planning

3 Things To Do Before Starting Any School Year

Summer vacation is a time for relaxation. It is time to take a mental break from the previous school year and allow yourself to enjoy the company of family and friends. However, like it or not, the next school year is right around the corner. I am not trying to be a bummer. I am trying to help you avoid the mistakes that past students have made.

Many of my college-age coaching clients often speak about how they wasted their time in high school and never thought about preparing for college or the real world. A lot of my friends and co-workers say the same thing. It is very easy to float through school and do just enough to get by. The key is to plan and ensure that each year has a purpose and is helping you build towards the future you want.

Today, we are going to talk about three things to do before starting any school year. The great thing about this list is that it can be used over and over again. Regardless of where you are in your educational journey, these three tasks can be completed each year to ensure you remain on track and prepared for the next steps in life. These are valuable habits that you can start now and will reap long term benefits for years to come.

Determine What You Are Working Towards

When I was in high school, I had one goal. Survive. Looking back, this was a pretty stupid mindset to have because it did not motivate me to do anything. All I tried to do each day was pass my classes with the least amount of effort possible. I treated each school year like they were identical, and like a chore, I had to complete. My result was a rude wake-up call in college when I lacked the studying habits and discipline to succeed in my classes.

Take a look at the upcoming year and discover it’s purpose. If you are a high school freshman, this year is dedicated to building a strong GPA, solid study habits, and exploring new friendships and opportunities. If you are a sophomore or junior, you are working through the college application and selection process. If you are a senior, you are choosing a college and preparing for what’s to come once you get there.

What are you working towards this year? What is the purpose of you being in class? What skills do you need to develop to reach your goals? Take the time to understand what specific goals you are working towards. This allows you to put together a clear path to success and supplies you with motivation throughout the year. This purpose and motivation are critical when you are sitting in a class you do not like or feel like slacking off halfway through the year.

Perform An Educational Audit

Before you enter the new year, there is always something of value to learn from the one that just passed. In my book, To The Next Step, I require the reader to perform this type of audit before the beginning of each new year. The purpose is to look back on your classes, grades, and habits to see what worked and what needs work.

The most important aspect of this audit is to understand what classes you did well in. This will help clarify what you are interested in and what you enjoy learning about. These findings can prove useful when you are starting to research possible majors and colleges. You also need to understand what classes you did not do well in. The reason for this is twofold. One, it allows you to pinpoint where the biggest threat to your GPA is going to be and how to plan to fix it. Two, it gives you insight about what you do not enjoy in school and what you will most likely not enjoy studying in college or working out in the real world.

Calculate your yearly and overall GPA. Understand exactly where you are, and set a goal for where you want to be next year. Again, this will motivate you to push past the temptation of being lazy and develop a mindset that allows you to reach these goals. Also, as you research colleges, you will begin to see what type of GPA they are requiring. You are much less likely to get caught off guard if you have been monitoring your grades and working towards improving them each year.

Take Over Two Tasks Your Parents Currently Do For You

This last one has nothing to do with academics and everything to do with preparing for the real world. A major downfall of college students who go away to school is their inability to perform basic life tasks once they are on their own. Even college graduates who move out are often overwhelmed with stress regarding making doctors appointments, going grocery shopping, budgeting their money, and other adult tasks that come with growing up.

If you are a current student, as soon as you are done with this blog post, I would like you to make a list of every single task your parents currently do for you. Then, at the start of each school year, take two responsibilities from that list and commit to owning them. For example, when the new year starts, commit to making your own lunch and scheduling your own doctor’s appointments. These are two simple skills that if learned now, will make life a lot easier for you down the road.

The tasks you choose are entirely up to you. My advice would be as a high school student choose tasks that you know you will have to do in college. As a college student, select tasks that are waiting for you in the real world. It is much easier to transition into becoming a responsible adult over several years then to attempt to do it all at once.

Conclusion

It is never too early to plan for the future. The easiest thing in life to do is not to care or care just enough to get by. That might work now but trust me you will come to regret it later. My advice, based on the regrets and missteps of past graduates, would be to attend school with purpose and passion. Outline your goals before each school year and develop the mindset and work ethic you need to achieve them.

