Thursday, 3 September 2015

Back To School: How to Get off to a Good Start

I know that many of you reading this may have finished school or are perhaps in a job, but for those of you who are still in any kind of education- I thought I would share some tips and little nuggets of advice that I followed during my school days and now at university.



The first nugget of advice I have for you, is to get into a routine of some sort to kickstart your day.  It is said that it takes around 21 days to form a habit, so IF that's true, you should consider taking the month of September to form healthy habits to improve your work ethic and time management skills in order to make your school year more successful. It can be hard to adjust to waking up early after a summer of sleeping in and relaxing, so set a time to wake up at each morning and stick to it for the rest of the school year! Waking up earlier means that you have more time to get ready and ensures that you won't be running late or getting flustered and leaving things behind- you may not like this idea at 7am each morning but trust me in the long run you will feel less stressed!


My next bit of advice is to go out and buy a diary planner or calendar- don't just keep everything stored on your phone! It is known that the process of writing things down helps you to remember information better. Also you could make a to-do list- I mean come on, isn't it so satisfying to check off all of the boring things you needed to do as soon as they are done? The answer is yes. It is important to keep track of all of your homework assignments and class notes, so perhaps get a backpack (they are in fashion again I think- what would I know?) to put everything in so that you are not carrying around random sheets of paper and different files. It keeps everything neat and tidy and means that you are more efficient and ready for the day.


Try to get into a routine with your studies towards the beginning of the school year, hopefully it will stick throughout the upcoming months. Try to set a time aside to do your homework every day and make sure you try to stick to that set time whenever you can so that you get into a routine of doing it. Set aside a space in your house like at your desk or a calming area of your room where you can do your homework and have a 'no phone zone' where you don't go on any social media or electronics (unless you need a laptop for your homework of course). This will help to focus you and lessen the distractions! As we all know, studying outside of lessons tends to be neglected until it’s way too late e.g. the night before an important exam or essay deadline. So this year, remember to study ahead. I’ve found that reading the set material and highlighting key points as I go, then reviewing my notes and using flashcards to quiz myself is far more helpful than staring blankly at a huge textbook for hours on end. If you fall behind in the first month of school, you're going to be behind for the rest of the school year. Set yourself up for success not failure! Once you've missed a few assignments in different classes, it becomes infinitely more difficult to catch up on everything at once. Stay on top of everything, do your reading, get your homework done and stop procrastinating!



Now, this might seem unnecessary to some and incredibly tedious to others, but the art of note taking is a great skill to have, particularly if you plan on pursuing any form of higher education. When you are in lectures at university you need to have note taking down to a fine art as there is no going back if you miss something being said (unless you get your lectures recorded for you- in which case UNFAIR!) Anyway, there are a few different techniques that people use to take notes and it really depends on what works best for you. I personally like to scribble everything down during a lecture and then type it up on my laptop it in a more organized manner later on that day as that way the information is still relatively fresh in my mind and I will understand what I am typing. Taking notes keeps you focused on the lesson/lecture and even helps you to further comprehend the material, Note taking is also a tremendous help when it comes to exams as you won't have a sudden panic that you are missing information on half of the topics as you will have everything in place and won't have to go around asking friends to copy their notes last minute.


On the topic of lectures and lessons, it may sound silly but remember to attend class. Now for most people attending lessons/lectures is a given, but there is always that one student who decides that today is not their day for education and they fake a sick day or just skip class. By attending all your classes, not only are you making the most of your tuition,but you are also increasing the opportunities for your teachers and fellow students to get to know you. If you attend all of your classes, you are already one step ahead of all your absent classmates. One thing that is often not mentioned, which can be of huge benefit, is to get on good terms with your teachers- start the school year off by making sure you are in your teachers good books. Trust me, they are much more likely to help you and give you the benefit of the doubt if they see you as a hardworking and enthusiastic student. Be respectful of them, be polite, and remember that they are human too and are probably also having a pretty shitty day.


Another thing is, don't be afraid to ask for help; if you aren’t very strong in a specific subject or find yourself struggling in classes, the best thing you can do for yourself is seek help. If you are unsure about something, always ask. I know it can be hard if you lack confidence but your teachers are there to help you learn and it will also help them to know you show interest and are serious about your studies. If you really are too shy to ask questions in class, perhaps stay behind at the end and just have a quiet word. Leading on from this, it is very important to participate in class, many students tend to shy away from participating because they’re too scared their response isn’t what the teacher or professor is looking for or that it isn’t good enough. Don’t let your self doubt hold you back! The member of staff will most likely be relieved you took the chance to share your ideas as there is often complete silence and for a teacher/professor that must be rather frustrating. Depending on your school there are different options for extra support, but generally your teacher should be available if you need help with something. My school had afternoon extra study sessions for those that needed it and hours in the day where you could drop in to a classroom and ask for help. If this isn't enough support for you, another option is perhaps seeking a private tutor, but of course that will cost some extra money.


As well as focusing on education, it is also very important to make efforts to socialise with new people and make friends. Even if you already have a great group of friends, there is always room to make more! At the beginning of the school year, people are more open to meeting others and making new friends, so take advantage of this by talking to at least one new person. This person doesn't have to become your new sidekick, but it's nice to have friends in other social circles and at least you will have made an effort to open up and socialise with others. This year may be the year that you could start participating in after school activities. Not only can they build up your UCAS/Personal Statement, but they also give you a great opportunity to meet new people and feel more involved with your school. Try at least one after school activity that interests you, and even if it doesn't stick, at least you tried!


Remember to take care of yourself. Making sure you take time for yourself to unwind is just as important as everything else. Your wellbeing and mental health comes first; if you cannot function or retain information because you are too tired or cannot cope- you are not excelling or reaching your potential. So make sure that you get enough sleep, eat enough of a balanced diet, drink enough water, take some personal time for yourself, meet with friends/family and just breathe. In the end, despite what others might say, your overall well-being is more important than a perfect grade. Sometimes it is best to cut out unnecessary baggage that may be cluttering up your life and affecting your school work, so make sure everything in your life is influencing you in a positive and uplifting way.

Best of luck for this year! Do let me know if any of these tips helped you in the comments below or contact me on twitter @Olivia_CA95. 

- Olivia Charlotte Alice
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