8 Ways to Be Better Prepared When You Go Back to School This Year

It’s that time of year again – the summer holidays are still in full swing, but the first of September feels worryingly close.

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You probably have good intentions every year, but they’re a bit like New Year’s Resolutions that might last until March if you’re lucky. Perhaps when you got your end-of-year report you vowed that in the coming school year, you would always do your homework the night you got it, and extra studying on top of that. With a whole summer stretching out ahead of you, these promises to yourself feel much easier to keep that they do by the time it gets around to August.
In this article, we’ve looked at what you can to make the start of the school year a little bit easier for yourself when you’ve still got a couple of weeks to go before you have to go back. The aim is not to set insurmountable goals or resolve to reform yourself into an implausibly ideal student, but instead to do a few small things that will make your life that little bit easier.

1. See if you can make the school day more like the holidays

Here’s an uncontroversial statement: holidays are more fun than going to school. The biggest reason is, of course, the freedom to do what you want with your time, or at least a lot more of it – even if you’ve taken on a summer job or upped your share of household chores, chances are you’ve still got a lot more say in how you spend your days when you’re on holiday compared to when you’re in the classroom.

A special breakfast can really set you up for the day.
A special breakfast can really set you up for the day.

But there are often other things that make holidays enjoyable that aren’t just about free time. There’s the lack of pressure. There’s the fact that you’re probably getting more sleep, possibly eating better, possibly getting to practise your hobbies more than in term-time. There are more spontaneous activities with friends. There’s the chance to go away, see new places and meet new people, and maybe to learn things that wouldn’t be covered in a school curriculum.
The good news? You don’t necessarily have to wait for the holidays for these things! Yes, being on holiday makes them easier, but with a little effort, you might find that you can carve out time for your hobbies in term-time by, say, cutting down on social media use. If one of the delights of being on holiday was taking the time to make indulgent breakfasts every morning – blueberry pancakes, for instance, or omelettes – can you get up earlier once or twice during the school week and take that time to try yourself to something more exciting than cereal or toast? It might take a bit of effort, but you can maintain at least some of that holiday feeling all year round.

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2. Remember that it’s OK to find the first couple of weeks back hard work

Simple things like hand-writing your work can feel like a real effort after a long break.
Simple things like hand-writing your work can feel like a real effort after a long break.

Inevitably, you’ll find that it’s challenging to be back at school, especially if you haven’t been doing any studying over the holidays. There are the higher-level things, like the basics that were easy at the end of last year that you now have to concentrate to be able to remember, and there are the lower-level things, like the fact that several weeks without writing anything much means that hand-writing essays makes your hand cramp. If you’re someone to whom studying normally comes naturally, this might well lead you to have an annual freakout that perhaps you’ve forgotten everything and you’ll never do well in an exam again.
Don’t worry! The first few weeks back are hard work for everyone, and not letting yourself get too stressed by that is one of the keys to getting through it. Especially if the transition is a significant one (year 11 to sixth form, for instance), most of the first week or two is just going to be about absorbing information and recapping what you did last year, so concentrating and taking good notes should be most of what you need to get back up to scratch.

3.  Talk to older pupils about what to expect from the coming year

This one can be tricky if you don’t have older siblings or older friends, but if your school has a prefect or buddy system, you might be able to find someone to talk to at the start of term.
In every school year, there will be times that are harder and times that are easier, and you might not necessarily know when they’re going to be ahead of time. If you’re involved in a hobby or some kind of challenge event like the Duke of Edinburgh award, it’s particularly useful to know when the more high-pressure times will be so that you can be sure to structure your workload.

...and if you do have a prom to look forward to, that's even better!
…and if you do have a prom to look forward to, that’s even better!

Your teachers will obviously be able to advise you on when some of these times will be – when there are exams, or coursework deadlines, or simply when a particularly tricky bit of the curriculum will be covered that you might want to put some extra work into – but they won’t necessarily know everything. For instance, a teacher who doesn’t usually teach your year group might be aware of when your coursework deadline is, but not of when the auditions for the school musical are, or the date of the school prom. For this, the experience of older pupils who’ve dealt with it all before can be invaluable.

4. Look at your calendar and work out some deadlines

Setting realistic deadlines will help you remain relaxed.
Setting realistic deadlines will help you remain relaxed.

