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High School Advice

I'm coming into my senior year of High School this year (honestly I can't believe it), and as I finished up school supply shopping a few days ago I realized that I've finally gotten my routine down. After three years, I now know what I need, how I work, and which methods I need to use to keep myself organized and successful this year. Today, I thought I'd share some of the knowledge I've gained from my time in high school thus far, in hopes that maybe it will help one of you - whether you're a freshman or older!

1. Understand what type of learner you are. 

The first step to getting good grades is taking good notes to study from - and that means understanding how you learn. You can't necessarily control your teacher/professor's teaching style, but you can control how you teach yourself through the process of note-taking. Personally, I'm a very visual learner. I use lots of colors, diagrams, and pictures in order to highlight specific topics and important information in my notes. Some of my friends, on the other hand, prefer to take notes only in pencil and like to be very no-fuss about it. Experiment a bit during the beginning of the year, and once you find a method that works, stick with it. Trust me, your grades will thank you.

2. Keep your notes in one place, and in order. 

Oh boy, how I wish I'd followed my own advice on this my sophomore year! I was taking a two year IB math class, the first year being my sophomore year. By the time I got to my IB exam in the spring of junior year, I had been doing Calculus for the entire year and I couldn't remember any of the Trig I'd learned as a sophomore. To make matters worse, while I had saved most of my notes from the year before, they were completely out of order and ended up being useless as a result. In order to do well on the exam I had to relearn an entire year's worth of material (R.I.P. me).

Moral of the story? Save. Your. Notes. In order. Whether it's all in a notebook or organized in a binder by unit, having everything in one place will save your life come exam season.

3. Buy a good backpack. 

I went through a grand total of three backpacks in three years. And when I say "went through", I mean I literally wore through them and had to buy new ones. I cannot stress enough how important it is to invest in a really solid backpack, preferably one that has a lifetime warranty. Some great brands for that are L.L. Bean, Eddie Bauer, and Land's End. Especially in high school, when you'll be using your backpack every day and toting around textbooks, notebooks, folders, a laptop, lunch, etc. etc., you want something that won't fall apart easily. It can be cute, too, don't worry!

4. Agendas. 

Whether you prefer Google Calendar or a physical agenda, they are essential. Especially as you get into the thick of exam season or sports seasons, you'll want one place with your entire schedule and homework lined up for you. High school is great because you'll have so many more opportunities to go places and do things both in and out of school, but all those extracurriculars and school work can get overwhelming. It's so much easier to be able to open an app or a book and see everything you need to do in front of you. You can also get creative, and color code or decorate if that floats your boat!

1. Quizlet.

Quizlet is a life saver! I cannot recommend this enough, especially for very memorization-heavy classes like languages. During the school year, I download the app to my phone and have the website bookmarked. Usually I try to add terms/concepts and definitions as we learn about them during the unit, and then when it's time for a test or a quiz I can use the app to study and all the material is there. Quizlet will even help you learn concepts by creating games with the flash cards you add! I've tried a lot of different study aid apps but honestly, this one is the original and still the best that I've found.

2. Form a study group.  

Last year I took IB History of the Americas, and my class was very dense and packed with information each unit. I credit my survival in large part to the fact that my friends and I started a notes/study group early in the year, and before each test (we wrote in-class essays for each of our unit tests) we would text each other to ask questions, compare possible essay topics and outlines, and clarify parts of the unit that were confusing. Having a group supporting me made the class far more manageable! I would definitely recommend starting a study group with other students, especially if it's a class you think you might struggle with.

3. Find the perfect space.

Personally, I study much better when I'm in a coffee shop. I like the atmosphere and the soft background noise, but it's not as distracting for me as sitting in my house. Whenever I really need to buckle down and get some work done, I head to my local Starbucks. Everyone has their own spot where they concentrate the best, so try some different spaces out. Once you find your perfect study space, utilize it!

1. Leave time for the things you want to do. 

Inevitably, in high school, you'll have a lot of people telling you what you should be doing - and usually, it's what you should be doing to get into college. Don't get me wrong, there are definitely some things that aren't exactly fun that you'll need to do in order to set yourself up for success. But that doesn't mean you should sacrifice your own interests. Take everyone's advice into consideration, and then leave time for doing things that you just want to do for fun. In the end, you'll have a much better high school experience if you allow yourself to do the things you want to do then if you spend four years filling your schedule with activities you don't necessarily like, but that you think will help your college application (spoiler alert: colleges like it when you have your own personal interests, too!). 

2. Get involved. 

This seems like pretty cliche advice, but it's true. I don't mean that you have to be the captain of three varsity sports, but I do think that it's important to find some place where you can be involved in your school community outside of the regular academic day. Whether that's sports teams, drama/theater, PTSA, student council, community service clubs or anything else that interests you, finding a mini-community within your school will really make your high school experience 100% better (even if it's already great to begin with!). I have met so many people through sports that I never would have otherwise and learned so much about leadership, comradery, and activism through the clubs I've joined. Putting yourself out there may be a little scary, especially as a freshman, but I can tell you from experience that it will pay off in the end. 

3. Don't take on more than you can handle. 

One word of caution: don't be the student who takes on too much! It's better to put 100% into a small number of activities than to stretch yourself too thin in order to do more than you reasonably can. I've met a lot of people who have done too much at once and end up feeling overwhelmed and unable to handle their extracurriculars and their academics. Understand the time commitment involved in each thing you do, and make sure you can dedicate yourself fully to them. It will be better for your activities, and for your sanity!

Overall, high school is really a lot of fun - and you'll make lifelong memories. So study hard, meet new people, find the activities that you love, and of course, dress well!



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