Back to reality – tips for being a better student in 2020

I may have mentioned it in a few of my previous blog posts but the one thing that January means, besides being the start of the new year, is going back to work and school. The lofty joys and lazy days of the Christmas holidays are well and truly over for most of us as we throw on our backpacks or climb into our cars and head back to reality.  

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Now I know that not everyone may have started college yet for this year (as it only begins at the end of Jan or even early Feb), or those of you in the Northern hemisphere are well into the term and January isn’t such a big deal (because the school year starts in September). However, whether you are in school or college and whether it has started or not, the reality of getting back into it is undoubtedly there or is at the very least looming. I may not be starting university right now, but just because I’m not going back myself, doesn’t mean I am free of the impending reality. My younger brother just started at a new school, and most of my friends are getting ready for university (or are already back). So, for all of those getting back into the reality of academic life, I dedicate this blog post to you. Even if this isn’t the start of your academic year or you feel like you’ve got the whole ‘school’ thing mastered, here are ten tips for being a better student in 2020.

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Planning is your best friend

Have you ever had an assignment sneak up on you, and you don’t know how it happened? Or had a test that you need to study for and just ran out of time to prepare? Well, the only way to stop those kinds of things from happening is to make planning your best friend. Invest in a wall calendar, or a desk calendar so you can see your tests and assignments coming far in advance. Get a diary so you can keep track of homework and other tasks. Planning will help ensure that you never get taken by surprise by a task, run out of time to study or end up pulling an all-nighter because you didn’t know your paper was due tomorrow. Plus, if you have your academic life planned and sorted, that means you’ll have more time to do social things or relax because you won’t be working frantically at the last minute all year.

Photo and bullet journal page by Keeanne Jimmy
Photo and bullet journal page by Keeanne Jimmy

Be consistent with planning

Now that planning is your best friend, you’ve got to remember to be consistent with it. After all, it is excellent to start off being organised, but if you don’t maintain it, then things spiral out of control, and you end up in an unorganised, stressed-out mess. Everyone always starts the year on a good note and is dedicated to their planning for the first month. However, after about a month we get lazy or busy doing other things and so stop planning things as meticulously as before, and that’s when you start struggling with your workload. Try to keep your planning as consistent as possible, not only to keep some stress at bay but also so that you don’t fall into trouble. If you ever feel like dropping your planning, remember how good it felt to know precisely what was coming, never feel stressed about a deadline and have time for a social life.

Photo and bullet journal page by Keeanne Jimmy
Photo and bullet journal page by Keeanne Jimmy

Keep your workspace clear and neat

I know, I hear you. It’s easier said than done. When you’re a busy student, piles of notes grow larger and larger, empty mugs start to outnumber your pens, and it becomes more of a hunting exercise to find that paper you need that’s somewhere under all the junk on your desk. But, if you just put in a little time each day to clean and sort out your desk, you’ll see how beneficial it is. A clear, organised desk makes it easier to think and focus, and it means you don’t need to spend ages searching for something because it will be easy to find what you’re looking for. Not only that, but having a tidy desk means it is far nicer to sit at, and that can make studying or working just that little bit more appealing. Hey, it can be tough to find the motivation to work sometimes, so having a neat and organised space can be a big help in getting you to sit there for hours on end.

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Do work as soon as you get it

Before you say I sound like a mom on a stuck record, hear me out first. I know it sounds both lame and obvious to do your work as soon as you get it, but procrastination is a thing, and soon assignments start piling up until one day you look up and have so much to do you don’t even know where to start. Doing your work as soon as you get it saves you from that situation. During my entire high school career and throughout my short courses, I always made a significant effort to get work done as soon as it was assigned, and it saved me so much hassle. It meant that I didn’t have to worry about getting it done at the last minute, I had time to check and proof-read, and, if disaster struck at the last minute, it would be okay because I would be ahead of the work. Trust me from experience, doing work the minute it’s assigned may seem lame, but it saves so much stress and hassle in the long run and allows you more time to do non-academic things.

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Make notes ahead of time (and use colours!)

As you learn the content in class, write your notes on it straight away and then read through the work you did in class that day. This will not only help you remember the content more, but you also won’t be pushed for time to make them and then learn from them when your next test crops up.

