A Brief Guide to a Successful Semester

For high school juniors and seniors around the country, time can be hard to come by. Countless AP courses, extracurricular activities, and standardized testing commitments seem to consume the day, especially for upperclassmen. These struggles may be further compounded by the modifications in both the school environment and in extracurriculars as a result of global conditions, further engendering a hectic lifestyle. Given this, successful performance in school, particularly with a rigorous course load, may be a difficult endeavor for most students, as balancing several commitments, from firsthand experience, can be an arduous affair. This article seeks to provide valuable information to manage one’s schedule effectively, in order to maintain an enjoyable, productive, successful semester all the way through finals week.

One commonly underemphasized aspect of success in the school environment, is maintaining a solid sleep schedule. Often, teenagers feel like the rigor of their classes “forces” them to stay up late completing assignments, and this is further accentuated by late-night practices, games, or meetings regarding extracurriculars. However, throughout my high school career, I’ve discovered that the “secret” to consistent sleep is using the weekends as an effective tool to “frontload” assignments. In previous years, I finished only what was due directly on the following Monday during weekends, and neglected the rest of potential commitments during the following week. However, the increased use of online scheduling in many schools today allows assignments to be published in assignment trackers, like Canvas, prior to when these assignments are actually due. On the weekends, I’d recommend completing assignments for the following week well in advance, which will allow for much more freedom regarding scheduling during weekdays. Furthermore, it's important to start one’s classwork on weekdays shortly after school ends, rather than waiting for a long period to get started. When delaying the completion of homework, one may continually engage in distracting measures, ultimately causing further delays, leading to less sleep and heightened stress. Although many peers may recount stories in which they stayed up until 4:30 AM working on an assignment, and got an A in the process, these exploits are rarely sustainable, and usually come at a high price the next day. To ensure consistent performance in school, it's important to keep a consistent sleep schedule.

Along with improving one’s sleep schedule, another pathway to success in high school is through effective media management. Apps like TikTok, Instagram, and Snapchat are very alluring to most high school students; after all, they’re designed to be that way. However, despite the entertainment value these apps provide, their ability to distract ultimately means that when considering the busy week of a typical high schooler, these apps are more harmful than they are helpful. It’s best to restrict one’s use of this media in order to finish schoolwork with more efficiency. When finishing schoolwork, turning off one’s phone completely and putting it out of sight, like in a nearby drawer, can allow consistent focus on assignments, and prevent “10-minute TikTok breaks” from turning into 90-minute binge sessions. Once all assignments for the day are completed, one can enjoy screen time to their heart's content, without the looming presence of unfinished school work further inducing stress and nervousness. For these reasons, recusing oneself from digital communication, social media, and video games until a significant amount of work is completed can easily facilitate productivity.

However, although productivity and work habits are highly important in pursuing a successful semester, adhering to strict working schedules all the time is overly stressful and extremely unrealistic. As the difficulty and rigor of school and additional commitments has continued to increase, students are struggling to keep up. However, while constant all-nighters and long periods of studying may be helpful in the short-term, it's sure to cause burnout and additional stress when looking at the semester through a long-term perspective. Given this, it's important to find and spend time doing what one enjoys. Possible activities of enjoyment may include spending time with friends in a safe manner, learning to play an instrument, or watching a new series on Netflix or Hulu. Although it was previously stated that avoiding excess media time may be integral to one’s success, a little bit of fun, in moderation, can be highly beneficial over the course of an arduous semester. Additionally, one can derive enjoyment from time in school, and in extracurricular activities. That’s why it's important to choose enjoyable classes, rather than simply selecting the hardest AP courses one’s school has to offer. If one enjoys their classes, these classes will seem less like work, and more about learning and discovery. The same principle applies to extracurricular activities. Choosing extracurricular activities like sports or academic competitions may provide an exciting platform for enjoyment, while also being a productive and enriching way to spend time. Regardless of how one enjoys spending their leisure time, it’s helpful to incorporate this enjoyment on a weekly basis, in order to find some much-needed methods of relaxation in highly stressful times.

Creating a sleep schedule, utilizing media in a wise, regulated manner, and finding time to enjoy oneself all may prove very helpful in helping one enjoy a successful semester, in regards to both grades, and outside passions and endeavors. However, it’s important to remember that high schoolers aren't fully mature adults; we’re just on the cusp of adulthood. Because of this, making mistakes isn’t just a possibility, it’s an absolute certainty. Even though being “successful” this semester may feel good, it shouldn’t be stressed about frequently. Although achievement is valuable in many aspects, high school is about exploring one’s passions, having fun, and making memories. Rather than striving for perfection, it’s important that we strive to be the best we can.

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