What I Wish I Knew in High School

By September 19, 2017 college prep, education No Comments
high school student holding books.

While most of my blogs are addressed towards parents, I’m writing this blog for students, in particular, those entering high school this year. It’s what I wish someone had told me when I started high school. I write for you, high school freshmen, in hopes of easing your worries and helping you avoid the competitive college admissions “rat race” of high school. My hope is that you can avoid the pitfalls that cause so many high schoolers to stress out, burn out, and miss out on making the most of the opportunities available to help you grow and learn skills that bring out your best self.

 Good habits help you save time.

In high school – like life – it can be challenging to manage all of the responsibilities on your plate. Between school, homework, sports, friends, and family commitments, it often feels like there is more to do than there are hours in the day. Creating routines and habits helps us get things done in less time – and with less stress!

It took me a long time to figure out how to create healthy habits to save time. The first time I created a really helpful habit was when I opened my business. There are so many small tasks to juggle when running a business, it can be hard to keep track of everything. I found myself having a lot of trouble sleeping, staying up at night thinking about all the things I needed to do. My business coach at the time gave me invaluable advice. He told me to schedule a specific time each week to pay my bills. It didn’t matter when. It just mattered that I did it at the same time every week.

So, I scheduled my bill paying time for Monday mornings at 10:00am. During the week, I would put my bills in a file folder labeled: Bills. Then, every Monday at 10:00am, I took out the Bills folder and my blank checks, opened my accounting software, and wrote the checks to pay my bills.

After a few months of doing this routine, I realized that I never worried about paying my bills. It was one less thing keeping me up at night. And I always paid my bills on time…without having to stress about getting it done!

When you know when you will get something done, and you create a habit to get it done without thinking about it, you get things done without stress!

Specific Tips:

Daily Homework Checklist

  • Start with reviewing your planner, running through each class in order and noting any assignments due the next day.
  • Add due dates for quizzes, tests, and longer-term projects.

Weekly Organization Review

  • Create a routine for a “Weekly Review” to organize papers, plan your weekly agenda, and clean out binders/backpacks, etc.
  • Fill in time for social activities and personal hobbies on your calendar. If you know when you are going to get done the things you have to do, you also know when you have time to do the things you want to do!
  • Choose a specific day and time of the week for your Weekly Organization Review. Friday after school or Saturday morning is usually the best time, because you don’t have assignments due the next day.

 Studying doesn’t just mean doing homework.

When I was in high school, I never thought I was smart because I had to spend a lot of time reviewing my books and notes in order to do well on my tests. Then, when I was a senior, I had a college level Political Science class with some kids from the seminar program – otherwise known as the “smart kids.” At the beginning of the school year, we had a quiz on the names of government officials. When we were walking to class, the kids from the seminar program were quizzing each other with mnemonic devices they had come up with to remember the names of officials for our quiz. I’ll never forget their mnemonic, “AC Slater Rides the Bus.” AC Slater was the name of a character on a show called, Saved By The Bell, that was popular when I was in high school. Slater was also the last name of the Secretary of Transportation at the time. It’s the only thing I remember from that quiz…and possibly the only name I remembered for the quiz!

But the lesson that mattered more for me than anything I learned in that Poli Sci class was that the smart kids don’t succeed without effort; they succeed because they come up with smart ways to remember things.

Specific Tips

  • Do something to reorganize information in ways that make you think about.
  • Review your notes with colored highlighters.
  • Create your own study guides or Q&A flashcards.
  • Make illustrations.
  • Learn key vocabulary words.
  • Quiz your friends.

 Focus on your interests and all else will fall into place.

As a high school student, I thought that the kids who played the most sports and did the most activities in high school were most likely to get into a top college. I wanted to get into a “good college”, and I thought that I had to be active in as many groups on campus to show colleges that I was a good student. While I kept myself busy working a part-time job, running for student government, participating on sports teams, taking dance classes outside of school, doing youth group activities with my temple, and leading clubs on campus, I stretched my time and energy super thin and felt really stressed out!

I’ve since learned in my years as an educational therapist helping students prepare for college that I had the wrong approach in high school. What colleges look for is actually what makes high school most enjoyable for students: that you explore your interests and develop skills in the things you really care about. Colleges want students who start out as beginners in something, push through to develop their skills, and demonstrate strength of character in leading others or overcoming challenges in pursuit of their interests.

Specific Tips

If you don’t already have a passion or strong interest in a sport, arts, music, or other activity, start thinking about what interests you. Is it cars? Technology? Drawing? Music? Photography? Helping others? Talk with your parents and teachers about what opportunities there might be to explore these interests. Maybe there is a club or elective class you can take to learn more. Use your freshman year to explore a few different options if you aren’t sure right away of what you are interested in.

Most importantly, choose something and give it a good try. Allow yourself time to develop your knowledge and skills…eventually this will grow your interest!

Whether you’re an athlete in a high school sport, an artist, musician, or leader in an organization, take full advantage of the opportunities to learn more, become better, and work with others. This will not only help you build your college resume, it will assure that you have a rich and enjoyable high school experience!

 Recess is the most important time for learning.

One of the things I learned while studying to be an educational therapist is that we all need time to process information before it can be solidified in our long-term memory. This is what happens when we sleep; we process the events of the day and create lasting memories. In elementary school, recess is the brain break kids need to process information learned earlier in the day, so they can store it and make room for new information in their short-term memory.

As high school students, you will be bombarded with all sorts of information throughout the day. We receive information constantly in class from teachers, from technology, social media, and from our friends. Our world is so full of information that we have to work to create break times to slow down and process what we’ve taken in, discard what’s unimportant, and transfer what is important to long-term memory.

Remember this when you’re feeling overloaded: take a break. Your recess is just as important as the time you spend in class or doing homework. Give your brain a break to recharge. And don’t forget to get the sleep you need too!

About the Author:

Megan Cohen Trezza, M.Ed., is the founder of La Jolla LearningWorks, where she helps customize educational therapy programs for students facing learning challenges. Connect with her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/LaJollaLearningWorks, or via email at megan@LJLearningWorks.com

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