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Start the School Year Off Right

It’s getting to be that time of year when summer ends and another school year begins. Everybody wants to hit the ground running, but we don’t always know how. It’s so easy to slip quickly back into bad habits. Now is the time to take charge of your school year. I want to share the 8 steps you can take to make sure you have the best school year ever.

1. Get Organized

I shared a couple of posts recently with great tips and tools to help keep you organized and motivated. Now is the time to implement them! You also want to figure out the best way for you to keep track of your grades and daily assignments for each class. Maybe your school does it for you online. Maybe you prefer an old school planner. Maybe you like to have a google doc or sheet on your phone. Now is the time to figure out what works best for you. If you’re not sure, email me! I’d love to help you set up a system.

2. Review Course Selection

Are you in the right courses? Maybe you took a math course over the summer and think you can now ace the honors math class. Maybe you spent the summer in France and want to skip to the next class. Make sure you are taking the most challenging courses in which you can get at least a B+. Push yourself. That’s the only way to improve.

Here’s what Harvard has to say about high school course selection: By taking the most academically demanding courses you can find, you can improve both your chance of admission to a selective college and your performance during the first years of college.

3. Identify Potential Problems Early

Was there a subject or topic that you really struggled with last year? It doesn’t even have to be academic. Maybe you were always late for school or didn’t practice your sport or instrument enough. Think of three things you want to do better this year. Then come up with reasons why you struggled with achieving them or what barriers might prevent you from doing them this year. Finally (the important step!), come up with solutions to each barrier. For example, if there was a subject you struggled with last year that you’re taking this year, talk to your teacher about it now. Ask him or her if there’s something you can do (extra credit, outside work, etc.) to excel this year. Maybe you need to get an outside tutor. Tutoring will be much more productive if you start from the beginning and stay ahead of the class instead of waiting until you’ve fallen behind. Another example, is getting to school on time. Maybe you’ve figured out it takes you too long in the morning. You can set an alarm at night to prepare for the next day. Pack your lunch and backpack, lay out your clothes, etc. Then when you wake up you won’t have any decisions to make. They were all made the night before. Let me know if you can figure out a solution to a struggle. I’m here to help!

4. Begin Test Prep

Even if you are a freshman or sophomore, you can start improving your standardized test taking skills now. Improve your vocabulary by reading. Read things you like. It can be books, newspaper or magazine articles, whatever. Try to write frequently. You can keep a journal or start a blog (depending on the content you may want to keepit private). To improve your math skills, practice mental math whenever you can. If you’re a junior or senior, in addition to reading and mental math, get a test prep book and start working through it. You may find a test prep class or tutor will really help you get the scores you want. As with everything, the sooner you start the better off you will be.

5. Focus Your Mindset

It’s really important to be positive. You can have your best year yet. Don’t let whatever happened last year affect how you go into this year. I want you to feel good about this year. The more you tell yourself this will be a great year, the more likely it will be. The opposite is also true. If you tell yourself this year is going to be horrible and you’re going to fail, you’ve already set yourself up for a bad year. Use self fulfilling prophecy psychology to your advantage and tell yourself you are going to kick ass!

6. Plan Your ECs

If you haven’t worked through my Plan Your Base Workbook, do it now. (If you don’t have it, sign up for my newsletter, and I’ll send it to you as a free gift.) Use it to figure out the ECs you’re going to get involved with this year. I really recommend playing a sport or instrument as well (bonus: do both!). This is the time to figure out everything you need to do. Keep in mind, this is about quality not quantity. Don’t get ahead of yourself and sign up for 50 clubs. Check out what Duke had to say: “Although students naturally want to try out lots of different activities, admissions officers caution against excessive involvement without depth. They want to see a student’s ability to commit and succeed.

7. Update Your Resume

Now is a great time to make sure all those awesome activites you did over the summer are captured in your resume. Keep a running list of awards, accomplishments, and activites throughout your high school career. Include summaries of each item, especially for the activities. Note any quantifiable achievements. For example, if you were a lifeguard at a pool over the summer, your resume entry should look something like this: Lifeguard – City Pool Managed 3 employees. Ensured the safety of 100 adults and children each day. CPR certified. Write any other notes about your experience. Did you learn something shout yourself or others? Did it affect what you want to do as a career? This way when you go to apply for a job or college or scholarships everything will be at your fingertips. You can simply pick the pertinent activites and shape the resume for the particular application. You can also use this to help with personal statements and interview questions.

8. Get Your Parents Involved

The most successful students have a support system in place. Make sure your parents know what’s going on in your life. Share your calendar with them. Let them know if you’re struggling with something. They want you to succeed!

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