5 Back-to-School Tips for Success

By: Natasha Derezinski-Choo.

On the first day of kindergarten, there are always the kids crying and clinging to their parents not wanting to go inside, and then there are some who march in without a second thought. Every year after that, it’s still the same except less tears and clinging to parents. For some students, the first day can be nerve-racking. They don’t know what to expect from their teachers and peers, and they fill their heads with every worst-case scenario from not having anyone to play with during recess to getting lost between classes. A little nervousness is normal, but by lunch time most students have forgotten all their worries.  

When returning to school, alleviate some of your nervousness by being prepared. First, think about last year and decide what went well and what you’d like to do differently. Here are five tips for kicking bad habits of school days past, and starting the year anew ready to improve.  

  1. Hit the Ground Running:  Don’t wait for the first report card to improve your habits.  A new year with new teachers and classes means a fresh start for students. It’s the opportunity to do better and break old habits. Each year courses are more challenging from the last, so think ahead as to what subjects you may need to give more attention to this year. Study and review a little each day so you know all the material and you aren’t cramming before a test. Pull yourself out of the ease of summer and start on homework the day you receive it—yes, even on the first day—to break any old habits of procrastination. Don’t fall behind on the first week, or it will just become more and more difficult to catch up.

  2. Stay Organized:  One of the worst feelings is knowing you completed an assignment, but left it at home on the day it’s due. Devise a system of organization on the first week.  Know what belongs in each binder, notebook, or folder so that by midterms you aren’t searching to find notes among a pile of papers haphazardly thrown into your backpack.  If your teacher allows it, periodically discard old papers you don’t need, but never throw out notes and study materials you may need later. Instead store those at home so you don’t have to carry around material you won’t need on a day-to-day basis, but may require them for finals. One year my teacher had a poster above her blackboard that said, “Organization is the key to success.” It’s true. Instead of spending time looking for things, you can use your time on the things that really matter.  

  3. Manage Your Time:  In addition to managing books and papers, you also need to manage your time. If you’ve ever found yourself up at 2:00 a.m. gluing together a history project, regretting the time you spent not working on it earlier, you’ve learned the hard way the importance of using your time wisely. Always keep in mind what the week ahead looks like. Consider how your days with practices, games, meetings, or other extracurricular activities could conflict with tests or major deadlines. Get ahead on assignments or studying you won’t have time for later in the week. This way you can keep doing your fun activities without sacrificing academics. If your school doesn’t provide you with one, pick up a weekly planner to write down all your assignments, tests, and activities. If you let assignments pile up, you won’t be able to do your best. Managing your time properly alleviates stress and allows you more free time to do the things you love.  

  4. Get Involved:  At school there are many opportunities to be involved with clubs and sports. This is the chance to do something you enjoy and meet people with similar interests. You’ll make friends, gain experience, and get more out of your education. It’ll also boost applications or resumes. The hardest part for some students is knowing where to start. Make sure you take advantage of any club fairs or meetings your school may host so you can determine what might interest you. Talk to the teachers who help moderate, organize, or coach different clubs and athletics. If you’re still lacking some confidence, talk to another student involved or bring a friend along.  

  5. Ask Your Teachers for Help:  Teachers are there to help you, so don’t be shy to ask. If you find yourself in a tough spot with the material, talk to your teacher after class for advice on getting some extra help. If you’re stressed, despite your time management, with lots of assignments or tests scheduled on the same day or week, explain the situation ahead of time to your teachers. See if you can get an extension, but don’t make a habit of it. I wouldn’t advise going to the teacher the day before with excuses. Teachers should be interested in your success, so don’t be afraid to ask for their advice and help when you need it.  

Learning is the most important part of school. As you return to class, consider trading in bad habits from last year for better ones this year. This process of learning about your own capabilities should continue throughout the year. Constantly evaluate the techniques that are working, as well as what’s not helping and needs to be changed or improved. These are just a few tips, but each individual must understand his or her own learning style in order to do their best. Good luck in the new school year!  

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