1. Set Short-Term and Long-Term Goals
Goal setting is a skill that develops over time. In fact, it can even be described as an art. To become a successful goal setter, you’ll need to get to know your own work habits and motivators. Setting unrealistic goals gets discouraging quickly.
Instead, set realistic long-term goals and work backwards from those to set smaller short-term goals to act as stepping stones. Then, make a plan to achieve these goals. Break your work down into manageable chunks and find a way to hold yourself accountable. Sometimes it can even help to coordinate with a group of peers so that you can help to hold one another accountable too.
2. Master Time Management
In order to optimize your performance across multiple aspects of your life, you’ll need to develop strong time management skills. This means making and sticking to study schedules, developing systems of organization that work well for you, and learning the art of multitasking.
3. Select a Balanced Course Load
Many students struggle with finding balance. If you commit to the most challenging track of classes and then load up on uber-challenging electives on top of it, you might overextended yourself, and your grades could suffer. On the other hand, if you don’t take on a course load that is challenging enough, you might feel bored, or find yourself with limited options when it comes time to apply to colleges.
4. Be Active Outside the Classroom
Successful high school students don’t disappear outside the walls of their classroom. They are also engaged members of their community. Get involved with issues that impact your student experience. Educate yourself about the issues facing your community and learn to use your voice productively so that people will listen to your ideas.
5. Participate in Class
You might think that this one goes without saying, but many students seem to think that if they study and achieve high grades, their participation will be a secondary factor. Successful students know, though, that class participation is a means towards the end. Students who participate in class are more engaged in their learning and are better able to encode information in their memories, since thoughtful questions and consideration lend context to new information.
6. Take Good Care of Yourself
Sometimes, when you are committed to being a strong student, a dedicated participant in outside activities, and a model of effective prep for standardized tests, you might forget that you also need to be committed to yourself.
Getting enough sleep, eating well, and taking good mental care of yourself are all necessary to success. When any one of these fall by the wayside, you are unable to perform at the peak of your ability no matter how prepared you are otherwise. Put yourself first to ensure that you’re capable of following through on the rest of your commitments.
7. Find Your Passions
High school isn’t just a time to prove your intellect and capability of tackling college level work. You should also think of it as a unique opportunity to figure out what makes you tick. Students who can identify their passions and pursue them are more engaged and motivated to succeed. Experiment with different extracurriculars and pursue the activities that truly interest and fascinate you. You can’t fake passion and your authentic motivation to pursue these activities will shine through and could even lead to a future college major or career.
8. Learn to Say No
Academics aren’t the only area in which you risk overcommitting yourself. Dedicated students and active members of the school community also risk overextending themselves in activities and outside commitments. Of course you’d like to chair the homecoming committee. Running a fundraiser for the food pantry is right up your alley, and tutoring your friend for the Spanish AP exam just seems like the right thing to do. If you do all of these things, though, will your other commitments suffer?
Successful students know how to say no in a way that is both graceful and humble. Saying something along the lines of “Thanks so much for thinking of me, but I don’t think I have the time to do justice to such an important role right now. Please do check in again, though,” lets people know that you appreciate the opportunity and might be available sometime in the future
9. Earn Leadership Roles
What’s more impressive than playing on four varsity sports teams? Many admissions committees would argue that they’d rather see you advance in one sport from JV to team captain over the course of four years, or even to team manager if you don’t make varsity. This advancement into a leadership role shows that you are a dedicated hard worker who is respected by your peers.
The same can be said for other activities, too. Instead of spreading yourself thin and participating in many activities, try to focus on a few and advance to leadership roles. Successful students know that this focus and determination sets you apart more than simply a commitment to attend many weekly meetings.
10. Build and Use a Support Network
You might think that juggling all this by yourself is the marker of true strength and independence, but successful students are those who know how to use the resources available. Build strong relationships with teachers and peers, establish connections with learning resources like the writer’s center or study hall teachers, and connect with mentors to ensure that you have a support system in place, even if you never use it.