Breaking Out - in a Good Way

By Sydney Nolan on July 21, 2014
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Some days, it seems as if it’d be easier to go back to the days when our parents controlled what we did, where we went, what we ate, and a million other things that shaped our world. Now that you’re in high school though, most of the decision-making falls on your shoulders, especially about what you do at school. Need help to get motivated and figure out how to make this year your best yet? Check out three secrets to success.

Learn to work with different people
Your friend group is probably pretty solid, especially as you hit junior and senior year. Break outside of that comfortable circle though, and get to know and understand other members of your class. Working with people that represent different cultures, family structures, races, sexual orientations or identities, or even a different neighborhood is practice for college and the workplace where you usually don’t have a say in who you’re expected to work with.

One of the best things I ever did in high school was to take a non-honors class even though I was used to a schedule chock-full of IB level work. Many of my IB classmates tended to look down on these “non-honors” students. Being in a non-honors class helped me realize that attitudes like those were completely unfounded.

Whether it’s a new hobby, a new place to hangout, or simply another perspective contributing to a project, working outside of what feels “normal” is a great experience. You might even gain some new knowledge from the perspective you’re introduced to in the form of a new study buddy.

Actually do your reading
Don’t be that obnoxious kid who brags about how last period’s English quiz was soooo easy after reading the Sparknotes version of the novel. Yes, some of the books can be a bit dull, but many have surprises hidden in their pages. Plus, when you reach college, surprise! Those textbooks don’t have a cheater version that can be accessed online. Getting in the habit of making your way completely through one mere paperback a month for English class will pay off.

Learning strategies for completing readings and “reading smartly” will also be a huge skill set you’ll rely on long after high school’s over. Figure out how to coordinate your reading around other activities. Got volleyball practice every Tuesday and Thursday night? Read a few chapters every Monday and Wednesday. Try to get ahead when possible so you have some wiggle room. Find a strategy like highlighting or underlining that helps mark important information to prevent re-reading the entire book before a big test.

Make your breaks count
One of the smartest moves I made was to participate in an honors program the summer after junior year. I racked up college credits and met a cool group of people I still keep in touch with.

Summer doesn’t have to be the only productive time though, nor do you need to enroll in a special program. Colleges love to see volunteer work. Breaks are a great time to get active in your community! It also doesn’t hurt to pick up a part-time job (or two!) to earn some cash for great weekend adventures.

Make use of spare moments that come between classes, friends, and everything else that keeps you busy. Make time to work with different groups, to get those pesky readings completed, and take time during breaks to do something that would make your parents (and those pesky college admissions officers) proud. Good luck on what will hopefully be your best year yet!

About the Author

Sydney Nolan

Sydney Nolan

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