School Survival Tips
As we head into the third week of September the novelty begins to wear off the new stationary, the books begin to lose that new book smell and the realisation sets in that school is back in full swing! Whether you’re in secondary or high-school, college or uni, just staring or heading into your last year, I hope that I can pass on some advice from my personal experiences that will help the school year go smoother (unfortunately I can’t make it go faster!).
- Get Organised! School can be a stressful time, with so much study, homework, essays and projects, especially if you are in an exam year. I can’t stress enough how important it is to stay organised so that the work load will never get on top of you. Most important thing you should own is a journal, so you can write down homework assignments/projects for each day, but also plan out the term/semester ahead. When I was in college I would always mark ahead in my journal when essays or presentations were due that way I never missed a hand-in date. In school there are so many classes each day, that sometimes things blur into one, so its great to have a to-do list written down at the end of the day.
- Prioritise! When I would sit down to do my homework/study at the end of a school day prioritising my workload is what kept me sane; prioritisation is a skill that when you master it, will serve you in so many aspects of your life. Ask yourself, what do I need to do today? Which assignments are due first? What needs to be done for tomorrow? Which books do I need to bring home tonight? Do the things that need to be done first, if something doesn’t need to be handed in for a few days and your have a heavy workload, leave the things that are less urgent for another day.
- Timetable! When I was preparing for my Leaving Cert the only way I got through the study load was by timetabling my revision. Around January I broke up my study over the weeks left to the pre-exams and the actual exams; I studied a little bit every weekend right up to the exams and when it came to the weeks before the the exams I was able to do quicker revision of each subject in the days before each exam. Don’t fall into the trap of leaving everything until study week, you will put yourself under too much pressure and when you are stressed you will retain less information.
- Keep Notes! I always made notes for every subject/class when I was in school and college. At the end of each week I would sort my notes out in a folder, divided into different subject areas. When it came to revising for exams I would use my own notes and only refer back to books if I felt I needed more information. Its much easier to remember something when you have scribed it in your own words and I always found it easier to study my own handwriting than text in a book, we tend to remember things better when we write them rather than just read them.
- Find what works for you! When it comes to memory aids there are some many different tips around for what works best; however everyone learns in their own way, so find what works best for you. I found that listening to music as I did Maths helped me focus better, or writing different subject notes in different colour pens helped my visualisation when trying to recall quotes or information. I also found that drawing diagrams was really helpful when trying to understand science or geography topics, and sometimes I would record myself speaking German and Irish, then play it back to myself before I went to sleep. The mind is a powerful tool, you just have to figure out how yours works.
- Hydrate before you caffeinate! I’m not going to lie, I don’t function before my coffee in the morning, however coffee is not a study aid! Try to not drink coffee or anything high in caffeine after midday, after that if you need a hot beverage try some herbal tea (caffeine free). Sometimes when we get study headaches the natural instinct is to make a cup of coffee and take a paracetamol, STOP! Drink a glass of cold water instead, and trust me, you will get far better relief. Get a good glass bottle (reusing plastic bottles is not good for you) and make an effort to empty it twice a day; I use a Voss 800ml bottle to stay hydrated.
- Keep Calm & Be Yourself! School is a high pressure time; now more so than ever with social media. We are surrounded by images of what we should or shouldn’t look like, and peer pressure spills outside the school walls; the pressure to fit in is not just reserved for the school hallways but continues online when you go home. The best bit of advice I can give you is to always stay true to who you are and follow your passions. Don’t let friends or peers pressure you into doing something you are not comfortable with or being someone you are not. It might seem difficult at the time to be the odd one out, the one who says no or even the one ‘with no friends’, but school only last a few years, your beliefs, passions and goals, though they may change, will stay with you forever. School does not define you, it’s not the end of the world if you are not the most popular, or smartest person there; what matters is that you are happy with who you are.
- It doesn’t last forever! You may hear people say that school days are the best days of your life… they’re wrong! Sure you may make friends for life, and you will have moments that will make you laugh for years to follow, but school is just one tiny stone on the path that paves your life. Focus on the future when you’re having a hard time, because there are far better days to come!
(Click on images for photo credits)