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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.  We find this concern 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. 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)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. They just 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. Hence, one 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. However, it could also 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. 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. 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.


Coping with Academics and Stress – March 7, 2022


As high school gets more serious and college admissions become more competitive, it’s not a surprise that there’s an increasing prevalence of mental illness, including depression and anxiety, as well as unawareness among high school students. In fact, new research has found that students in high performing schools have the same risk for serious mental illness as students growing up in poverty, foster care, or with an incarcerated parent.


A well known study found that students— regardless of their ability levels— are terrible at estimating their own capabilities. This lack of self-awareness, known as the Dunning-Kruger effect, undoubtedly leads to lots of undue stress.


Top students slightly underestimate their knowledge and tend to overstudy. Meanwhile, less capable students wildly overestimate their knowledge and tend to understudy by quite a large margin.


Because “over studying” tends to produce good results, students don’t realize they are doing it. Highly capable students are losing countless hours of sleep, taking time from hobbies or other things that they enjoy, for no good reason.


On the contrary, less capable students tend to overestimate their abilities; they take tests and think they did well. Then, they get their score back and they’re surprised. They felt good when studying, so they don’t know what they did wrong. Even worse, they don’t know how to prepare for the next one.


On both sides of the spectrum, the results are the same. High performing students feel immense pressure and stress; low performing students have low self-esteem. Both can lead to unhappiness.


How can we get students to better understand their abilities? How can we show students how to develop healthy study habits that will lead to long term success? Learning how to study is an important skills a student can develop, but it often gets glossed over in the classroom.


For students on either side of the spectrum, academic coaching can be helpful in preparing students for college level classes. That said, we’ve also put together a short list of tips so students can maximize the effectiveness of their studying, while minimizing stress!



Space out your studying- starting to study a week before a test instead of the night before can really reduce the stress you feel. Not only that, but spacing out, or chunking, the material ensures information is stored into your long-term memory instead of your short term memory.



Ask your teacher to provide you with practice tests or practice problems. Take these like they are true assessments (phone away, no googling), but leave ample time to thoroughly review missed questions.



Create checklists and calendars for your studying plans. Make sure they detail everything you must have memorized prior to the exam. Convert the material into flashcards, Quizlets, or Cornell-style notes! Read, re-read and re-write anything that needs to be memorized. Have a friend or parent quiz you (this is even better than Quizlet, because it can hold you accountable!).



Take time to reflect on your grades when you get them back. How long did you study? How did you feel about the material when you were preparing? Did you get the grade you expected? What do you think you could have done differently? Don’t be afraid to ask your teacher to sit down with you to discuss the best method to prepare and get her feedback on what you might be doing wrong.