Your Back-To-School To Do List

It can be hard work to remember all the different things you need to do before you go back to school – and unfortunately, it’s mortifying to be there on the first day back and realise what you’ve forgotten. That’s why we’ve put together this list of vital things to do in the last few days before your holidays come to an end.

1. Check for any homework you’ve missed

Time to dig out your old homework diary.

The most important thing to make sure you’ve done before you go back to school is any homework that you’ve been assigned to do over the holidays, such as coming up with initial ideas for coursework, or getting started on your reading list. Typically, these holiday assignments don’t lend themselves to being done in a hurry the night before you go back, and you don’t want to start off the new school year having already failed to stay on top of your workload. Take the time to think through every subject and consider what, if anything, might have been assigned. And it’s worth double-checking with your friends as well.

2. Read your timetable carefully

Check you won’t have to dash from one side of your school to the other.

If you’ve been given your timetable for the year ahead before you go back, it’s worth taking the time now to study it carefully. Are there any days when you’ll have to carry a lot (e.g. music lessons, PE and art) or where you’re likely to have a lot of homework due (e.g. if you have several academic subjects on the same day. Also be sure to check which subjects you have in the first couple of days back, so that you can be ready for them.

3. Give your tech a spring clean


Now is a good time to check the impression given by your social media accounts.

There are some tasks we all need to do regularly, and the days before you go back to school are as good a time as any. One important task is to spring clean your tech – laptop, desktop, tablet, mobile phone and so on. Make sure all virus protections are up to date, and delete any unwanted files. This is also a good opportunity to spring-clean your social media – removing any embarrassing posts or photos, and making sure your privacy settings are appropriately locked down.

4. Review your stationery

Stationery is there to be used, not to be a collector’s item.

The classic back-to-school activity is buying new stationery, but before you get carried away with shiny new ringbinders and lovely, clean notebooks, it can be worth taking a moment to assess the stationery you already have. Lots of us are guilty of saving fresh notebooks and pens and so on for just the right moment, but that leads to a desk overflowing with unnecessary stuff – and who wants to spend all year writing with their second-best pen anyway? Just use the good stuff!

5. … and buy more stationery if you really need it

Visiting a stationery shop is a classic back-to-school activity for good reason.

If it turns out that your stationery stash isn’t quite up to the demands of the year ahead, then it can be worth going ahead and buying what you need. Just don’t get carried away – while it’s tempting to load up with matching sets of everything, it’s pointless if you don’t actually know what’s going to be required for the new school year. We’d recommend getting the essentials now, and then topping up when you have a better idea of what you’ll need.

6. Tidy your room

Think how lovely it’ll be to come home to a neat and tidy room after your first day back at school.

Yes, it’s an annoying chore – but it’ll be so much less annoying to do it now than when you’re midway through revising for a test when term’s got underway, your room is covered with post-it notes, and you’ve mislaid the one exercise book that you’re sure has the relevant things in it. You’ll need to do some tidying anyway, to put your summer clothes away and get your school things together, so it makes sense to do a more thorough job of it and get your room completely straightened up ahead of the new term.

7. Find out if you need any additional resources

Taking art might require you to buy an easel and canvasses.

If you’re taking any new subjects this year, or the approach taken to existing subjects is changing (for instance, if you’re going to be doing a lot more lab work in Chemistry this year), then you might need additional resources. That could mean new arts equipment, sports kit or other resources such as extra mathematical instruments or IT resources. This sort of thing can be a lot more annoying to get hold of at a later date than stationery, so best to get it now.

8. Check your uniform and school shoes still fit

You don’t want to discover that you need new uniform when it’s too late to buy it.

Even if you’re not at the age where you’re still growing, you might have gained or lost weight over the summer. It’s worth taking the time to check, given the awkwardness of discovering that either your uniform or your shoes don’t fit any more when it’s the first day back and there’s nothing you can do about it. If you’ve bought new shoes for the new school year, it’s sensible to wear them for a couple of days to break them in; you don’t want to start the new term with blisters.

9. Prepare some snacks

The first week back can be challenging – good food can help.

Eating well is a lot easier when you’re on holiday and have ample time to make yourself something healthy and delicious whenever you get hungry. When you go back to school, it can be much more of a challenge and you can be faced with choosing between something that’s healthy and something that’s quick. Ease yourself into a good school routine by getting some healthy snacks ready for your first week – the internet is full of great ideas for the kind of thing you could make. You could even prep your lunches, too.

10. Front-load your monthly chores

Could you swap the hoovering for a different chore?

This tip will depend on how you divide chores in your household, but as much as you can, try to get chores out of the way before you go back to school. That way, you’ll give yourself some breathing space to settle in to the new school year without having to worry about washing the family car or mowing the lawn. If your chores can’t be front-loaded (e.g. hoovering or washing up), you could try asking your parents or siblings if they’d be willing to swap.