About Kyle

Kyle Grappone is the founder of To The Next Step, an educational coaching and services company designed to prepare students for the next steps in life including college, entering the workforce and the real world. He offers several student-focused services including one-on-one coaching and on-demand courses. You can learn all about it by emailing him directly at Kyle@ToTheNextStep.org. 

Is It Too Soon to Start Planing for Summer?

It’s not even January and I have to think about summer?

Yep, now is the time. Especially if you have a high school student and they are planning on attending an academic summer program because applications will be due soon. And from my research, I’ve learned that colleges really look at what students do the summer between junior and senior year.

What if you also have a college student. How will they plan their summer? A  college class? Travel abroad? A summer job? And what happens to their dorm room? Most colleges close the dorms to college students during the summer, so they will have to move out and perhaps back home. Is their room ready or have you already turned it into a sewing room? Or has their younger sibling taken it over?

And what about family vacations?

I remember vividly my friend Jenny, who had her kids a lot earlier than I did, lamenting when they were in high school that there were only so many family vacations left. Her words are ringing true as I realize my kids will be in opposite directions very soon.

Gone are the days when both my children are at the same school with the same summer schedule. If you have kids in college and high school then I’d plug in the summer vacation dates now for both. Does your college student start back early August, but your high schooler begins after Labor Day? You might want to know that now as well.

How about college tours? Will you be taking those with your high school junior or senior? Will your college student want to attend those with you? Can you combine college tours with a family vacation?

This is all overwhelming as I try to coordinate college tours, summer academic programs, summer jobs, and a family vacation. Not to mention the cost as college payments are just around the corner. I’ve never been really good at planning so far ahead, but I see the benefits.

So during the upcoming holiday week, I will sit down with my family and try to sort all this out. Perhaps we can come up with a summer plan that suits everyone. Or maybe everyone will just want to stay at home this summer, as it might be one of the last ones at home where we can be altogether as a family.

10 Tips for Starting the School Year on the Right Foot

Although it’s still blazing hot in most places around the nation, another summer break is coming to an end. For you upcoming freshman, sophomores, juniors, and seniors, that means another year of high school is right around the corner. No matter your grade or course schedule, there are many things you can do to get the year off on the right foot.

In this article, we’ll explore 10 tips to help you make this year a good one. And since I love all my tips equally, please consider the final tip as valuable as the first. 😉

 

1. Join a Club or Sport

Extracurricular activities are a crucial part of your college application portfolio, but they can also be a lot of fun. The key is to find something you enjoy doing. You’ll meet like-minded people and probably make new friends, too.

Upcoming freshman should pay particular attention to this tip for two reasons. The first is that making new friends can significantly lessen the stress associated with transitioning from middle to high school. Second, if the activity you choose isn’t your cup of tea, you can always pick something else next semester or next year.

 

2. Get a Tutor

Was math (or any subject) difficult last year? If so, it’s not going to be any easier this year. If you have the means, enlist a tutor’s help as soon as possible, even before you take your first test.

If tutors are a bit pricey, consider online resources such as Khan Academy to receive some valuable and free help.

 

3. Use a Planner

It’s rare when a college-bound high school student doesn’t have a busy schedule. You may have a lot to do every day, but you don’t need to be disorganized. That’s why you should use a planner.

The key to using a planner is starting one as soon as the school year begins, well before deadlines start piling up. It will be a lifesaver.

 

4. Get to School Early

If you drive to school, consider arriving at least 20 minutes early every day. Despite having to get up earlier (we’ll get to sleep in just a bit), arriving early has many benefits, some of which I can attest to from personal experience.

  • You can receive one-on-one help from a teacher.
    • Always ask in advance. Most teachers are preparing for class up until the last minute.
  • You don’t feel rushed.
  • You get another opportunity to socialize with friends.
  • You have a quiet environment to finish homework or other projects.
  • If all else fails, you can take a nap in your first-period classroom. 🙂

 

5. Get to Sleep Early

I’ll cut to the chase: you high schoolers don’t get enough sleep, and despite all the science, it’s darn near impossible for a teenager to get up early and feel refreshed. How do we fix this? Here’s some no-nonsense advice.

