By Kyle Grappone
Like it or not, the new school year is almost upon us and in some parts of the country, it is already here. As a student, I remember having a hard time being excited for the new school year because it meant the end of summer vacation. I had developed a mindset that each school year was the same. I treated it as a nuisance that I had to trudge through.
What myself, and many of my fellow graduates who I have spoken to over the years, failed to realize was that each school year was a unique opportunity to build towards our future. The beginning of each year was a chance to start fresh, set goals, and build towards the type of person we want to become and the life we want to live. If you are thinking that this upcoming year will be just like last year, here are the 5 ways to make it not only better but your best one yet.
#1 – Determine What You Are Working Towards
What is the one thing you want or need to accomplish this school year? Is it developing better study habits? Narrowing down your college list by visiting campuses? Has your GPA suffered due to lack of motivation or concentration? Figure out what you need to accomplish this school year. This will give you the motivation to pay attention in class, try harder on your tests, and give you a reason to start each school day with excitement instead of dread.
Let’s put it another way. What is one thing you want to be able to say about yourself in June? Is it that you know where you want to go to college? Perhaps, there is a class that you have always struggled in and it is hurting your GPA. If you have an interest in a specific career, take this time to research it and figure out what you can do this year to move towards that career. Pick something you want to accomplish and use that as your driving force when school feels boring, routine, or overwhelming.
#2 – Learn a brand new skill
The more skills you have when you enter the real world, the better off you will be. Do not just spend your free time watching TV and playing video games. Pick something you have always wanted to learn and carve out time each week to learn it. Ask your family members what was one skill they wish they knew before going off to college or entering the workforce.
First, this will give you a leg up on your fellow students when they are applying to college. You will have something unique to talk about during your college essay or interview. Second, it keeps your creative juices flowing. When it is time to take a break from school work you can turn to something that will be fun yet challenging. Lastly, on those days where school feels like a drag, you can power through knowing you will be doing something fun later on that day.
#3 – Identify and Break One Bad Habit
We all have bad habits. However, there is a difference between the annoying small ones and the life-altering big ones that prevent us from reaching our full potential. For me, it was not staying organized with my class notes. I was constantly shoving my worksheets and other important pieces of paper into my backpack and often losing them completely. I thought they were worthless once class was over. However, my lack of organization came back to haunt me when it came time to study for tests. My grades suffered significantly as a result.
Think about last school year and about any habits that prevented you from doing your best, growing as a person, or reaching your goals. Then, write down when this habit pops up the most and how it hurts you the most. Once you understand where this habit is doing the most damage, write out your step by step plan to fix it. For example, if you always wait until the last minute to finish a project, create a process for yourself. Start by listing out the different things you need to do for that project. Then assign a daily or weekly due date to each part. Take a minute to register how good it feels when you complete each part, knowing that you will have less work to do moving forward.
#4 – Begin Building Your Network
The idea of a network might be a bit foreign to you. In simple terms, a network is a group of working professionals that you have developed a relationship with. You can call on people in this network for advice when it comes to applying to college, internships, and your first job. Your network is also invaluable when you are researching possible careers and majors. These are the people who have come before you and have the advice you need to make the right choices.
To ensure you are building the right network, you first have to start thinking about what types of jobs and careers you are interested in. This list may change, but to start, think about what you are passionate about and what interests you. Then, make a list of jobs that align with those interests. When you are ready, seek out working professionals who are currently working those jobs. You will be amazed and what you will learn about their jobs, what they went to school for, and what your life might be like if you pursue that career.
#5 – Develop A Growth Mindset
All of the ways I just mentioned play into the idea of developing a growth mindset. That term can mean many things. For you, as a high school student, it means keeping your mind open to new ways of becoming a better and smarter person. Actively seek out opportunities where you can develop a new skill, meet new people, and learn about your future opportunities.
Every morning when you wake up for school, make the decision that you are going to take a positive approach to the day. Get yourself excited about your classes by remembering what you are working towards. Approach the upcoming day knowing that you will learn new skills, lookout for opportunities to grow, and be working towards building the future you want for yourself.
Too many graduates, myself included, floated their way through high school. Each day, month and year were treated the same because they never took the time to think about what was coming next. I challenge you to challenge yourself this upcoming school year. Decide that this is the year you make significant changes in your lifestyle and attitude. Ten years from now, when you are living a life of purpose and satisfaction, you can look back on this year knowing it was the year that started it all.
Kyle Grappone is an educational coach helping students prepare for the next steps in life.