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Use High School to Prepare for College

How to approach your high school classes so you’re prepared for college

Students and parents come to us all the time worrying that their high school courses aren’t adequately preparing them for college.  This concern is founded in reality; a lot of high school courses don’t require the kind of research, reading, or writing that most college courses do.  Further, the pace and structure of college courses will catch most students by surprise. It’s also an unfortunate reality that lots of students who got by in high school really struggle their freshman year adjusting to a new workload and schedule.  While we recommend Academic Coaching as one method of ensuring you are prepared to succeed in college, we’ve also put together a list of tips that will help you build good studying habits now, so college feels like a piece of cake. 

1) Schedule your study time  

Treat studying like any other class or commitment. Choose a time and location for studying every day or every week and stick to it. Treat it with the same level of importance as you would any other extracurricular or class. You can even go one step further and plan out what you hope to accomplish each study session, by breaking your time into blocks and scheduling different assignments.  For example, if you plan to do work from 5PM-7:30PM, schedule 5-5:45PM to review bio notes, schedule 5:45-6:30PM to complete reading for history class, and schedule 6:30-7:30PM to work on history paper.

2) Get used to asking for help. 

If you talk to any successful college student, they’ll have experience going to a professor or TA’s office hours to ask for help.  Maybe they aren’t even confused by a class topic, but they want to walk through an upcoming paper or discuss the best way to study for the final.  Building a relationship and opening lines of communication with your instructors is so important in college, so you should get used to it in high school. Not only do instructors appreciate when a student is conscientious and engaged in their coursework, but it can also come with added benefits when it comes time for grades.  Your high school teachers likely have after school hours or lunch time where they’d be happy to schedule a meeting. By learning to reach out and ask your high school teachers questions, you’ll be impressing them and preparing for college life. 

3) Develop good sleeping habits.

Be sure to aim for 8 hours of sleep every night.  Sleep is critical for letting your brain process information. It’s a good idea to develop good sleeping habits early so that you don’t find yourself exhausted in college. Lots of freshman in college find themselves up at 4 AM cramming to finish an assignment due the next day.  This will likely lead to a bad assignment, but also could lead to bad assignments for the rest of the week because you’re so tired. Following tip #1 and the tips in this blog on how to not procrastinate can help here.  

4) Learn to prioritize. 

In college, you might not always have time for everything so it’s important to know what is most important and what you have to get done first. By learning to prioritize in high school, you’ll set yourself up to succeed in college. Prioritizing also means finding a healthy work/life balance.  Sometimes it’s okay to push back studying time to attend a lecture on campus or a club meeting. You want to leave college feeling like you did more than just earn your grades. 

 5) Participate in class discussion 

This might be the most important tip— especially in smaller college classes, participation will likely account for a portion of your final grade (sometimes as much as 25%!). Many college courses, especially in humanities or social science majors, are discussion based.  For lots of students, this is one of the scariest parts of college, especially if you’re a freshman in a class with juniors and seniors! Our best advice is to get comfortable participating in high school by regularly answering questions and joining discussions in your classes. Better yet, get used to answering questions even if you might be wrong.  Incorrectly answering questions can lead to major learning moments and the development of a growth mindset. Read this blog to learn more about how your mindset can lead to more academic success. 

While everyone else is struggling to get their assignments done, while getting sleep and having fun, you’ll be ace-ing freshman year if you follow these tips. 

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