It’s the end of the day, and you’ve just finished up with your homework/chores/whatever. To get to sleep as early as possible…don’t try to fall asleep right away. Take 30 minutes to do something away from a screen. Then, and only then, get into bed. Your mind will be relaxed and ready to sleep. Of course, the sooner you do this every night, the better you’ll feel the next day.

 

6. Take Stock of Your Interests

When you start a new school year, it pays to examine how your interests have changed over the summer. Maybe you found a new passion or realized that an old one no longer interests you. Self-reflection gives you the power to adjust your plans for the future. And if you ‘check in’ with yourself often, adjusting your plans won’t feel like big changes. It’ll be like a natural evolution. In the end, you’ll understand yourself well enough to curate an excellent list of potential colleges.

 

7. Set One (Reasonable) Goal for the Year

Around New Year’s, adults make resolutions: lose weight, get a new job, etc. However, most adults don’t succeed and go back to their old habits or mindsets. If adults can’t accomplish their goals, why should you try to do the same at the beginning of a new school year?

To set a goal and see it through, you have to choose a reasonable goal. Let’s see what sets apart unreasonable and reasonable goals.

Unreasonable Goal

Reasonable Goal

Make straight As all year.Make As and Bs.
Become the captain of the football team.Get on the football team.
Earn $30,000 in college scholarships this year.Earn $15,000 in college scholarships this semester.

To put it another way, you have to give yourself some wiggle room. The more difficult the goal, the easier you are to become discouraged and give up. Let’s look at the final example about scholarships. You may need $30,000 in scholarships to attend college, but if you frame it as a ‘reasonable goal,’ you’ve turned a massive task into a manageable chunk. Also, you may earn more than $15,000 – a morale boost. If you earn less than $15,000, you still have the following semester to make up the difference by sending out more scholarship applications.

 

8. When Doing Homework, Go from Easy to Hard

You just got home. It’s probably late, or it just feels that way after a long, stressful day. The last thing you want to do is homework. But no matter how much you want to ignore it, it’s not going to disappear.

Here’s what you do. Of all the tasks you have to complete, start with whatever’s easiest. By completing it, you will feel motivated to move onto the next hardest thing.

It’s as simple as that.

 

9. Take a Study Hall (If You Need It)

Since we’re on the topic of homework, I want to discuss study halls briefly. Simply put, they can be a lifesaver if you have a course schedule full of AP/IB/honors courses. Writing from experience, that extra 55 minutes to complete homework during the school day can work wonders for your grades, stress level, and general outlook on life.

 

10. Have Some Fun

I was initially going to title this section ‘Plan to Have Some Fun,’ but I realized that would make me sound like more of a square than I am. And as a square, I must reiterate that you should avoid all ‘fun’ that could result in short or long-term repercussions, many of which involve standing in front of a stern-faced adult wearing a black robe.

That concludes my duties as a square. Let’s talk about fun.

Let’s say you’re who l was in high school – schedule full of honors/AP/IB courses, 1-2 extracurricular activities, and lots of other stuff stealing your time. If this describes you, I bet it’s easy to feel that there’s no time for fun ever. Speaking from my experience on both sides of the teacher’s desk, it’s a mindset that’s easy to fall into.

So how do you have fun as a busy, sleep-deprived, stressed-out high school student? You make time for it.

It’s simple advice, but even for adults, very difficult to follow. No matter how much work you have to do or how guilty you might feel about taking time off, you’re worth 30 minutes to one hour a day to do whatever you want to do, either by yourself or with friends/family. The teenagers who have too much ‘fun’ are those who can’t find a balance between work and play. And to be honest, it’s not entirely their fault. Teenage brains aren’t 100% developed.

To sum up, practice taking time for yourself. That’s fun.

 

Final Thoughts

Top 10 lists are a dime a dozen, so it’s understandably difficult to know if any article’s advice is right for you. That being said, try a few of my tips that you think would help you this year. Ultimately, as long as you do your best, you should have the best year possible.

See you in September!

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