So guess what guys. I’m in grade 12. More specifically… the last semester of grade 12. Pretty crazy right? And I know everyone says life just gets faster and faster as you go through it, and one day – bam – you’re old. But man, it’s already going fast.
Yesterday I was starting my first day of grade eight, and meeting my best friend (still best friend, four and a bit years later). I blinked, and here I am, done all the social awkwardness of grade nine and ten, and the crazy work load and freak out sessions of grade eleven.
I’ve survived the stress of applications, and trying to figure out what I want to do with my life – still not sure tbh. But hey. I’ve learned some things on the way.
For those of you wanting to look back and reminisce, maybe you share some of my Epiphanies. For those of you younger than me, hopefully my experience is helpful. So here it is. My guide to surviving high school:
High school is nothing like elementary school.
Ok. Number one. Very. Very. Very important. If you did nothing in elementary school but finish assignments last minute, cram for test, and still pull off nighties to one hundreds, then you were like me. Think you can still work that way in high school?
Yes, you might get away with it in grade nine and ten. Teachers hold your hands still, they’ll make sure you got your homework down, and are a little more lenient on marking and assignments. And hey, grade nine and ten marks don’t matter, right?
I don’t know how it is at your school, but at mine, all the teachers can see previous marks. They can and will check them. They make judgements on what kind of student you are before you even get to their class (you might have a teacher once in a while who doesn’t do this, but this isn’t common).
So right away, in grade eleven and twelve – when marks mean the difference between having a university give you spending money for free, or you working your butt off at McD’s just to get there – you certainly don’t want teachers expecting you to get lower marks because of how you did in grade nine and ten.
But beyond this.
A habit is a habit. It takes a while to build them. When the work load slams down on you like a pile of bricks in grade eleven, you don’t want to walk into that unprepared, not knowing how to study, and only having the work habits of an elementary school kid.
Moral of the story? Do your homework. Learn how to study. Take notes. Pay attention in class. It’ll pay off. Literally. Scholarships are up to 80 000 bucks people. That’s a lot of money.
Teachers are your new best
Let’s be honest. You might not always like teachers. In fact, you might hate them most of the time, hate how they mark, hate that unfair assignment, pop quiz, or test that everyone did poorly on. You might hate that they seem like they are out to get you. I get it.
But guess what.
Teachers are the ones who decide your mark whether you like it or not. What does this mean?
You have to be super, super nice to them, if you want to survive in high school. Think talking back is a good idea? Hah.
It might gain you a couple pats on the back from your buddies, or some smiles from the class, but when your report card comes around, don’t be surprised by your mark. If you want to do well, you have to be a teacher’s pet. It’s just the fact of the matter.
That means saying hi to them when you see them. Smiling and waving. Teachers are people too. Most of them like to be acknowledged. It also means coming in after school when you need help, or asking questions before and after class to check in on how you are doing with your assignments, and wether they have tips for you.
Not only does this make them think of you as a stellar student who has taken interest in their course, but also the tips they give out about your assignments can often be an extra five percent for you on that assignment. Teachers know what they are looking for, and sometimes it may seem as if they expect you to read their mind for what they want specifically. This is an easy super power to master. Talk to them and ask.
Trust me. Just do it.
Life is hard.
Sorry guys. It’s true.
If you go into high school expecting life to be like it was in elementary school, requiring little to no effort in homework, teachers who hold your hand for everything, and parents who will often do your homework for you, you’re on the path towards a very rocky and stressful road.
Go into high school expecting there to be a lot of work. This way, when there is loads of it, you won’t be surprised. And when there are days where the load is lighter, you’ll find yourself rejoicing that you have time off. Win win.
Your life will be whatever you make it.
Guess what. You have the choice to do all of the things above. And more. Like how you see yourself, and the world around you. Perspective is everything. Tell yourself how hard school is 24/7, and you’ll find it unbearable. Think of the little engine that could. ‘I think I can, I think I can’ will get you through just about everything. Giving up never did anyone good.
Professionals are the amateurs who didn’t quit.
This applies to just about everything. You have to start somewhere.
So even though the homework seems impossible, and that chem lab is just about the last thing you’d like to be doing… if you never start, you’ll be in a pretty stressful place the night before it’s due.
