HOW TO: SCHOOL

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I’m not a very showy person and I don’t like to brag (often), but recently, a lot of people have asked me how I do so well in school. I have a 4.0 unweighted GPA and I get by pretty easily. The new school year is quickly approaching and a lot of people really want to do better next year. So, for those of you who are insistent on boosting your GPA up and doing better in school, I have a few tricks and tips for you. They’re not too difficult and I urge every student to at least attempt these and look for a difference in their achievement at school:

1) Pay attention in class…seriously

Trust me, I know how hard it is to pay attention in class. And I’ll admit, I’ve zoned out of lectures plenty of times. But paying attention in class does WONDERS for you. I paid attention in AP World History (noted to be one of the hardest APs) the entire year and I only had to study minimally for a test. I rarely got a B on a test and had a high A all year. Absorbing the material aurally makes recalling the information 500x easier. Additionally, the more times you go over something, the better it sticks. If you’re hearing that information in class, then applying it at home with homework, and then studying that same information, you will be GOLDEN. You will know that information so well! So, try your best to pay attention in class, especially in APs. You are so much better off.

2) STUDY!

This seems like a given to most people, but you’d be surprised how many students are unwilling to study. People always ask me how I get the grades that I do on tests, and when I tell them that I do a good amount of studying, that is so foreign to them. Studying is so important, no matter how you do it. And I only study the night before! Many people will urge you not to only study the night before, BUT if you follow step one (paying attention in class), studying the night before is probably all you need. I’m serious. Paying attention in class puts most of the information in your brain, that way studying the night before is just a matter of reinforcing all of that information so you can recall it the next day. Nevertheless, any studying (even cramming) is better to me than no studying. But, if you’re gonna study, I have one major tool that makes it a whole lot easier…

3) Quizlet

This. Is. My. Secret. To. Success. I’m so serious. I discovered Quizlet freshman year and I have never been the same since. Studying is so damn easy, it’s ridiculous. Quizlet is a website/app that allows you to make virtual flashcards and study them in various ways. You can locate a bunch of Quizlets that other people have already made concerning your topic of study, but I highly recommend making the Quizlet yourself. Sometimes, I make a Quizlet and I never even study it because I don’t need to. Just typing in all the different terms and definitions into Quizlet helps the information stick. It’s important that you pay attention while you are typing the information in; it makes actually studying the Quizlet a lot easier. Once I make a Quizlet, I usually study by looking at the term, trying to come up with an answer in my head, and then looking at the definition by thoroughly reading it. If I can’t provide a definition for the term or I’m wrong, I star that term. After I’ve gone through the entire set, I go back through my starred terms and don’t stop until I have all of those starred terms memorized. Then, to make sure that information is really stuck, I go through the entire set again. If I just don’t know the definitions to any of the terms, I’ll use the tool titled “Learn.” This tool provides you with the definition first and has you type in the term. You must match the correct term to its definition two times in order to have “mastered” it. If you keep missing the term, it will keep giving you the definition at random times until you are able to give it the right term. This is the best tool for learning material and reinforcing information. I highly recommend it. A lot of the time, a teacher will give you notes and a study guide/practice test leading up to the time of the test. I make my Quizlets by using the notes and study guide I have been given for the test. I literally take verbatim from notes, study guides, and practice tests to make my flashcards. You don’t always have to put actual terms in the term column of the Quizlet, I often put questions that I answer on the definition side. Sometimes, it looks like this:

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Sometimes it looks like this: Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 9.55.52 AM

Quizlet has endless studying opportunities and can be whatever you make out of it.

4) Take detailed notes (to a certain extent)

Notes are really important; not only for looking back at information when it’s study time, but also for getting that information to stick. Remember what I said about the information sticking better if you hear it aurally in class by paying attention? You’re hearing it and now you’re writing it. That information is sealed in your brain. Sometimes I never even go back to my notes after I take them, but just writing them in general helped me get that information stuck in there. However, if you’re gonna take notes, I recommend making them as detailed as you can. It can be hard to keep up with a teacher when they’re talking fast and sometimes you’re better off paraphrasing, but I find it more helpful when I write down a lot of details. And usually my hand feels like it’s gonna fall off when I’m done, but it’s usually worth it. A style of notes I plan on implementing into my studying habits this upcoming year is Cornell notes. This was something we had to do often in middle school, but I realize its importance now. Cornell notes leave room for a summary at the end, which reinforces the information and makes looking over your notes during study time a whole lot easier and quicker. I recommend this style of note taking. And if you’re not familiar with it, here’s a quick pic:

5) Stay organized by making it fun and enjoyable

One way to motivate yourself is to make all of this, and just “schooling” in general, fun. One way to make it fun is to get organized by using a variety of colors (via highlighters, pencils, and pens) and notebooks. Studying and taking notes by using different colored pens, highlighters, sticky notes, etc. is a lot more interesting and motivating when your product is pretty and something you’re proud of. If you’re artistic or creative in any way, getting organized like this will make “schooling” a lot more motivating for you and more of a hobby than a hassle.

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6) Khan Academy

This a great resource that is free. This is the perfect way to gain a better understanding about a certain topic that you might be confused about. Whenever I don’t completely understand or am confused about a specific lesson/topic in class, I go on Khan Academy and watch a video on that particular lesson. Sometimes you need to see a different method to solving a math problem or hear a different explanation on a topic in order to fully understand it. Or sometimes you just need to see/hear something for a second time to get a grasp on it. Khan Academy provides visual and comprehensive lessons on literally every subject. You can also read articles and perform exercises in order to grasp that information even more. Khan Academy can also be used as a study/review tool before a test. For some people, watching a few videos on the subject they are being tested on can make all the difference.

7) Ask your teacher for extra help

I know how scary and difficult this can be, especially if you’re not comfortable with your teacher, but this can sometimes be your best option if you’re truly not understanding something. Your teacher wants you to succeed (most of the time)…it’s how they get paid :). Approach your teacher and let them know that you are struggling with a particular topic and would benefit from a re-explanation. They will more than likely be happy to go over something with you, as long as you are careful about how you approach the situation. Here is my advice on this: go to your teacher with specific questions prepared. This way, they don’t feel like you are wasting their time and they also don’t feel like you were zoned out of their lesson in class. Also, approach your teacher for help as soon as possible. Do not wait until the day before the test or the day of the test. The teacher is less likely to help you in this situation. It is best to talk to your teacher as soon as you can after the lesson was taught. Go to your teacher during class and ask them when an appropriate time would be to come in. You can offer to come in before or after school or during lunch. Approaching your teacher is a great way to get a one-on-one, personalized explanation of something you are confused about and it also shows your teacher that you are capable of taking initiative in your own learning experience. Never hurts to earn some brownie points, especially if the teacher isn’t fond of you! Try to make a good impression at the beginning of the year, though, which will make this process occur much easier. Trust me, teachers do appreciate when you ask questions inside and outside of class and show interest in your own success. I have had countless teachers tell my parents at parent-teacher conferences that they love me as a student because I ask questions when needed and take initiative in order to truly understand a topic.

This is all I’ve got for you guys at the moment. I’m sure more will come to me as time goes on, especially when school starts again and I’m back in my groove. Good luck “schooling.” I am always here if anyone has any questions or needs help with anything related to school. Please let me know if you have any suggestions, questions, comments, or success with any of these! Hit me up on social media, text me, or leave a comment down below.

Lainey Shapiro

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