re interested in, then that’s ok, but maybe try to find other interests as well. it’ll expose you to new interests and opportunities.
- try things out. at my school, most clubs have an info meeting where you can check out whether or not that club is what you’re about. even if your school doesn’t offer those, it’s ok to just go to one or two meetings. drop them if you’re not interested or too busy.
- get exercise. you do not have to go to the gym. you do not have to maintain your weight. you do not have to join a sports team. but it’s really nice to find a sport or activity that makes you feel good, even if it’s just walking or yoga. (some schools even offer yoga as a physical education credit!) it gives you space to clear your mind, and improves your focus in school.
- get out of your school. high school is not necessarily fun. it’s not everybody’s ideal age or time or environment. that’s ok. if you don’t want to be at school a minute past the bell, then that’s ok too. you can find volunteer, cultural enrichment, community, and athletic activities all outside of your school. they may cost money however.
- don’t overdo it. I’ve quit sports, clubs, and activities because the time commitment was too much. it’s ok, there is no shame in quitting. it’s a whole lot better than realizing that you’ve been coasting for months and finding yourself unable to restore your grades (or your mental health! seriously. take it easy). do not overwhelm yourself. do not let peoples comments about college freak you out. do what makes you happy.
- it’s not for everyone. seriously. I’m sure it depends on where you grow up, but almost everyone in my area goes to college, and it’s very frowned upon not to. that is unacceptable, because there is a whole multitude of reasons why you wouldn’t go. among these, you just don’t want to. be ok with that. you’ll be ok.
- consider the alternatives. trade schools and community college are viable options. as are gap years. as are jobs. as are just chilling out. be it your health (mental or physical), energy level, desire, whatever, it is ok to not go “the traditional route”. it is ok not to do what’s expected or wanted of you. for those who do want to go to college…
- think about it early. researching colleges as an underclassman gives you a huuuuge upperhand. chances are you’ll have more free time them anyways, so utilize that. and figure out what you need to get done! have a checklist so you can feel prepared by senior year. no scrambling.
- do lots of research. it’s really comforting to not go into the process blind.
- begin applications in advance. I suppose it depends on the application system, but I’d recommend starting six months in advance. it can be a huge relief to get them mostly done during the summer.
- go where you’re happy, not where you’re obligated. prestigious schools like Ivy Leagues can be nice for some people. other people would complain about the huge student bodies, lack of diversity, high tuitions, large class sizes, and number of classes not taught by actual professors. there are pros and cons to every option. figure out what works for you.
- do not date seniors as a freshman. their intentions aren’t right. just trust me, they’re not the magical exception to the rule that they seem to be.
- surround yourself with people who make you comfortable. honestly. don’t waste time on people who don’t accommodate you. you deserve to be accommodated and cared for.
- there is no set way to do school. I’m answering this based on my personal experience, but it’s certainly not the right protocol for everyone.
- put your health first. school can be really draining. if it’s becoming too much, consider altering your course load or taking time off. do it at your own pace.
- find what works for you. make high school the best it can be for you, even if it’s not “the best four years of your life!” like some people unfortunately tell you.
- you are under no obligation to do things by anyone’s standards but your own. that is all.
feel free to share and/or add to this!