11. Find small items like your locker key or lunch card

You don’t want to be standing here with a bagful of heavy books, wondering where your locker key went.

Hopefully small but vital items will have turned up when you tidied your room, but if not, now’s the time to start looking. You don’t want to be the person who has to queue for a new locker key on the first day back just to get hold of the textbooks you need. It’s worth running through a typical school day in your head to think about what you’ll need to bring with you, because after six weeks off, it’s easy to forgot the little things that make up an essential part of your routine.

12. Think about your study routine

Do you need to use your time differently this year?

Speaking of that routine, most of us maintain a plan for when we’ll study and when we’ll relax or socialise that’s mostly in our heads, until it gets towards exam time and something more rigorous like a revision timetable is required. But over the long summer holiday, it’s natural to get out of the habit of planning the week ahead while making allowances for the homework you’ll have. Take the time now to think about when you’ll study, when you’ll do extracurriculars and when you’ll have time off, so you don’t get overwhelmed when term starts.

13. Shift your sleep patterns


Get ready to say goodbye to your holiday lie-in.

Many studies have suggested that the timing of the school day is incompatible with the natural sleep cycles of teenagers, and that students would be better rested if their day started and finished earlier. Over the holidays, you probably made the most of the chance to go to bed and get up later than normal. Unfortunately, you’ll now have to go back to the normal school day, and if you’ve been used to waking up when it’s nearly lunchtime, the change can be jarring. Make the transition smoother by starting to wake up earlier a few days before you have to go back, so you don’t spend your entire first week of term yawning at people.

14. Check over your notes from last year

Hopefully you don’t have too many notes to trawl through.

When you go back to school after a long holiday, there’s inevitably a moment when you walk into a classroom and think, OK, what do I actually do in this subject? Do I know anything about it? Usually it all comes back to you quickly enough, but you can cut down on those moments by having a read through your notes before you go back, to remind yourself of exactly what you were learning about before school broke up.

15. … and throw away notes you don’t need any more

Keeping notes from years ago feels reassuring, but it’s seldom necessary.

Most people have experienced the anxiety dream where you have an exam for a subject that you haven’t studied in years, or you’re told that all of your earlier school exams have been cancelled, and you’ll have to study them again. Rest assured that this very seldom happens in real life, and take the opportunity to stop hoarding the notes you made for exams you took three years ago. They might represent a lot of work, but now they’re just taking up space in your room that you could be using for something else. If you absolutely can’t bring yourself to recycle old notes, at least put them in the attic or garage.

16. Get in touch with friends you haven’t spoken to over the summer

Checking in with friends makes the transition back into school life easier.

Undoubtedly there will be some of your friends who you’ve been in touch with constantly over the summer. But there are others – particularly those you know through defined school activities, like a sports team or theatre group – who you might have fallen out of touch with. Some of your friends might be nervous about going back to school, especially if they’ve had a difficult summer, so it can be kind to get in touch a couple of days before going back.

17. Check if your transport arrangements are still the same

You don’t want to be stuck here waiting for a bus that isn’t going to arrive.

Your train timetable might have changed, your bus stop might have moved, or your friend’s mum who always gives you a lift might have got a new job. Your transport arrangements for school can change in lots of unexpected and irritating ways; you don’t want to find out about it at the point when the bus doesn’t show up and there’s no way to avoid being late.

18. Talk to your family about their plans for the year

If your family likes to sit down and have dinner together, that can be a good time to ask.

In some families, plans for the year get discussed with everyone well in advance; in others, they’re more likely to come as a surprise. If your family is more likely to be in the latter group, it’s a good idea to take the initiative and ask what they’re planning before term starts. The first couple of weeks are when you might start committing to things like being involved in the school play; you don’t want to learn later that a family holiday is planned for the middle of rehearsals.

19. Achieve the last of your summer goals

Tick off the last of your summer bucket list.

You’ve been to an outstanding Oxford summer school, you’ve swum in the sea, you’ve researched university options, you’ve caught up with old friends… what’s left on the checklist? Whatever it may be, provided you can do it in the time you have left before school starts again, now is the moment to do it. When you’ve set yourself big goals for the summer and not quite reached them, it can be tempting just to give up, but do try to finish any that you can – it’ll be much better to go back to school with that sense of satisfaction.

20. Enjoy the last of your time off

Don’t forget to make time to grab a good book and relax.

The things you do in the last few days before going back to school don’t all have to be worthy and important. You should also make sure you spend some time having fun – whether that’s levelling up your video game character, finishing your book or getting to the end of the season in the Netflix show you’ve been bingeing. And don’t forget to make the most of the good weather too!
Image credits: pencil crayons; diary; clock; Facebook; stationery; stationery shop; bedroom; artist; uniform; snacks; chores; lockers; desk; sleeping; notes; bin; friends; bus; family meal; beach; reading