10 Tips for Starting the School Year on the Right Foot
By Thomas Broderick
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.
|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.
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!