The calendar just turned to May, and that means school is in the homestretch.  However, before we start planning long days by the pool or days spent at fun summer camps, there is still a lot of work to do.

Many of us still have quite a bit of school work and assignments left.  With final exams coming up for many students, there are still many points left out there to boost your grades.  So as we count down the days to that very last one, here is a checklist to keep you on the right track for academic success.

1.  Make a calendar

May is by far the busiest month at school.  There are so many activities happening at any given time:  AP exams, final exams, ACT/SAT, graduations, graduation parties, awards banquets, proms, sports playoffs, spring concerts, and other end-of-the-year activities.  It can easily become overwhelming not just for students but for parents as well.  I make a point each May to create a comprehensive calendar with all my personal and job-related activities in one place.  I keep this calendar on my desk so I can refer to it and schedule accordingly.  This will help keep you organized and not overbook yourself.

2.  Schedule study time

For those students taking AP exams and final exams, it’s really important to schedule study time into your day.  Consistent studying will lead to the best results.  It’s much easier to study 2 hours a day over the course of two or three weeks rather than cram it all in a couple days before.  Also, figure out what time of day is best for you.  Personally I like to get most of my work done in the mornings.  Consider your daily schedule and build in a block of time to begin studying for AP exams and final exams.

3.  Collect study materials

Right around now teachers start releasing their final exam reviews.  It certainly helps to get organized ahead of time and make sure your study time is efficient.  Collecting those reviews now will help get you off on the right foot.  Also, having your final exam reviews in hand now will likely lead to less procrastination.  I suggest making a folder for each final so you can refer to old tests and quizzes as you prepare for your exams.  It’s also very refreshing to throw those folders out in June; consider that a reward for your hard work!

4.  Understand your accommodations

If you have a 504 plan at school or receive accommodations in some other fashion, make sure you know which accommodations you’ve been given for your various exams.  ACT and College Board (which oversees the SAT and AP exams) have different criteria for accommodations.  Hopefully you’ve already started that process.  Additionally, these accommodations may be different than the ones you receive at school.  Walking into an important exam expecting certain accommodations only to find out you don’t actually have them is very stressful.  Plan ahead and make sure you’re accommodations are set up properly.

5.  Log community service hours

Some schools require community service each year, while many do not.  Either way, your child should participate in service.  It’s one of the best ways to give back to your community, and your child will learn valuable lessons about commitment and sacrifice.  It’s also a really valuable addition to college resumes.  With that in mind, it’s important to keep an accurate log of hours served.  You don’t need anything fancy.  In fact, you can easily create something yourself using Excel.  Just make sure to write the name of the organization, the dates served, and the total hours per day.  And, importantly, have someone from the organization sign the sheet.  Logging these hours regularly will prevent a ton of work down the road.

6.  Start or add to your resume

Beginning in 9th grade students should create a resume.  Resumes are important because students will need them for college admissions and/or applying for jobs and internships.  There are numerous examples of student resumes, but students should have sections for academics, extracurriculars, awards and achievements, community service and general interests.  As with the community service logs, it’s much easier to keep up with the resume throughout high school rather than trying to piece it all together in 11th or 12th grades.  Beginning early will also encourage students to participate in activities worthy of placing on a resume.

7.  Ask for letters of recommendation

If you are applying to college over the summer or if you are considering a job or internship during the summer, you’ll likely need a letter of recommendation from a teacher.  Good teachers are bombarded with requests for letters of recommendation.  Make sure you ask early on in the month to ensure you receive your letter in a timely manner.  When requesting a letter, you should provide your teacher with a resume and plan to visit with him or her for a few minutes to discuss your goals and the objective of your letter.  Once you receive your letter, make sure to send a thank you note.

8.  Get your summer assignments

Many schools, even elementary and middle schools, require that students do some assignments over summer in preparation for the next school year.  This is especially true if you are in high school and in advanced classes such as AP and Honors.  Be sure to get your summer assignments before summer.  That way if you have questions you still have an opportunity to talk to your teachers about them.

9.  Thank your teachers

Teaching is a hard job.  Teachers put their heart and soul into their jobs, and even if you don’t realize it now, you probably have at least one teacher who has made a huge impact on you this year.  It’s a very nice gesture to thank your teachers at the end of each school year.  You don’t have to buy them gifts or anything like that, but you should give them a thank you note or an in-person “thank you.”  Not only will it let them know you appreciate their work, but they will also remember you as a kind and caring student.  That may pay dividends down the road if you need a letter of recommendation.

10.  Have fun!

Although the end of the school year can be stressful and time consuming, it is also one of the most fun times of year.  Some students will move on to a new school next fall, so this may be the last time they see many of their classmates.  So take time to appreciate those students around you.  May also brings many end-of-year parties and celebrations, so stay positive even when things are difficult.  The fun times are right around the corner, and the harder you work now, the better those times will be.