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A Student’s Guide to an Enriching Academic Year

With summer reaching its midpoint, some students may find themselves thinking ahead to the inevitable arrival of school in the fall. While many will grimace when they envision a return to their classrooms, others may welcome the familiarity of a routine and the ability to see their friends on a daily basis. Regardless of the whirlwind of emotions which surround the back-to-school season, it is important to consider how your school year can be of academic and extracurricular fulfillment.

Believe it or not, what you do in the summertime can influence the academic year. First and foremost, it is absolutely necessary to take time for yourself during the summer. The vacation months provide time to relax and recharge, enabling students to gain enough energy available to tackle their coursework in the fall. However, when you are not relaxing, there is some work which you can do to make sure that you are thoroughly prepared for school.

It is vital that you complete your summer coursework so that you are prepared for tests and class discussions once you return. Furthermore, if you are a rising sophomore, junior, or even senior, it may be worth taking some time to study for standardized testing, including the PSAT, SAT, and ACT. Many local libraries have preparation books available to check-out, which provide practice tests and test-taking strategies. Additionally, Khan Academy is an amazing online resource which has both individual problems and full practice tests.

If you study for these important exams during the summer, you will not have to worry about balancing your studying with your homework once school begins. For juniors and seniors, the summer also offers opportunities to tour college campuses. If you have sufficient interest in applying to a college, many schools allow prospective students to reserve tours online via their admissions website. Take a look around the campus and get a better sense of which school may be right for you!

Now that you have the summer action items checked off your list, it is time to fast-forward to the fall! The return to school can admittedly be chaotic, but with the right amount of planning, there is nothing to fear. Take note of which courses you are taking and how much work you plan to have for each of them. Calibrating the amount of time you plan to spend on homework will help you create a tentative daily schedule, allowing you to determine which other activities you can fit into your freetime.

Once you have a decent understanding of your academic load, it is important to brainstorm which extracurricular activities you plan to participate in during the year, especially if you are a freshman. Extracurricular activities present numerous benefits, including an escape from academic stress, a medium to make new friends, and an opportunity to learn new skills and gain leadership experience.

If you are interested in athletics, look into which sports your school offers. High schools are also home to many clubs— both academic and otherwise— which you can explore. If you enjoy speech and debate, join debate club, Model UN, Model Congress, Mock Trial, or other public speaking clubs. If STEM is your calling, visit the math team or Science Olympiad. For all of the chefs out there, use your talents in cooking or baking clubs. The most important thing to remember is that you should participate in activities which you are passionate about, even if that means starting your own club!

Once you have a basic idea of your tentative schedule for the year, you must learn how to manage your time properly. For some students, this will come naturally, and for others, it will require a greater effort. Either way, you have the power to make choices which will benefit you and promote a healthier lifestyle. One piece of advice which cannot be emphasized enough is to avoid procrastinating! Try to finish your work as soon as possible. If you have study halls, use them to crank out some math homework before the school day concludes.

The sooner you get your homework done, the sooner you can put the binders and computer away, unwind for the evening, and get a good night’s sleep. Another piece of advice which may raise your exam grades is to start studying sooner than you believe you will need. The earlier you begin to review, the more time you will give your brain to re-learn the material, and the more likely you will be to remember it during the test.

While all of these tips on how to succeed in school are important, they are not the end-all-be-all of your high school career. Every student needs balance in their lives, and there are many ways which you can achieve this balance through social opportunities and offerings at your school. Many schools host dances at least once per year, which are amazing chances to enjoy yourself with your friends. Some classes may also offer class dinners, community service events, or bonding activities. Also consider attending one of your school’s athletic games. Not only can you support your classmates and school, but you can have a fantastic time cheering in the crowd and socializing with your friends.

Although it does sound quite cliché, high school really can be a rollercoaster, with ups and downs and times somewhere in the middle. At the end of the day, the best advice which I can offer you is to simply do what is best for you. While maintaining good grades and participating in plenty of extracurriculars is certainly amazing, do not forget to take the time to care for yourself and your mental health. After all, you will never get this invaluable time back.

About the Author:

Karenna Marnik is a rising junior student. Over the past year, Karenna has developed an interest in journalism, as she writes monthly for her school newspaper in addition to the Alcott. She is also passionate about sailing, debate club, and participating in student leadership. Karenna enjoys a lifestyle filled with exercise and the outdoors, particularly hiking and skiing.

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