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5 Ways to Win at School

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5 Ways to Win at School

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Tired of feeling behind where you ought to be in school? It’s time to take action!

Do you scramble to produce a five-page English literature paper? Are your grades not what they should be?

Many students find themselves overstretched and overwhelmed by school. Often this is because there’s a lot of pressure around looking, acting or being a certain way to feel like you fit in. But, according to the experts, the key principle to keep in mind is that you succeed in what you do—not by who you are or how you look.

Let’s examine five traits all successful students share—traits we should all strive to develop.

1. Organization

Sixteen years of teaching in public and private schools has shown me that many students struggle with being organized. I’ve witnessed countless students open lockers to reveal a stack of papers, lunch bags, gym shoes and mystery food items all jumbled together in a compacted pile that would rival a local landfill. After offering my “cleaning” services to help tidy up, we often found, at the very bottom of the pile, that science paper that had been due two weeks earlier! Situations like these can be easily avoided by simply setting up a folder for every class and taking unnecessary items home.

Having folders or binders for each class is a simple way to keep papers in order so that you can grab them at a moment’s notice. And if you type papers on a computer, setting up a digital folder for each class is just as useful. Maintaining a basic filing system not only helps you keep organized, but also develops useful skills that will serve you when you enter the professional workforce.

Additionally, a daily or weekly planner is a valuable tool for recording due dates for exams, projects or events. You probably have a planner app on your phone that could be an easy way to keep track of everything. Plus, many schools now provide access to grades online where you and your parents can easily check to see how you’re doing on a regular basis. Your grades shouldn’t be a surprise!

2. Time Management

There are only so many hours in a day, and many students have to juggle their studies, extracurricular activities and even part-time jobs. To make the most of your study time, set aside some of it every day to go over notes or readings from each class. Studying or reviewing class material a bit at a time helps you better retain the information needed for an upcoming exam or project.

Compare this to pulling an all-night cram session in which the information only makes it tenuously into your short-term memory.

Another good time-saving study habit is to develop short mnemonic devices or lists of phrases that help you to remember important concepts from a particular subject. For example, to remember the name of the Great Lakes, you could remember “Super Man Helps Everyone” (Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, Ontario).

3. Active Participation

I enjoy teaching most when my students take an active role in the learning process. I can safely say that almost every other teacher feels the same. So don’t be afraid to ask questions! Good teachers welcome questions from their students and want to provide the right answers.

By taking an active role in class, you will help clear up any concerns you might have about the content or gaps in your understanding—and it will also help class time fly by. If a teacher’s answers still leave you without a clear understanding of a concept, then take the initiative to ask for extra tutoring from him or her or another student.

4. Grit and Determination

There’s a poster in my classroom that says, “You are responsible for you!” This is absolutely true. If you are struggling to understand the material and the teacher isn’t aware of it, then the teacher can’t help you.

And, of course, you can ask God for help, even about little things like an upcoming test or challenges you’re having with a certain assignment. God cares about you and wants to help you.

You have to have the grit or determination to dig in your heels and not wait until the last minute to ask for help. Talk to your teacher privately to explain your situation. Then make a commitment to do extra work if necessary to master the material. Going the extra mile and making the effort to get help will show your instructor that you’re serious about the class. This may enable you to get extra tutoring from the teacher or from his or her assistant. Of course, extra help will only matter if you are making your own best effort. Put in the extra time and don’t give up!

Grit played a valuable role for me in my final semester of college. I was enrolled in a probability and statistics course and was not doing well. In fact, I failed the first test! I wasn’t grasping the concepts, so I went to the professor, explained my problems and asked for help. I needed to pass this course at least with a “C” in order to graduate!

As a result of meeting privately with the professor, she offered to give me extra one-on-one tutoring sessions. I went to those sessions and studied daily, and finally began to understand the content. I didn’t give up. Because I persevered—used grit—I began to improve my test scores and daily work, which resulted in a “B” on the final exam! And yes, I passed the course and received my education degree!

5. Self-Discipline

Finally, no amount of organization, time management, participation or grit will matter one bit if you don’t exercise self-discipline and implement these strategies. As a student you will have to be dedicated and diligent about reaching your goals. You will simply have to make yourself do things that may not come naturally—and often it won’t be fun. Taking steps to be more self-disciplined probably won’t come easily at first, but if you introduce just a little of the above strategies into your academic life each day, you will be well on your way to becoming a successful student!

And, of course, you can ask God for help, even about little things like an upcoming test or challenges you’re having with a certain assignment. God cares about you and wants to help you. Plus, bringing your struggles to Him is a great way to lessen any anxiety you might be feeling. Psalm 55:22 says, “Give your burdens to the Lord, and he will take care of you” (New Living Translation).