How to Stay Sane and Do Well In School at the Same Time

November 7, 2007
By Ethel Moore, Stafford, VA

People have lost their minds to it. They’ve crumbled under pressure and isolated themselves because of it. Identities have been lost to it. People have cried to their mothers for help with the epidemic. It eats people alive, metaphorically. What is it?
Yes, homework can be overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to eat people whole. I joined Governor’s School last year, which is a program that starts off with one AP class in freshman year, and adds one on until you are a senior and have four AP classes. As a freshman in this program, I had to learn the different ways to get work done well, and in a timely way. Now that I’m a sophomore, the following techniques are “engraved” in my head, because they’re the only ones that work for me.
Other people might benefit from this system because, although some might not agree, I think everyone wants to do well in school. And though I don’t have an A+ in every class, I’m sure sharing these tips can help some people cut through the trouble of finding a good system, like I wish someone had for me last year. So, from student to student, here are effective ways to avoid being stressed out about the academic side of school.
1. Use the agendas. You’d be surprised how helpful these can be. Without this small notebook, I would probably get confused about what is due and when it is due. In the front of our agendas, there is an explanation of the different sections and how to use them. The calendar can be used to write down when big projects are due. The upper left-hand corner is for writing down events and assignments due that week. Having a planner to break work down into smaller pieces can make it seem like it isn’t so hard to do.
2. Make deadlines. For big projects, teachers might give out checkpoints to make sure everyone is on track. For smaller projects and homework assignments, teachers expect us to do this ourselves. When I get projects, I like to plan out what the final product will be (like a poster board or an essay) and outline what I will do by certain times. If the task is small and can be done in one day, I like to think, “I’ll have this done by 5:30.” Setting this goal for a specific time and not paying attention to distractions will get work done earlier, and leave the rest of the evening to relax and enjoy other things.
3. Start work the day it is given out. Material is at its freshest the day it is learned. For my school subjects, especially math, I’ll do better if I make use of the things I learned in class just a few hours before, rather than a whole day before. It makes me feel better because it is finished, and it’s of better quality because it isn’t so hard to try and remember everything.
4. Stay on top of things. The purpose of interims is to let us know how we are doing, not something for our parents to get mad at us about. When we get our interims, some things might be noticed that slipped by earlier, like zeroes. Find or make up these tasks and turn them in. One time, I noticed that a teacher gave me a lower grade on a test than I really had. Most teachers will apologetically fix these mistakes if they are approached respectfully, so I asked her to change the error, and my grade went up. Look out for that, especially in major grades.
5. Use as many resources as possible. Extra credit can be one of our best academic friends. Study groups, textbook websites, and AP study books that can be bought at school supply stores like Scholarship can help as well.
6. Start a study group. These can be very helpful. I started my study group by asking three friends to join, because any more at the study sessions can be distracting. I also made sure they were people who care about getting good grades when I was choosing who to include. We can buy pizza, sit at the dinner table, study for a test, help each other out, and be helped in turn. These people’s phone numbers and email addresses should also be noted so they can be called for help on worksheets and smaller things like that.
7. Look at the bright side. It won’t take the rest of our lives to finish an essay, just a day or two, depending on the requirements. The workload won’t seem so bad if it’s looked at earlier and planned before it’s started. The alternative can be looked at too. What will happen if the worksheet isn’t turned in? A zero would come in return, and it’s a bad idea to accept one of those.
8. Get interested in the school subject. Another student’s attitude may be that they hate math because they suck at it. What’s the truth though? They suck at math because they hate it! This person would probably do better in class if they knew that homework can seem a lot easier if the subject is intriguing. Some courses might not seem very interesting at first, so they should be looked at a little bit differently. Math can seem better if it’s realized that someone sat down and thought of sine, cosine, and how circles and triangles and hexagons all lie inside each other. The mathematicians must have had a lot of free time, but that is pretty cool. History seems better if imagined as a story, and if the people are thought of as real people, not just words in a textbook. Science is great because we live it. A lot of it can come across as common sense too, like behavior and things like that. And lastly, English is simply reading and writing. The books can also be very interesting, and we get the chance to read classic plays and novels that we might not have on our own.
9. Get a hobby. Juggling your personal life and school life is all about balance. The smartest person in class could easily be the craziest if they don’t know how to “juggle.” Try playing sports, playing an instrument, knitting, writing short stories, or any other good-natured hobby. For example, last year, I struggled in school. It was the one and only thing I seriously focused on. Since I was doing badly, I felt like I was failing at life, because school was, ultimately, my life. Then I got a guitar as a present. Of course I sucked at first, but it was something new to be excited about. Having something new to focus on relieved a lot of my stress, and I snapped back into hard-working-student gear. Not everyone is an athlete, musician, or knitter though. We can all just try different things out and see what works best.
If these steps are followed closely, they should guarantee better grades and less constant worrying. A couple of great sources that would elaborate my article are and
. The first is good for managing time and the latter has a lot of information about beating procrastination.
Feel free to use those to even further customize a time management routine. If used well, applying this system to school will benefit other people like it continues to help me.

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