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When I told my friend Keeanne I was writing this post and asked her thoughts on it, she said: “This really helps in both university and grade 12, and was the only reason I didn’t drown under the workload”. See? I’m not the only one who says do things ahead of time. I’d also recommend investing in some highlighters or coloured pens to use for your note-taking. Colours can be a massive help in highlighting and separating information, making your content easier to remember and even making your page more approachable. Making your notes visually appealing can be a big help when it comes to learning them, and it also makes studying not quite so dull when you aren’t just reading lines and lines of black ink.

Photo by Blondey on a Mission
Photo by Blondey on a Mission

Break things up into manageable chunks

There is nothing worse than being given an assignment that is so big you don’t know where to start or how you’ll ever get it done. It can be so overwhelming and makes the task seem so daunting and scary. By breaking tasks like this up into more manageable bits, you can make what felt like a mammoth of a task into something far less intimidating. Next time you have a massive assignment, break it up into steps, or chunks that you can complete one by one rather than trying to do it all at once. This way, you aren’t overwhelmed by the enormity of what lies ahead, and you end up completing your assignment without feeling like it killed you. Please note though that this does take careful planning so that you finish in time!

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Never throw away notes!

You may think that once you’re done with a class or a school year, you will never need that work again, so you throw out all of your notes. However what happens then when you take a class the next year and realise you still need notes from the previous year to revise or help you out with the new material you’re learning? The bottom line is never throw away your notes. Buy a file for old work or notes, assignments that have been given back to you and things like that because you never know when you might need them. By saving all of that, it means you don’t need to remake notes if you discover you need last year’s work for something or it could help in understanding new content. And, by keeping graded assignments and looking back on them before a test, you’ll be able to keep in mind the things you need to improve and how you can do better rather than guessing.

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Be a frequent filer

Side-stepping my airline/flight related pun, filing your work frequently is not a joke. Make sure to file as you go. Don’t tell yourself that you’ll get to it eventually because then the papers start to accumulate and before you know it you’re drowning in heaps of unorganised paper and the few pages you needed have been lost. Make it a weekly task to file any notes and assignments so that you stay on top of things and keep everything neat, organised and in a place where you can easily find them whenever you need them. You’ll be ecstatic with thanks when everyone else is searching frantically for notes from that first term assignment, and yours are neatly filed away and waiting for you.

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Prioritise and then prioritise more

This tip has multiple layers to it. While it is obviously vital to prioritise academic work over an evening of watching Netflix in your fluffy blanket or going out with friends for the third night this week, you also need to prioritise within your academic work. Look at which assignments and tests are worth more so that you know you can forfeit that page of math homework if it means extra time to get an A on your midterm paper. Figure out how soon each assignment is due so that you can allocate time accordingly. From working out all this, you can then make sure that the work that really matters is getting the time and effort it deserves.

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Look after yourself

You can’t be a thriving student if you don’t look after yourself. How can you be expected to get the full value of your lessons if you are falling asleep in class because you were up all night studying? My last tip for being a better student is to look after yourself because if you look after you, your health and your sanity, you’ll be a far more successful student. Take breaks when you’re studying. Eat healthy foods instead of ones high in sugar and unnecessary junk. As hard as it is to imagine, try to get enough sleep so that you are bright and awake for classes. Also, try to take some time out for yourself. Yes, you shouldn’t be choosing a movie over finishing your assignment, but you also shouldn’t skip doing fun, relaxing things because you are doing work due in two weeks. By allowing yourself to have breaks and get away from the books for a whole, you will actually come back fresher and will be able to remember more and work more effectively. You’re not a robot. We all need to rest occasionally – so don’t forget to.

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And so there you have it! The start of a new year and the academic work it brings can be daunting, and some of you may not be keen to get stuck back into it, but I do sincerely hope that these tips help get you through the year with less stress and with more control and that they help you make 2020 your year to succeed. Before I wrap up, I’d like to say a huge thank you to my bestie Keeanne for helping me out with the content for today’s post! You are a saviour! Also, another huge thank you to all of you for reading. Please share this post with all of your friends getting ready for, or who have already started, with school or university so that they can also read these tips and don’t forget to like this post and subscribe, so you don’t miss out on future posts. I hope you all succeed in all your academic ventures this year!

Lots of Love

Blondey on a Mission xxx

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