10 Ways to Set Yourself Up for a Successful School Year

As summer comes to a close, it can be tempting to stave off all thoughts of the school year until the very first day. However, taking the last few weeks before the school year to mentally prepare can help set you up for success. Here are some low-key ways you can start to think about school while still enjoying the last bit of summer.

1. Gather books and materials

Take some time to go through last year’s materials to see what you can reuse, like folders or binders that are still in good shape. Replenish supplies that you’ve used up—especially items like pencils and pens. Most schools will loan you textbooks, but check to see if there are any books you’re required to purchase (and don’t forget about those snazzy book covers!).

2. Secure a planner

A planner is one of the top ways students can keep themselves organized. Find a planner that works for you, such as a tear-off desk calendar or the kind you can carry with you on a daily basis. You might also consider using the calendar on your smartphone. Don’t be afraid to combine different organizational strategies, like sticky notes, along with your physical planner and/or digital calendar.

3. Identify a morning routine you can follow

Many of us have trouble waking up in the morning and benefit greatly from a structured morning routine. Before the first week of school, decide what you need to get done in the morning and what could be done the night before, like packing your backpack, deciding what to wear that day, and preparing your lunch. Plan backwards so you can give yourself enough time in the morning to eat a healthy breakfast and mentally prep for the day.

4. Ensure summer homework is completed

If you had summer homework, check to see that you’ve completed everything. Some summer assignments require you to just read, while others may ask you to write essays or finish worksheet packets. You might have a class that asks you to draw on summer reading to write an in-class essay. Confirm that you have understood all of this correctly so you’re not unpleasantly surprised the first week back!

5. Plan your daily/weekly schedule

In addition to your morning routine, you’ll want to consider what your days and weeks look like at large. On the days when you have one or more extracurricular activities, you’ll need to chunk out some additional time for homework. Also, consider whether you’d like to start homework right away after school or take a break before getting down to the grind—just be realistic with whichever approach you choose.

6. Become familiar with school and community resources 

You might already have access to a computer and the Internet at home, but what about other resources offered at school? Your school computer lab or library is likely to have software or equipment that can further help with projects or research. Your local library is also a great place to seek out resources, print and electronic. Ask the librarian to point out popular books or sources that you may have missed.

7. Set long-term goals

After you’ve ironed out the nitty-gritties of your daily and weekly schedules, take some time to set long-term goals for the school year. Consider objectives like reaching a certain GPA or obtaining a leadership role in a club or organization. If you need to take a standardized test this year, like the SAT or ACT, identify when you’ll be able to take the test and create a study plan accordingly to pace yourself well. 

8. Prepare to meet with a counselor, coach, or mentor

The listening ear and experience of adults in our lives can be a great gift, especially when you’re figuring out the direction of your life in high school. Consider setting up a meeting with your school counselor at the beginning of the year, or if you have a coach or other mentor, see if you can set up some time with one of them. These people can give you great insight on classes to take, provide contacts for jobs or internships, and help push you in the direction of your desired field of study. 

9. Research ways to get involved

Find ways to get involved, both at school and in your community. You might look up on your school website what kinds of clubs, organizations, or sports to participate in at school, or email the administrative staff to see if they have any information to offer you. There’s often a community board at the local library where you learn more about what’s happening around town. These sorts of experiences help make you a well-rounded student for college applications and other important opportunities down the road.

10. Commit to an extracurricular activity or hobby

After learning about the range of activities you could join, commit to one or more. Making a commitment, if only in your mind, can help build your stamina, and often, your enjoyment of the activity.

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The end of summer is an exciting time when you feel rested from the break and look forward to a new school year ahead of you. Try some of these strategies with your friends, which will help you pool ideas—not to mention, it can be more fun! With a little confidence and preparation, you can get a fresh start this school year. Good luck!

Lisa Low is a contributing writer for Varsity Tutors, a live learning platform that connects students with personalized instruction to accelerate academic achievement.