All high schoolers have heard the horror stories: sleepless nights, compounding homework, SAT boot camps, and meaningless extracurriculars to catch the eye of college admissions officers.
Despite these inspiring stories, my friends and I are still nervously anticipating the inevitable hell that is Junior Year. I asked for advice from some high school seniors, and they told me what they would have done differently their junior year.
Budget Your Time
We are well acquainted with procrastination and its reputation as The Thief of Time.
You begin a project thinking you have enough time, squandering hours on social media. Looming deadlines encroach as days slip away, and then it’s the night before, and then it’s grind time at two in the morning.
We know that deferring responsibilities results in stress, but we procrastinate anyway.
Neuroscientist Dr. Barbara Oakley best explains the reason behind this phenomenon in her book A Mind for Numbers:
“Medical imaging studies have shown that mathphobes, for example, appear to avoid math because even just thinking about it seems to hurt…The pain centers of their brains light up when they contemplate working on math.”
We don’t want to subject ourselves to pain, so we avoid any of its sources. Using this excuse, unfortunately, is rejected by math teachers upon the incompletion of homework.
The most helpful pieces of advice given to me along my journey toward absolute productivity were to 1) find a pleasurable work environment and 2) make to-do lists.
If given two days to write an essay, plan where you will go to write it immediately after it is assigned—whether it’s at a park, a quiet coffee shop, or in your room with a couple lit candles. This makes the idea of starting a project less dreadful and more exciting.
To-do lists annoyingly, but successfully, hold you accountable for your day’s tasks. Jot down everything you plan on doing that day: homework, studying, hobbies, breaks to watch videos and chores. Each item checked brings gratification and motivates you to keep going down the list.
Also! The app Egenda is a great school planner for all of your assignments.
Be Your Own Person
I was bombarded with college tips my freshman year—that I should join this club, or volunteer with that organization because “colleges like that.” For example, I was told on numerous occasions that being a member of Key Club increases your likelihood of admission.
However, participating in a club holds little value on a college résumé if you and hundreds of other students are minimally contributing members. Few people can be like gold; it’s a precious metal for a reason.
Walking in your peers’ shadows only makes your résumé indistinguishable from the thousands of others of applicants, and deprives you of what truly brings you joy.
If you want to be unique, build your résumé off of hobbies and careers that interest you, and develop your passions along the way. Reach out to someone whose occupation you’re considering, and ask to job shadow them. Try new things like creating a school club, starting a business, proposing changes to your local government, or fundraising for a charity.
Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there!
Create Reliable Study Group
Studying is overwhelming and complicated. You can read the textbook, make flashcards, take notes, ask your teacher for help, or watch Khan Academy videos, or do all of these simultaneously. Further complicating the process is finding where and how to start.
Getting together with a few classmates before a big exam combines a multitude of study techniques: learning by teaching, asking and answering questions, reviewing notes and texts, and using the Socratic method.
Not to mention, junior year is tough, and it’s nice to have a support system. Make sure you gather in a quiet place with lots of snacks for optimal achievement.
This is perhaps the key to a successful academic year, yet we are deprived of it. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that teens sleep between 8 and 10 hours each night; however, teenagers average between 7 and 7 ¼ hours. I conducted a poll of 225 students to see just how many hours of sleep we get and…surprise!
We get very little.
Only 4.4% of students at my high school, grades 9 through 12, are getting the recommended 8 to 10 hours of sleep.
Ideally, the solution would be to get more sleep. Realistically, the solution is to get more sleep, when you can.
Researchers at the University of Delaware examined the neurocognitive function of students in China, whose nap times are already built into their lifestyles. They found that routine nappers—those who napped five to seven days each week—not only slept better at night but “had sustained attention, better nonverbal reasoning ability, and spatial memory.”
If you have thirty to sixty minutes to spare after school and before 4 p.m., sleep!
Sources and References:
1. Teens and Sleep – sleepfoundation.org
2. Napping can help tired teens’ performance in school – sciencedaily.com
3. Sleep in Adolescents – nationwidechildrens.org