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Hi! I'm Rachel and I am an upcoming junior in high school. I love science, mathematics, history, and so much more! I am also a musician and I have played the violin for most of my life! But over the years I have enjoyed experimenting with other instruments as well such as guitar and piano. I can't wait to share some of my tips and tricks with you guys that I think will help you succeed in school and beyond!

This article is a part of Fiveable’s Field Notes series. Field Notes is a collection of articles curated by students and teachers from around the world detailing their academic experiences.

I guess you could say I have had quite a bit of experience in school. After all, for my entire life, I have been in school for 8 hours a day and 5 times a week. However, I will never comprehend how the end of the school year can flood my mind with an unimaginable level of elation. Once I finally hit summer vacation every year, I always become so eager and enthusiastic about going back to school in the fall. 

This exact thing happened when I first started my sophomore year. I arrived on the first day with the biggest smile on my face, overjoyed about the year to come. However, as it turned out, I ended up not having a single class with any of my friends! Not to mention, my guidance counselor began talking to me about parts of the college admissions process.  

As if that wasn’t enough, I signed up for 2 AP classes, physics, algebra 2/trigonometry, and more! I finally understood, up until that moment, that this fact completely disregarded the most obvious parts about my school year. My classes were both rigorous and demanding! Obviously, this year did not go as planned, but I wasn’t ready to give up my hope on sophomore year yet.

GETTING ORGANIZED

Time Management

Like any other high school student, I was getting numerous assignments from every teacher.  Thus, I knew that I needed to figure out a way to find the time to complete them all and keep track of their due dates. Most of my classes gave me homework that would be due the next day. However, at the same time, I was also given dates for when projects would be due or when exams would take place. Therefore, I had to make sure I allocated enough time to study and prepare for those as well.

Avoiding Procrastination

You don’t want to have to come home one night to cram for 4 exams and build a whole model roller coaster. Speaking from experience, that is never fun – especially when you have been aware of these tests and projects for a significant amount of time! However, you figured you could do it later since the due dates were ”so far away.”

In these situations, they end up coming faster than you think. Thus, I realized that the best solution for this was to tackle them as soon as possible. After all, closer to the due dates I could be too busy focusing on other assignments or projects.

No Cramming

When I would have a big exam coming up, I would try to divide about an hour or so each day for several days before the exam to study. In addition, when it came to projects, I would try to tackle them as soon as I could, even if the due date was much later. Following this, I bought myself a calendar with all the months of that school year. With that, I mapped out a game plan for all the tests and assignments I had at the moment.

Suddenly, that huge workload I had seemed much more manageable. Also, I realized that I truly did enjoy the material I was learning – all because I had time to take in the material instead of cramming it all night before an exam! There goes one less reason to give up my positive outlook on sophomore year!

 

COLLEGE THIS, COLLEGE THAT

Extracurricular Activities

Now that I had my workload under control, I found myself in another predicament. With the PSATs coming up, I needed to start preparing myself for college admissions. I knew that having extracurricular activities was vital. However, the ones I had in freshman year seemed to be pretty common among the entire student body. I – along with everyone else I knew – was a part of the key club, the red cross club, and so much more.

I wanted more than being a part of a bunch of clubs. I wanted to make a difference! Therefore, I discovered a group called the Teen Task Force that met every Monday a few blocks away from my house. They create and take part in volunteer events for the community. I ended up joining them, and ever since then, I have become a much more active member of my community.

SAT Preparation

In terms of preparing for the SAT, I began to research prep books. I found that people raved about books such as the SAT Black Book and The Official SAT Study Guide. Because of this, I decided to buy these books, and over the weekends I would study for the SAT.

I still have a long way to go before I start applying to colleges. However, getting on top of this process now – as my guidance counselor suggested – gave me a peace of mind.

 

GETTING SOME HEADSPACE

Taking Breaks

Sometimes, we all need some time to get some headspace. I realized that studying for long periods without breaks was doing more harm than good. Without some time to take a break and get some headspace, my work was not at its best. Also, I was not working as efficiently as possible.

I started to become very stressed and anxious when it came to school. After encountering my new and “improved” course load this year, it got even worse! I often turned to my family, searching for advice on finding peace of mind, and one day, my mom told me, “Drop down and give me 20!” As bizarre as this may sound, my mom gave me this advice with literal intent.

Exercise

If you are ever stressed, one of the best things that you can do to calm yourself down is exercise – a good workout can actually completely transform your mood for the better. As my mom would always tell me, if I had enough energy for a panic attack, then I had more than enough to go exercise.

After investing so much of my energy in exercising, my quality of sleep improved. Eventually, I was so much more energized every morning, and my brain was so much more refreshed. Beginning to exercise a lot more helped me take control of my anxiety – something I’ve struggled with before.

Spending time with others

Another thing I did to get some headspace was allocating more time in my week to hanging out with my friends. Whether we went out into the city or hung out at home watching a movie, hanging out with my friends never failed to ease some of my stress. Like exercising, it improved my mood.

After some time away and a more positive attitude, I was able to think better. I learned that performing activities that make you happy are one of the most efficient ways to reduce some of your stress!

 

MY OVERALL EXPERIENCE

Looking back at my sophomore year, the best decision that I had made was never giving up on my positive outlook on the school year. I tried to keep the same positive attitude I came in with on the first day. I fought back against everything that went wrong. It was arduous, and there were plenty of times where I convinced myself that it wasn’t worth fighting for.

However, as I kept fighting, I learned some beneficial life skills, like managing time and anxiety. I may never understand why I constantly get so excited about going back to school, yet at the same time, it is not a feeling I would ever want to drop. My world may have turned upside down, but as I kept on battling back, I was able to turn it right-side up again. That’s what made my sophomore year one of my best years ever!

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