ultimate back to school masterpost
it has come…the witching hour…the time of doom is now upon us…okay so obviously ignore me, i’m a huge nerd. but if you’re like me, going back to school is a terrible, nerve-wracking experience. so here are some tips to help you survive this.
1. Do. Your. Summer. Work. If you haven’t started on it now, turn off whatever device you’re reading this on and start working. Many teachers will test you on whatever summer work you were assigned, and occasionally it can count for a significant portion of your first semester grade. Seriously, don’t put it off until the last minute, because then you really won’t want to do it. Plus, then you’ll have more time to focus on binge-watching Netflix uninterrupted.
2. Whether you’re moving to an entirely new school or just a new grade, things will change this year in some way. You have to be ready for it. And you-yes, you-can be one of those things. It’s never too late to reinvent yourself. Want to dye your hair? Try a new extracurricular? Break a bad habit? Learn a new language? Go for it.
3. Push yourself, but not at the expense of your mental health. No test or project is worth breaking down over. That being said, procrastination is the enemy of progress. You won’t do it later-and if you do, you won’t do it as well as you could have.
4. Make time for your friends and yourself. Don’t let school take over your life. Self care and having fun are important too.
5. Wherever you are, whenever you are, people are going to judge you. It’s how we’re wired-we’re a judgmental species. There’s really no point in worrying about how other people perceive you because you can’t please everyone. You could be an actual saint canonized by the pope AND cure cancer AND negotiate an armistice between the forces of good and the rabid radioactive alien wolves sworn to destroy all humanity and still some people are going to call you “bitchy,” “fake,” “weird,” “trying too hard,” et cetera, et cetera. Be unabashedly you.
6. You are smart. Really really smart. So what if you don’t have perfect grades or the best ACT score? If you’re trying your best-really, really your best-no one can fault you for it.
7. People who are confident in the knowledge of their own intelligence don’t:
- play the “grade game” i.e. “whadja get??? i’m sure you did great…seriously whadja get tho?? c’mon show me, i won’t tell anyone.” (u know these kids)
- loudly complain about getting an A minus/B plus when they know other people didn’t do as well as them
- say they “didn’t study” every time there’s a test
- lecture people when they didn’t ask for it
- brag about their grades/scholarships/other opportunities
- compare themselves to/compete with other students constantly
- condescend to others
- talk about how much “busier” they are than other students all the time
- put others down whenever they talk about successes (”i’ve won loads of those; it’s not that hard to do.” “you do know everyone who applied for science olympiad got in, right?”) *the last one someone actually said to me-and it was a blatant lie so double wtf??
- lie about accomplishments when asked (just say you don’t want to talk about it its? not? that? hard?)
- make fun of people who don’t do as well as you
Bottom line: Be honest with yourself-do you do any of these things? If so, why? The truth is, if you view your academic life as this crazy competition, you’re not going to have any fun, you’re going to lose friends over it, and people aren’t going to see you as a role model to emulate, they’re going to think you’re well…an arrogant, self-centered tool. Everyone loves that you care about school, and everyone can see that you’re really smart and driven. You have nothing to prove, and everything to lose. If you want to do well for yourself, that’s great. But if it’s all about one-upping other people, it’s not worth it. Like in writing, show, don’t tell, how competitive of a student you are.
8. Good friends don’t:
- put you down
- exclude you
- stifle you
- use you as an emotional dumping ground
- stop supporting you
- tell people your secrets
- gaslight you
- manipulate you
- make you feel unsafe
- abuse you in any capacity
- threaten to rescind their friendship for small offenses
- make jokes that you find offensive
- ignore you/give you the silent treatment without telling you what’s wrong
- pressure you into doing things you don’t want to
- only hang out with you when their “best friends” aren’t around
- talk about themselves all the time but never ask you about yourself
- mooch off you
- stop talking to you for no reason
- refuse to stick up for you when people are being jerks
Bottom line-if you feel like you come in second, if you feel like you’re the one that has to do all the work in the friendship, you have to ask yourself why you’re trying so hard. Having healthy friendships is as important as having healthy romantic relationships. Of course, there are degrees to how toxic friendships can be. I’ve been in some fairly awful ones that I had to cut off completely, but I’ve managed to reconnect with other people who I didn’t have good friendships with (i’m always careful never to get too close to those people though.) If you’re being abused or manipulated by a friend, you need to CUT THAT PERSON OFF. You deserve friends who treat you with respect. If your friends don’t, you’re better off alone (at least until you’ve found some real friends.)
