Academic Survival Tips from a Junior
By: Farah Sayed
Whether you’re a freshman or upperclassman, many of us struggle with aspects of school from organization to studying effectively. However, there are many approaches that you can help to improve your ability to excel as a student.
Time management might be the biggest challenge that some of us face. Scrambling to finish assignments and cramming last minute before a test are less than ideal situations. Spreading out your work, however, can be very beneficial and relieve the stress of things piling up. Taking a few minutes to make a rough plan of the week for each subject can definitely help. For example, if you have 100 pages of history reading and the test is three weeks later, doing about five pages a day should be your goal. Even reading six pages each day would be a good option, leaving you time to review and revisit the text. Err on the safe side by staying a little bit ahead. Sometimes unexpected events pop up or a certain subject ends up taking twice as long as you originally thought. In those cases, being slightly ahead can be quite useful. As far as planning out daily homework, try writing down a schedule for the evening. Simply stick a post-it on your desk/work area with what times you want to work on each subject. This may sound a bit unnecessary, but it helps put your time in perspective. Crossing out each subject as you go is also very satisfying.
Having a system to write down things “to-do” can help you remember what you need to get done, even if you have a good memory. Many of us might have a traditional planner, but there are many other systems out there. If you’re not a fan of the planner the school provides, there are many cheap planners out there with pretty designs and fun features. Using a basic lined notebook is also a fair option. Notebooks often have more styles and sizes than planners, which leaves you with more flexibility. Because notebooks have a continuous series of lines, there’s room to write down more than five subjects, and you can record other miscellaneous things that you need to accomplish. If you don’t like carrying around a physical notebook, there are many good planner apps that you can download on both your phone and computer. “MyHomework Student Planner,” for example, is a free app that also lets you input important calendar dates and has many other useful features.
Studying can be pretty nerve-wracking, but doing it effectively is key. Instead of cramming, studying a little each night can be very beneficial. Even if your test is more than a week away, revisiting concepts and ideas earlier relieves stress as the test approaches. Remember that cramming is not the most ideal approach, and getting adequate sleep is of utmost importance. For English vocab and history, Quizlet sets or flashcards are highly recommended, and they can even be useful for concept driven subjects like science and math. Throwing some theorems, formulas, or scientific terms on a study guide or a Quizlet is always a good idea. The process of fishing out these terms or formulas can help solidify your memory of them. Also, don’t be afraid to reach out if you’re having trouble on something. You can meet with a teacher, ask a fellow classmate, or look for credible resources online. Seeing different perspectives can help deepen your understanding on whatever you’re struggling with.
Note-taking is a skill that takes time to master, but there are a few things to keep in mind as you explore your own system. For any handwritten notes, don’t get too caught up in how pretty they look. Yes, writing pretty notes can make work a little more fun, but make sure that they’re useful. Color-coding and highlighting can have advantages, but don’t get overly carried away. Also, make sure that your notes aren’t too detailed, especially for subjects like history. Focusing on the big ideas are ultimately more helpful, and chances are you’re not going to memorize every tiny detail that you write down. If you like taking detailed notes, though, try additionally making a condensed version. That will help you process the information and also leave you with a summarized version that you can use when studying for a final or an AP exam.
Hopefully, you’ll be able to use some of these tips as you continue this school year!