Goodbye 2015, and Hello 2016! I’m not usually one to make New Year’s resolutions, but for students I think it’s a good time to think about some academic resolutions you can implement for the next 12 months. Don’t stress about trying to make too many changes; just pick a couple and see how they work for you.
1. Read a book every month
I know students get plenty of reading assigned to them throughout the school year, but I want them to find a book they truly want to read outside of school. My list of spring break books is a good place to start. One of my favorite sites, Goodreads, will give you some suggestions for books you might like if you type in the name of a book you’ve already enjoyed. The reviews on Goodreads are also very insightful.
2. Try a new extracurricular activity
I’ve already written about the importance of extracurricular activities, but now is a good time to try a new one. You don’t have to be the best artist, actor, or athlete to try out for something. Chances are your school will have a place for you. Also look at opportunities outside of school, such as your church or other community service efforts.
3. Make a new friend
It’s great that you have a strong group of friends who you know and like. However, it’s very easy to get stuck in that group. Other students at your school may have some qualities that you really appreciate; you just need an opportunity to discover them. Try sitting with a different person at lunch. Or try striking up a conversation with someone with whom you’ve never spoken. You may make a new best friend or a good study partner.
4. Take a challenging elective
Every school has electives that are universally known as being “easy”. Students and even parents tell me all the time they want these easy electives for their students. While I won’t deny that there are certain classes that are less rigorous than others, I will also say that it is important for students to take challenging electives. Not only do they provide more mental stimulation, but they also look good on transcripts when it’s time to apply for college.
5. Spend time with your teachers
You already spend about 5 hours a week with every single teacher you have. So why is it important to spend time outside of class with them? When it comes time to apply for college, scholarships, or other extracurricular programs, you will likely need a few letter of recommendation. Your main source for these letters will be your teachers. If you have spent time with your teachers outside of the classroom they will be able to write a much more effective letter. Also, meeting with your teachers outside of class will show them you care about the material and may help you gain a few extra points on your next test.
6. Take the ACT or SAT
Almost every student in 11th grade will accomplish this resolution automatically since this is the grade that most students focus on these entrance exams. However, any high school student can benefit from taking the SAT or ACT at least once in 2016. The new SAT will be available starting in March, so this is a good year to get an understanding of the new format. 9th and 10th graders can use this opportunity to see what their strengths and weaknesses are, while seniors may use it as one last opportunity to impress colleges and strengthen their case for scholarship money. And don’t worry about not doing well; the vast majority of schools only look at your best test scores. Typically the more practice you get on the SAT and ACT, the higher your score will be.
7. Rearrange your study room
Most students have a particular room in their house in which they like to study. Some students may have dialed in the best arrangement, while other students may find distractions everywhere. Use this time to play around with your study environment. Do you have a TV or video game console in there? Maybe you should move that to another room. Does your 5-year old brother like to keep his toys scattered around? Try moving your study room to another area of the house that is only yours. The fewer distractions you have in your study environment, the easier it will be to focus when it’s time to get your work done.
8. Develop a system of organization
Look back at your fall semester and ask yourself: “Was I able to find all my important papers during the semester?” If the answer is no, then you should reassess your organizational process. It is very important that you learn to organize your papers throughout the semester. Not everything you get from a teacher is important enough to keep, and keeping it all will only lead to clutter. Try throwing out things that are not necessary every week and filing things away that you should keep. I like keeping things in chronological order so it’s easily referenced when final exams come.
I love New Year’s because it’s a good reminder to try some new things and stick with them. Change can be a good thing, so give them a try! And Happy 2016!