Start early, I know it’s hard, and it’s work, but you’ll be better off if you have it done before hand and can ask the teachers how you can make it better, get that extra five percent. Not to mention it’ll save you ten years of stress, and ten bucks on the coffee needed to keep you up all night to finish it.
Complaining about how stressful your life is? Yeah. It probably is totally sucky for a bit.
But that’s something you can change. You can make it better by your work and study habits.
Marks are low? That’s an easy one.
Check how you are working, and how much of the homework you complete ahead of time. Check how much you study for tests, and how much you talk to the teachers. Not doing these things? There’s your answer.
It’s a choice, and it’s yours to make.
You have a choice about everything.
Not only do you have a choice about marks, and the outcome there, but you also have a choice for what your high school experience will be like. You get to choose your friends, where you sit in class, what you do with your time, and pretty much everything else that happens. Not liking how things are going? Take the risk. Make a change.
Studying is a thing. And so is Coffee.
Good things to remember. Studying for exams is a killer. And by studying, I don’t mean reviewing your notes before a test, or rereading handouts. I mean grabbing your textbook, your notebook, a stack of blank paper, some coloured pens, cue cards, and printed practice tests. Then come the steps to studying.
- Go through past homework and make sure you understand it.
- Look through your notes and handouts, and write down every key point, term, concept, and example question in your note book. This is Notes: take one.
- Now try going through your tests, looking for key things to remember, making sure you understand each and every question. New things to add to your notes? Scribble them in in the margins.
- Notes: take two. Grab those coloured pens and go through your notes again, writing down only the most crucial points to remember. Instead of writing down a practice problem, write down the steps to solve it. Colour code everything. Make it easy to understand, and easy to look through quickly (doing it on blank paper instead of lined is helpful to me so I can easily scan my notes)
- Cover up parts of your notes, read through the first half of the page, and then try to recite the second half, to see if you truly know your stuff. Keep practicing.
- Go through practice tests. Try to time yourself and sit somewhere new so you are only focused on the questions. Find something you struggle on? Look it up again in your textbooks and binder, and do an extra note just for that subject.
- Notes: Take three. Rewrite your notes, but this time condensed. Use short form. Write small. Try to fit as much as you can onto as few sheets of paper as you can. Write only the things you really really need.
- Memorize. Write out your notes on cue cards and scatter them around the room. Bunch them up in random groups, and then go through them, testing yourself. Mix and match the cue cards so you aren’t expecting what comes next. Quiz yourself on terms. (Cool idea is to draw a picture through each cue card, and tape them up on the wall, so that all together they make an image, like a heart, or a face, etc. Then when you think of your shape, you can remember which note went where, and that image will help you remember what you wrote on the cards.)
- Repeat. Continue to condense your notes until you only have one full page of scrawled notes, then a half page, then just a few cue cards, then just one cue card front and back. Congrats! Once you have only one cue card with everything you need to know from the course, you’re more than ready for the exam. Fifteen minutes before and feeling stressed? You can go over that single cue card again and again in those fifteen minutes and refresh yourself on the entire course material ten times or more. Super helpful.
And of course, you don’t have time to do all of this before every single test, but these are the steps I’ve found work for studying, and help me really know my content very well. Condensed versions of this, are what I use for tests. But this is definitely helpful to use on an exam, the most important being writing your notes over and over, and condensing them each time. Coffee helps. Coffee is my best friend, ; ) . Good luck!
Never give up, or doubt yourself.
In the end, like I mentioned in my post about determination, your best should be what you strive for, and don’t give up until you reach it. However, your best is just that. If you’ve done all you can, and worked your tail off, in the end, sit back, smile, go get some ice-cream – or whatever it is you like to eat – and relax. Know that you did the very best you can do, and you should be proud just because of that. Pat yourself on the back.
In the end, marks don’t matter one bit, beyond the effort you put into them. If you achieve your best, then that’s all that matters. If you know you can do better…. well then… you’ve got some work to do. 😉
Today was the first true day of a new semester. You’ve got a clean slate. You can be different. What will you achieve come June?
It’s up to you.
Happy studying, and good luck on second semester!