9. No significant other or crush is more important than your grades, your extracurriculars, or your mental health. If your relationship is taking over your life, take a step back and ask, “Where do I see this going?” Don’t waste time with people who don’t treat you right or people who aren’t interested. When the right person comes along (and they will!), you won’t have to feel nervous or awkward around them.
10. Study smarter, not harder. Use abbreviations in your notes and find shortcuts to difficult math problems. Of course, do all your homework. It’ll cost you big time in the long run.
11. Buy some clothes that you actually want to wear, and get rid of the ones that you hate. It’ll make getting up in the morning that much better if you feel confident about how you look. Dress for yourself-you are not “slutty” or “trying too hard” for wanting to look good.
12. Find your textbooks online so you don’t have to lug them back and forth every day. Don’t wait to buy your supplies-buy them now so you can get good deals and won’t end up scouring every office supply store for that particular brand of pencil.
13. Participate. Seriously. I didn’t realize what a difference this made until I got to high school. Even if you feel like you’re going to get the question wrong, even if you feel like you’re not smart enough to add anything interesting to the class discussion, say something. Not only does it make the teacher notice you-which in a big class is super important-it’ll show that you’re paying attention and that you want to learn. If you participate, teachers will be more likely to remember you and you’ll feel more confident about yourself, as well as less tempted to doze off or talk to your friends. Do this in all your classes-even the ones you’re not as good at-and you will see better grades-guaranteed (especially if they grade on participation).
14. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. You’re not stupid if you don’t understand something. If you can, ask someone to tutor you if you’re struggling. Ask the teacher for extra practice on what you struggle with. If no one is asking your question for you in class, you have to ask it yourself, otherwise you’re never going to learn.
15. Hard test? Start studying 3-4 days in advance. One day review notes and material; the others do practice exercises or quiz yourself. If possible, study with friends-as long as they don’t distract you. Take 5-10 minute breaks in between sessions so you don’t burn out.
16. Make a studying playlist and a motivational playlist. You’ll be amazed at how much better you feel about studying. Only do extracurriculars you actually enjoy-not ones you just do because you think it will look good on some application or the other. Don’t load up on these activities either or your grades will start to dip.
17. Know the dates and times of any big standardized tests you’re taking (SAT, ACT, PSAT, AP tests, IB tests, IGSE, GCSE, SAT Subject Tests, etc.). Plan to start reviewing for these at least a month before the exam. (and a month before only if you know you’re really good at that kind of test-taking.)
18. Edit your essays, once by yourself and once with a friend. Know the format your teacher wants so you don’t have to waste time googling “MLA in-text citation” every time you have an essay due.
19. This may come as a surprise to you, but you are not the center of the universe. So before you go on long rants about how hard your life is, remember, you have no idea what the person you’re sitting next to might be going through. You are not the only person ever who’s had to juggle hard classes, extracurriculars, a job, and family problems at the same time. Other people are also struggling-what you’re going through is not more difficult or more meaningful than what anyone else is dealing with. This year, make a resolution to ask people questions about themselves, to listen to others, instead of making everything about you. You will be surprised at how much more people will trust you and how many more friends you will make. Also, guess what? Bad days happen to everyone-so stop taking out your frustrations on people that you care about. It’s petty, it’s stupid, it’s not fair, and it’s the quickest way to make your bad day a little worse.
20. Regardless of whatever happens this year, you will graduate, you will get a job that makes you happy, and you will be a wonderful, intelligent, beautiful, successful human being. If you get nothing else out of this post, take this-don’t get yourself so taken in by that weird, hive-mind-toxic culture that school perpetuates that you lose the ability to deal with the people who are truly important to you. At the end of the day, you want to say that you came out of this school year a happier, wiser person than you entered it.