Back to school: 9 tips for a successful start to the school year

Posted by Julia Adams on 8/19/22 9:06 AM

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As summer ends, back-to-school sales begin, and class start-dates quickly approach, there can be a mixture of hesitancy and excitement in the air. For high school students, it’s the the beginning of a new year and one step closer to graduation; for college students, it is the opportunity to reconnect with their friends and begin another semester of studies; for seniors alike, it a bittersweet time to both reminisce on their academic achievements and the tiring final stretch to the finish line and receiving their diplomas.

Despite this excitement, the implementation of a schedule is always a struggle. Whether it is one's first year in high school or their senior year in college, the thought of a crowded schedule can make one wish the summer would start over again. As you organize for the school year, you might remember the more difficult and stressful times that you encountered last year and hope that things will be different. 

If this describes you, here are some helpful tips to help you get back into school and develop a schedule while maintaining good health.

1. Outline your week by the classes you have scheduled 

A simple timesheet showing a twelve-hour day Sunday through Saturday will suffice. Fill in class times (while factoring in travel time, if necessary) and any other regular commitments throughout the week.

Girl_Studying_Fordham_Dorm_Campus_Life_2016-21_1Then, figure out the “free time” you have by subtracting sleep, getting ready for the day, and mealtimes. This number will tell you how much time you actually have to study and to have fun. You have more time than you realize! Once you have that number, use it to help you spend that time wisely. Instead of looking at it as "only" a certain number hours, think about how much time you actually have. Having a "glass is half full" approach helps you keep a brighter outlook. 

2. Obtain your syllabi 

For the college students, get the syllabi for each class before school starts, if you can. Print out or buy a calendar and mark the important due dates for projects and exams. This will give you an opportunity to plan. If you have the space, have two different calendars: one for projects and exams and another for social events and fun times. For your academic calendar, mark out three weeks ahead of the due date and create mini due-dates to keep you on track throughout the semester. For your fun calendar, block off days where you are not available by cross-referencing your due dates. Then, when a friend asks you to do something, you'll know when you are available. 

3. Try to include some fun classes in addition to the required subjects 

These can be extracurriculars or an exploration of a passion. A good, balanced life includes times to do fun activities in addition to the monotonous ones. This helps cultivate a love of learning that will take you far in life. PHC understands the importance balance in college. From student-led organizations to an art studio, students have the option to balance the academic rigor with fun and productive activities. 

Click here to learn more about student life on campus!

4. Plan some fun actives during the first three weeks of school 

To contribute to a good balance between work and fun, schedule lunch with friends or a movie night. This is especially critical at the beginning of the year to set yourself up for success. If at all possible, keep up this pattern throughout the school year. It will help you have a good balance and promote overall productivity.

5. Create a theme or set of goals for the year 

Is your theme confidence or challenge? Do you want to get all A’s in every class? Do you want to spend more time reading the Bible? These are practical goals that will help you stay focused throughout the year. It can come in handy when you would rather procrastinate over a project. When you feel like you don’t want to work on a specific task, remember your theme or goals. This will reorient your thoughts and propel you to continue working.

Click here to learn about five tips to overcome procrastination

6. Set up practices that will give you optimum performance

Rachel Studying1There are different schools of thought regarding when to take study breaks. The Pomodoro technique suggests doing 25 minute increments of studying divided by 5 minute breaks. There are other variations of this as well. Others simply suggest taking 20 seconds to look out a window every 20 minutes to give your eyes a break. Try different time increments and decide what works best for you!


7. When you need a break from studying, take one 

Even if you have a looming deadline, take a 15-minute break, stand up, and walk around the room. It’s incredible what a little bit of exercise will do for your brain’s ability to process information.

8. Use a time tracking app to find out how long you are spending on each subject

Using a time-tracking app, ATracker Pro, can help you figure out how much time you are giving a task. If you reading seems to be taking longer than you think it should, this is a great solution!  Simply enter each class or project as a task on the app and then start the time on that task when you are working on it and stop it when you are done. If you do this for about a month, you will begin to see a trend in how you use your time. Once you have that data, you can estimate how much time you really need to get tasks done and adjust your schedule accordingly. You might even set a time limit on certain tasks on which you tend to spend too much time.

9. Set a sleep schedule and meal times

When your mom tells you to go to bed, there's a good reason for it! Less sleep  leads to poor performance in general. Figure out the right amount of sleep for you and then work that into your schedule. For example, if you need eight hours of sleep and you need to get up at seven every morning, you need to be asleep by 11pm and in bed by 10:30pm. 

Food is your body's fuel for the day. Do not skip a meal! If you find yourself loosing energy and feeling lethargic, have something to eat! Keep a bar, nuts, or some light snacks in your bag for moments like these. Caffeine may help you in the short term but could later lead to increased tiredness because you didn't give your body what it needed.

Most importantly, you are made in the image of God. Take care of what God has given you - all to His glory! 

Learning to have a successful school year will help you beyond the classroom. Implementing these tips now, before the business of the school year begins, will give you a healthier and successful school year. 


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