Once you’ve had that conversation, take the time to get a calendar – a largish one for the wall behind your desk might be a good option – and plot out all of the stress points that you can expect in the coming school year, as well as any deadlines that you’ll have to meet. Be careful not just to note down the day of the deadline, as that’s a recipe for flipping your calendar over to the next month and only then seeing that you have a deadline in a week’s time for work that can’t reasonably be done in that time. Instead, write yourself in extra deadlines, whether that’s something straightforward such as “one week until coursework due”, or breaking down the process further, such as “deadline for essay plan”, “deadline for rough draft” and “deadline for completed essay.”
You should also take note of other non-school deadlines – organising a surprise party for a friend’s birthday, for instance, or getting ready to go to a family wedding. It’s all very well to have your other deadlines in place, but that doesn’t work if the weekend that you’d planned to get going properly with your revision then turns out to be taken up entirely with getting fitted for a bridesmaid’s dress or groomsman’s suit.

5. Don’t get all your stationery at once

For some people, the only really enjoyable thing about preparing to go back to school is buying all the new stationery that you’ll need. The assortment of fine-tipped coloured pens, the blissfully empty lever-arch files, perhaps even a shiny new fountain pen – happy days. But while it may spoil the fun, if the years that you’re moving between represent a significant change, don’t buy all your stationery in August before you go back.

Save some money for a stationery-based treat later in the season.
Save some money for a stationery-based treat later in the season.

It’s understandable that you buy a lot of stationery in advance because you want to be prepared, but the fact is that before you’ve got started in the year, you’re not going to know exactly what you’ll need. It might be that you’re moving from exercise books to A4 paper, or that it’s more worthwhile to spend your money on a really good calculator than a fancy geometry set. Hopefully your school will have provided you with some guidance, but when it gets down to it, you might find that you prefer a different way of working and structuring your notes. So when you’re doing your back-to-school shopping, get the bare essentials in August, and wait until the first or second week of September for the rest of it – it might even be on special offer by then.

6. Get things done that you put off at the end of last term

If you’re not making a significant transition this year – for example, if in the UK school system, you’re going from year 10 to year 11, or year 12 to year 13 – then it may be that you still have some leftover work from last term. It might be that you were set some kind of summer project, that you were asked to finish a book over the summer holidays, or something more trivial, like an essay that you were supposed to rework while you were away.

A new school year is a great opportunity for a fresh start.

It’s often that case that by the time the new school year begins, these little tasks have been forgotten about – by you and by your teachers. You might think that you can take a chance on it, and if it comes up, claim that as it was weeks ago, you’ve definitely lost the relevant pieces of paper and there’s no way you can do it now – and get away with it.
But a new school year should also be a fresh start. You’ll need to ease yourself back into the idea of studying, and finishing off this kind of task is a great way to do it. Remember that you’re not actually being set work so that your teacher has something to do all day; you’re being set it so that you learn from it, so making sure it gets done will be to your benefit, even if your teacher never ends up asking for it. And it will save you the embarrassment if it turns out that everyone else remembered about it, too.

7. Get emergency supplies organised

Stock up on basics to avoid getting caught out.

Want to be properly prepared for being back at school? Now’s the time! Given you won’t be buying armfuls of stationery, it makes sense to buy the things that you are likely to need, so that your locker is well-stocked ready for the year ahead. That might mean cereal bars for the days when school lunches aren’t as generous as you’d like, or other emergency supplies like spare socks, tights, plasters, breath mints, bus tickets – you’ll know already what kind of things you’ll need. (The definition of ‘emergency’ is being used quite loosely here).
This is the kind of thing that it’s particularly worth doing at the start of term. Once term is underway, it’ll be hard to remember to get everything properly sorted out, but if you sort it out ready to take in and store on your very first day back, then you’ll sure to be thankful on the first rainy day when your socks get soaked a few weeks down the line. 

8. Eat well before you go back

At the end of the holidays, it’s tempting to try and sneak in that last little period of indulgence. You’re not keen on going back to school, you want to treat yourself, and you think that you can use the first of September as a time to turn over a new leaf in healthy eating as well. From then on, you’ll eat your five a day and drink lots of water. But while it’s still August, it’s Coco Pops for breakfast and crisps for a snack.

Use the last of the summer to refuel your body as well as your brain.
Use the last of the summer to refuel your body as well as your brain.

But that mindset doesn’t really work, because the first few weeks at school are not a great time for being healthy either. You’ll be busier than before, which might mess up any exercise plans, and lunches with friends might lean more towards fast food than healthy salads too. Plus, you might be feeling a bit stressed – not ideal for trying to cut down on comfort food.
Instead, why not give yourself a couple of weeks of eating well and living healthily before you go back to school? It’ll give you time to get in good habits, and it means that if you do end up reaching for the chocolate when your workload gets heavy, it’ll at least be after a period of taking care of yourself.
What have you done to be prepared for going back to school this year? Share it in the comments!
Image credits: schoolbag; sunflowers; blueberry pancakes; writing; formal tables; calendar; stationery; bag; sock with hole; bagel and salad.


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