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Essential Skills

Seniors Say. . . Actual Words of Wisdom from 2016 Seniors

Q: How do you survive high school?

A: Time management!

A: Find what you're passionate about, and pursue it.

A: Talk to your teachers, and ask for help. Build relationships early so that you feel comfortable asking for help.

A: Build relationships with upperclassmen.  They can help to advise you on classes and other aspects of upper school life.

A: Just be yourself.  It's too hard trying to be someone else.

A: Collaborate, don't compete with other students.  It will help you build supportive relationships and get work done.

A: Build good study habits early; bad habits are hard to break.

A: Come up with a study schedule early so that you have a plan for how to complete work.

A. Prioritize sleep.

A. Value your mental health. Take breaks when needed and take care of you.

A. Do what sucks first. If it's math you don't like, attack that first. Don't put it off.

A. Outlining will be your friend. Do it for as many assignments as you can.

A. It is never too early to get your act together. The earlier you start concentrating on study habits the better off you will be. Don't wait until junior year. Do it now.

Q: Who should I talk to if I am really stressed out?

A: Your dean, adviser, teachers, and friends are important sources of support.  The guidance counselor is also really helpful when you need support.


Q: How do you manage your time?

A: Use your calendar.  Look at your entire week to see what you will need to complete. If you know you will have a game on Thursday night, try to complete Friday's homework on Wednesday, for example.  Make a list of all the assignments that are due, and check them off as you complete them.

A: Use your calendar to write down when you will complete homework and other assignments.  Schedule the time just as you would schedule a meeting or an appointment.

A: For long-term projects, make personal due dates for yourself so that you are making steady progress.

A: Prioritize your tasks. Do your most challenging homework when you are at your most alert.

A: Use your free periods wisely, even when you would rather hang out with friends. Use collaborative time to meet with teachers or get homework done.

A: Avoid STEM during busy times if you want to be productive; the library is a quieter place to study.

A: If you have extra time, use it to get ahead in your classes or reading.  You will thank yourself later.


A. Take scheduled breaks. Reward yourself from time to time but then get back to it.

Q: If using a planner doesn't work for me, what are my other options?

A: Some people use the notepad on the computer to post reminders about what they need to do. You can also connect Canvas to your calendar on your phone to keep on top of things.  You might also want to try a different kind of planner, like a pocket planner.  Experiment until you find something that works for you.

Q: How do you manage stress?

A: You will get stressed, so be prepared.

A: Stay on top of your work so it doesn't get too overwhelming. 

A: If you do get overwhelmed, talk to your dean and teachers.  They can help you assess your workload.

A: If you have three or more assessments scheduled for one day, you can reschedule one of them.  Just talk to your dean and your teacher.

A. If you learn to manage your time better you will ultimately be less stressed. Use your free period and collab time to get things done, not just goof off.

A. Have a safety net in place.  Know who it is helpful to talk to when you get stressed, whether it's friends, parents, your dean, or teachers.

A: Keep your long-term goals in mind; this will help you remember what is important, and what won't ultimately matter.

Q: What is the most effective way to study?

A: Read over prior chapters to review information.  Think about and plan for the kinds of questions you might see on quizzes or exams.  Review your notes.  Practice writing or outlining essays for assessments.

A: Make quizlets to learn terms.

A: Take notes.  If you don't take notes, you are only hurting yourself.  They will help you review information.  Taking notes is also a "thinking act" that will save you time in the long run.  By taking notes, you are processing the information the teacher is giving to you. I think of it as preparing to write an eventual essay.

A: Study a little bit every night so that it doesn't pile up and overwhelm you.

A: Find a system that works for you.

Q: How much time should homework take?

A: It depends on the class, but generally homework should take 30-40 minutes per class.  If you are spending excessive amounts of time on homework, you should talk to your teacher, dean, or advisor.  Teachers welcome feedback if homework seems to be taking an excessive amount of time.

Q: What is the best way to do homework?

A: Put away your phone.  Close open tabs on your computer.  Download the app Stay Focusd, which limits the amount of time you can spend on time-wasting websites. Make a list of everything you have to do, and then cross off each one as it is completed so that you feel a sense of accomplishment. Make sure to give yourself short breaks so that you don't get burned out. 

A: One way to plan out homework is to do reading first, then problems, then study with the time you have left.  Don't leave reading until the end because often it's the end of the night and you might fall asleep.

A: Assess your energy level to plan out your homework.  Do the most challenging homework when you are feeling most alert and energized, and save reading or reviewing for when you are a little more tired.

A: You might want to save the work you find most fun or satisfying for the last thing, so that you have something to look forward to.

A: Work ahead on the weekends so that you don't get overwhelmed early in the week.

Q: If I have a question about the homework, should I contact the teacher or just figure it out myself?

A: If you have made a solid effort to figure out the problem with no success, it is fine to contact the teacher.  Have something in writing so that your teacher knows you tried to solve the problem on your own. You may also contact classmates for help as long as the teacher has made clear that you can work with others. 

Q: What do you wish you would have known about homework freshman year?

A: Always read the darn book. Just read the book. It will help.

Q: What is the best time to meet with teachers?

A: Usually teachers are available at one of the following times: before or after school, during collaborative, during lunch, or during free periods.  Teachers are happy to find a time to meet if you email them.

Q: How do I make my teachers like me?

A: Be respectful both in person and on email.  It goes a long way toward building good will.

A: Talk to your teachers after class; they want to know you are interested and engaged.

A: Use collaborative to meet with them and build relationships. 

A: Be open to new teachers.  You never know which ones you will hit it off with.

Q: If I am having trouble with homework or with my computer, should I let my teacher know?

A: Absolutely.  Try your best to figure out a solution, but if you can't, tell your teacher in advance of class.  Teachers want to see that you've made an effort to fix the problem, but they will understand if you can't always figure it out.  They do appreciate knowing what is going on before class starts.

Q: How do you make friends?

A: Try new things to meet new people; Activities Fest is a great place to do that!

A: Follow your passions, and you will meet people who share your interests.

A: Treat everybody like they're already your friend.

Q: How do I balance my workload and my friends?

A. Being social is good but know when it is time to separate from friends to get work done.

A. Find your go-to quiet place: the library, a corner in STEM, etc where you know you can get work done and be by youself when you need to.

A. Get some headphones and occasionally tune out the madness around you.