11 Changes to Make When You Go Back to School This Year

Image shows the back of a US school bus.The new school year is nearly upon you, so now’s the perfect time to make some ‘New School Year’s Resolutions’.

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Making a few simple changes to your habits and lifestyle now could have a profound effect on your long-term academic results, and it’s not even difficult to achieve this boost. Here are some ideas that you might like to implement when you head back to school this September, so that you can start the year as you mean to go on and reap the long-term rewards.

1. Get up earlier

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Getting up at sunrise will make it feel like there are more hours in the day.

Do you ever wish that you had more hours in the day in which to get everything done? Well, the truth is that there are more hours in the day – but you probably spend them sleeping until the last possible moment before you have to get up to go to school. Although getting out of bed in the mornings may feel difficult at the time, it is worth it, because early in the morning is often one of the most productive times of the day. It’s quiet and distraction-free, allowing you to take stock of what the day ahead holds, plan what you need to get done, and even get in some extra study time before school. It also gives you plenty of time to eat a good breakfast, which will set you up for a morning’s studying. Set the alarm clock an hour earlier and you’ll suddenly find you have a longer day in which to accomplish even more – and you’ll go to bed at the end of the day satisfied with all you’ve achieved, which is the best way to get a good night’s sleep.

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2. Revise as you go along

If you only implement one of the suggestions on this list, make it this one. Revising each topic as you go along will ensure that what you’ve learned stays fresh in your mind, leaving you with less to do when the time comes to revise for your exams. So, each time you finish a subject and move on to the next one, test yourself on what you’ve learned up to this point. Skim read your previous notes so that they stay fresh, build on that knowledge by learning one or two new things about subjects you’ve already covered, and try jotting down notes on each subject from memory to see how much you remember. This keeps the knowledge ticking over so that you don’t forget it, and it needn’t be time-consuming: it can be done in a quarter of an hour each day. You’ll be glad you did when exam time comes round and you already remember most of what you’ve learned; you’ll be learning even more new facts with which to impress the examiners, while your friends who haven’t been revising as they go along end up having to re-learn things they should have learned properly first time round.

3. Make your notes more organised

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Get your stationery ready.

The start of a new school year is the ideal time to begin filing your notes logically. If your notes have been a disorganised mess up to now, make the resolution that this year you’ll be turning over a new leaf and implementing an organised filing system that ensures you’ll always know exactly where to find your notes on any given topic. Before term starts, purchase some new lever arch folders and dividers and make space on your bookshelves to organise them neatly. Use the dividers to break each subject down into topics, and use the front of each divider as a table of contents for that divider, adding items to it each time you add a new set of notes. Keep everything on one topic together, even if you come back and add to it much later. Your computer should also come under your new filing system. On your hard-drive, use a sensible system of folders to organise subjects into individual topics, mirroring your offline filing system. Make sure you name files descriptively so that you know what’s what and can easily find things using the search function. Try to maintain this neat system on an on-going basis, being methodical in how you file things away so that it never gets out of control.

4. Use your lunch breaks productively

Another resolution you can make this year that will benefit your studies is to use your lunch break productively. Rather than having your entire lunch break off, allow yourself twenty minutes to eat and chat with friends before heading to the library to do some reading or make a start on a piece of homework. Doing this will give you at least half an hour of extra study time each day – or two and a half hours per week. If you don’t think half an hour is enough to make a start on homework, you could use the time to do things that will ultimately benefit your university application, such as studying for an extra language by listening to audio learning courses, or practising a musical instrument in the school music room. Every little helps, and simply devoting part of your lunch break towards these long-term aims could make a huge difference to the quality of your personal statement when the time comes.

5. Set aside an hour or two a week for extra reading

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Set aside some time to read more.

Making the time for reading around your subjects will be of great benefit to you in the long run, as university admissions tutors will want to see evidence that you’ve been doing this. Reading around your subject means reading beyond what your teachers have told you to read, beyond the confines of the GCSE or A-level syllabus. For instance, if you’re studying a particular novel for A-level English Literature, you could read another novel by the same author for comparison, or another novel in the same genre. You don’t need a massive amount of time in order to do this; all you need to do is set aside an hour or two each week, ideally at the same time each week so that you get into a routine. Rather than using your lunch break for this, as you might be thinking about following our last point, it’s probably going to be more effective if you can devote an hour or two to reading in one sitting, as this will allow you to get properly ‘stuck in’ to the book. Book a time in your diary – perhaps a couple of hours on a Sunday evening – and stick religiously to this routine. You won’t regret it!

