10 Tips to Conquer the New Semester


Mara Amole

It’s important to stay organized with a planner!

The new semester is a totally fresh start, all your grades reset, and in the first few weeks of reprieve following finals, it’s time to make a plan for the rest of the year.  The following is the culmination of my own personal wisdom gained from nearly three years of trial and error and too many mental breakdowns.

  1. Begin your homework the day it is assigned

Seriously, you don’t even need to do the entire thing, just start.  Starting is the hardest part, there are times when it feels like you’ve been handed pliers and told to pull your own teeth out, but even if you are feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, or tired, just ten minutes will relieve the monumental amounts of stress and apprehension and make the rest of the process significantly easier.

  1. Try to do your homework and studying while it is still light out

You’re brain works best when it is daylight.  Try to get all your homework done before sunset, and leave the evenings for your own time, even if you have to do as much homework as you can during Highlander Home, Lunch, and break because you will feel even less motivated at 10pm.

  1. Bring something to drink

It doesn’t have to be water; get a thermos and bring tea, coffee, or hot chocolate. When you are dehydrated, it affects the brain, altering how we think and feel as circulation slows. This lowers blood flow, which means less oxygen travelling to all parts of the body, including the brain.  When this happens, it gets harder to focus, and even your favorite class can feel like endless drudgery.  So stay hydrated!  Aside from the science, having hot chocolate on hand always makes your day better.

  1. Have hobbies outside of Academics.

Whether it’s sports, volunteering, art, or going to clubs, do something.  I spend my free time learning new languages, writing, and watching 80s Sci-fi cartoons.  

  1. Find new places to study

Instead of confining yourself to your desk, find somewhere different such as a library, coffee shop, or a friend’s house, mixing up the location makes studying less monotonous.  It also keeps you from being reminded of every stressful assignment you have ever done at your own desk, and associating your room with academic anxiety.  My friend and I often end up in an old pizza parlor.

  1. Study a bit every day

Really. Even just 5 minutes.  Try reviewing your notes by going back and highlighting and annotating them.  Not only does this prevent cramming the night before tests, but it makes it easier to stay on top of the class work.  I have learned that studying sucks way less than failing.

  1. Stop playing the comparison game

Easier said than done, I know.  It takes active practice, but the key to starting is focusing on your own path and growth.  Everyone is starting from a different point and heading towards another.  Nobody is the best at everything, so realize what you are good at, and what you want to improve on without putting yourself down or making it a competition.

  1. Talk to your teachers

If you are struggling, talk to them about it.  Teachers will help you themselves, or help you find a tutor.  If you need extra instruction or practice, get a pass for Highlander Home.  Try to do it sooner rather than later; asking for help right before a test or the end of a semester won’t always be enough time to get help.  If something is going on in your life that takes precedence over school, let them know.  At some point in your high school career, chances are you will have family troubles, deteriorating mental health, social crises, etc.  Teachers understand that you are human and have a life outside of school, and will be fair if you inform them of your situation.  In short, talking to your teachers can only help you.

  1. Learn to move on from slip ups

We’re all human, things will happen. You’ll probably have a class that makes you want to fall apart or a semester where your grades make you cringe.  The best thing you can do is pick yourself up and get into a “what now” mindset.  Get a planner, find a tutor, go to homework club, get help online, just find a way to move forward; if that means blocking out memories of last semester’s grades, do it.  Focus on your future, and what it will take to get to your goals.

  1.  Be kind to yourself

Something I wish I could tell my freshman self is to not sacrifice your mental health for your grades.  Work hard, but don’t use self-hatred or the fear of failure to motivate yourself.  Celebrate your successes, but realize that getting a low test score is not the end of your high school career, and it doesn’t mean that you aren’t intelligent or can’t do well in the class.  Remember to make time for yourself,  friends, and interests regularly.  Don’t keep pushing until you are exhausted and burnt out, don’t skip meals or prior commitments, and try to stay in the present.  It is easy to start spiraling, so talk to someone if you feel overwhelmed.