High School Advice: Homework, College, and Stress

Pressure in high school is unavoidable and stress about friends, homework, or what college you’re getting into can come at unexpected times. Here are some tips and advice to make your stress level go down just a little bit.

Think before You Act: Course Load and Time Management 

Challenge yourself academically, but not unnecessarily. Whatever your passion is, take harder classes in those areas. My passion is languages and learning about different cultures, so I have chosen to take AP classes in languages. However, it’s just as important to acknowledge your weaknesses. If math is not your strong suit, do not take classes that will overwhelm you unnecessarily. If you need help picking classes or managing your schedule, talk to a teacher or your parents to get advice.

Procrastination is a huge problem for many students, and phones are the main culprits. When you are doing work, turn off your phone and put it somewhere where you will not be tempted to look at it. Most apps on your phone probably have nothing to do with homework, and using them will ultimately lead to this work being unfinished. If your phone is off, the temptation to text someone or check social media will not be there. I am not someone who is particularly attached or addicted to my phone. However, I do get distracted by technology sometimes, if someone texts me, or if I would rather watch TV. In order to stop yourself from having a Netflix marathon every afternoon, remind yourself that procrastination will only hurt you and getting your work done faster means that you can watch all the TV you want, and feel less guilty.

Lack of sleep and procrastination are a unhealthy combination that often leads to long nights and bleary eyes the next morning.

Do not stay up late doing homework if you don’t have to. If you have a lot of work, be sure to plan so you don’t have to stay up until 2 a.m. Also, the quality of your work will suffer after a certain time anyway, so get your work done early to avoid falling into a cycle of sleep deprivation that will harm your grades and your health.

Studying: No magic tricks involved

There is no magic solution to studying, but some strategies can be more effective than others, depending on the type of learner you are (verbal, visual, auditory, or kinesthetic).

It takes trial-and-error to see what works best for you. For memorization, flashcards are most helpful to me. For math or science, do practice problems, so there are no surprises come test day.  A good way to study for in-class essays is to make an outline before the day of the test. The most important part of taking any test is the preparation, so make sure you prepare well so you can do your best. Cramming is never helpful for anyone. If you have a big test or project coming up, be sure to plan so that you can get it done and have enough time to study.

Take the Standardized Tests Seriously

Ah, standardized tests. By the time senior year starts, most students are exasperated with standardized testing. Standardized tests are not on my list of fun things to do on the weekend. Even if colleges are test-optional, some students still choose to submit scores, because they feel it would contribute positively to their application.

Remember that test scores are not the only thing that the admissions committee will look at and there are other parts of your application that colleges will be drawn to. Many small liberal arts colleges do a holistic review, which means that they look at every aspect of your application before making their final decisions. Numbers are perhaps more important to larger schools, because they need a way to eliminate applicants. This may be a deterrent to students who have lower test scores, but be sure to check the average scores that students who were accepted to those schools got, and see where you fit in.

SAT subject tests are tests in different academic subjects like math, French, or history. You can also submit these scores to schools, and some will even accept them in lieu of SAT or ACT scores. The SAT and ACT test dates are set, so it’s important to plan when you are going to take them so you don’t miss test dates and the opportunity to send scores to colleges.

It’s also important to take both SAT and ACT practice tests to decide which test is better for you so that you can send your best scores to colleges. I recommend to start testing junior year, because your senior year fall will be very busy, and you will have fewer opportunities to take tests before the deadlines, especially if you plan on applying early decision or early action to any schools. Those schools will only take test scores up to a certain date, usually October scores at the latest.

Plan to take standardized tests before November and December to meet these earlier deadlines to eliminate the hassle of rushing test prep and the fear that scores might not be ready in time. But for your regular decision schools, take advantage of the November and December test dates to maximize scores.

Take a Mental Health Break

Between all of the test prep, homework, and extracurricular activities, it’s important to give yourself time to breathe. Remember that you need to take care of yourself, both physically and emotionally. Personally, after working too long, one of two things happens: the quality of my work starts to suffer or I start to procrastinate. So, go for a walk, read a book, watch some TV. Go to the movies with your friends or your mom. Do something that makes you happy for a little while and you will be more focused afterwards.

The Social Scene and Making Good Friends

Maintaining the balance of having a social life and participating in extracurricular activities is just as essential as getting good grades.  Even if you can’t do something fun every weekend with friends, at least do something by yourself or with your family that is relaxing or fun. Remember to surround yourself with people who make you happy and who support you.

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