6. Get started on homework as soon as you’re set it

If you can, try to get started on a piece of homework as soon as you’re set it, rather than leaving it several days – even if the deadline seems a long way off. This is a great habit to get into, because it means that you get a headstart on your homework assignment and start it while the class you’ve just had on it is still fresh in your mind. Even if all you do is make some rough notes for what you’re going to include in your essay, try to spend a few minutes after the class planning and brainstorming a response to the homework task. It may not be possible to do this immediately if you’re going straight to your next class, but at least try to do so before the end of the day on which you’re set the homework, while the topic is still near the front of your mind.

7. Ban procrastination

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Keep facebook to a minimum if you have a deadline.

It’s so easy to put off work by perusing social media sites, watching television, even tidying your room. But procrastination is the enemy of productivity, and this school year, a good resolution would be to try to banish it completely. Overcome the reasons behind procrastination: break down each piece of work into manageable chunks so that you don’t feel too overwhelmed by a task to even get started on it, and eliminate distractions such as Facebook by working in the library. If you have to work at home, keep the distraction of Facebook at bay by assigning yourself five minutes – and five minutes only – on it when you get home from school (and perhaps another five before bedtime if it makes you feel better). You’ll find more great tips on how to avoid procrastination here.

8. Take up a new hobby

Hobbies aren’t just fun: they help you develop new life skills, and you can talk about them on your university application. So, this school year, why not take up a new hobby? You could start learning a musical instrument and join the school orchestra, take up drama and audition for a part in the school play, or perhaps join one of the school sports teams. Anything like this that you can do now will not only give you a way to let off steam away from the classroom or library; it’ll also build ‘transferable’ skills such as teamwork, good communication, self-discipline and so on. These are all skills that will stand you in good stead for university and the workplace, and you’ll have fun acquiring them.

9. Update your image

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A new haircut can help you feel refreshed.

An image update is a good thing to go with your new school year resolutions, as it reinforces to yourself the idea that you’re a new, more productive person who does things differently to your former self. An image update would also boost your confidence, as we all feel good about ourselves when we’ve refreshed our old look. If you’re starting sixth form and you no longer have to wear school uniform, don’t use this as an excuse to wear your favourite scruffs; make the effort to dress smartly, so that you feel more professional, as school is somewhere you go to learn, not to lounge around. The clothes you wear are an important part of your mindset, so the right ones will help you get into an appropriate frame of mind. If you’re still required to wear a school uniform, there’s not much you can do about your clothes. But you can get a new haircut, buy a smart new school bag and invest in new, higher-quality stationery to make you feel refreshed and motivated.

10. Pack healthier lunches

You may already be eating very healthily, in which case well done! But if you’re not, the new school year is a great opportunity to change your eating habits for the better. The temptation to live on crisps and chocolate bars can be overwhelming when you’re away from the influence of your parents, particularly when you get to sixth form and have more independence. Preparing your own lunch means you’re more likely to eat healthily, so buy a nice lunchbox that you enjoy using, and make your lunch the night before. Swap fizzy drinks for fruit juice, and for snacks, try a box of raisins or fruit slices. You’d be amazed at how much better and more alert you’ll feel if you improve your diet, and this will have a direct impact on your studies.

11. Go to bed at the same time every night

Image shows a modern bedroom.
It’s important to keep your sleeping pattern consistent.

We started this article advising you to get up earlier, and we’re going to end it by advising you to reinforce a sensible bedtime when you have school the next day. Staying up too late will have a negative impact on your ability to learn, so try to get into the habit of going to bed at a set time each night. Try to get eight hours’ sleep a night, so that you’re properly rested and ready to approach the day with enthusiasm, rather than yawning your way through your lessons. Before bed, try to switch off your mobile phone, laptop or tablet, as the glare from the screen last thing at night can make it harder to get to sleep, and possibly even diminish the quality of the sleep you do get. If you get plenty of sleep each night, you’ll feel much better able to cope with the demands of a day at school, and you’ll come across as a more positive person – and that’s something that will benefit you in more ways than you can imagine.

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