Student Survival Guide
Satellite editors offer advice to help students to thrive at NHS
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Incoming and returning NHS students will face new challenges in the 2015-’16 school year, and two NHS seniors hope to offer some advice to every Rocket.
Maddie: Alyx and I begin our final year at NHS Sept 1. We are both excited and nervous to tackle senior year, and, as part of our legacy, we hope to inspire and guide our fellow students with some of the following suggestions.
Alyx: Everything I wrote came out of things I had to learn the hard way. When I was a freshmen it would have been life changing to read a carefully crafted guide such as this one. The three aspects to surviving high school: self care, homework and project completion and extracurricular involvement.
Self care: the maintaining of your mental, emotional and physical health.
Basic human needs can be easily forgotten if you bury yourself into your work. Remember to eat every meal and then some. Snacks are important boosters for the brain. While healthier food is always recommended to help body function, sometimes eating “junk” food is better than not eating at all. Treats are great motivators, too, so allow yourself to have some candy or chips some of the time. Some teachers will only allow healthy snacks to be eaten during class, so bring snacks like fruit (berries, grapes, bananas and dried fruit), vegetables (baby carrots, celery and cherry tomatoes), nuts (almonds, cashews and peanuts) and granola bars. Eating is especially important around finals because your stress level will increase. Drinking water is vital to keeping your brain alert as well. Some teachers do not appreciate students leaving to get drinks, but if it is an emergency make sure you note that. The best bet is to keep a refillable water bottle with you at all times and to refill throughout the day during passing time and lunch.
Sleep is often neglected when you are busy with so many tasks. Keeping a consistent and adequate sleep schedule will help you stay on task during the day. Know your body and how much sleep it needs. Take time to focus on sleep and learn how to improve your sleep.
Maddie: Staying up late has never done me any good; instead, I like to go to bed early and get up around 5:30 or 6 a.m. to finish homework. Waking up early also gives you time to eat breakfast, the most important meal of the day.
Alyx: Countless nights I stayed up well into 2 a.m. finishing essays and projects when I should have utilized my release and tutorial time. Unless your grade is depending on an assignment being completed the next day AND you will not have time before the due date it is never a good idea to stay up past 11:30 p.m. working on it.
Make sure you get some amount of physical activity in your day that is not walking up and down the link during passing time. Activity keeps you aware of yourself and your surroundings. Being active does not necessarily mean joining a sport. Choose wellness education classes in which you will want to participate. (Maddie: I recommend Outdoor Pursuits, Adventure Education and Individual Pursuits) Consider going outside for a walk after school, or joining the Yoga Club. (Alyx: And if you have physical limitations you need to speak up and be put into the appropriate gym class.) Many teen-agers do not take increase in stress and responsibility easily which can lead to development of mental illnesses.
We have to face it, it is hard to be treated like a child and expected to act like an adult. Counselors exist at school for a reason. There will always be tough times here and there but if your tough times seem frequent or persistent it is a lifesaver to talk to someone. Friends and teachers are often great listeners. Remember that teachers and staff are mandatory reporters, which means if something is concerning, they must report it. Although this may seem unfair, it is for the safety of yourself and others.There is no shame in outside therapy to help yourself. What you may or may not be going through is out of your control but how you choose to deal with it is..
Maintaining a social life is more important than adults will recognize. Peers can collaborate on projects and homework, provide an outlet for emotional stability and help you know when to be motivated or relaxed. No one should have to make it through high school alone. Remember that friendships and relationships should be almost entirely positive and if another person is making you feel bad about yourself it may be time to move on to a different crowd. Never be afraid to report a bully (or bullies); it makes the school a better place if students are working with and not against each other. Most importantly: everyone makes mistakes, and I mean EVERYONE. Do not beat yourself up and make sure you learn from it and move on.
Homework and project completion: finishing assignments to the best of your ability in a timely manner.
There are many things we have to say on this aspect of surviving high school, so they have been broken down into several categories. Many examples used are of Advanced Placement classes at a junior level but advice and experiences can be used on almost all classes of any level.
Take handwritten notes
Maddie: For any Social Studies/History class I recommend taking handwritten notes from the textbook and then typing them up to create a study guide. Then, print out the study guide and fill it out by hand. Taking handwritten notes increased my test grades dramatically.
Make note/flash cards.After making simple, one line definition cards, I found that I did not understand any of what I was learning. I recommend making cards with Who, What, Where, When, Why, How and most importantly the cause and effect. The AP tests will not ask you about specific battles, but it will ask you what caused the battle, the significance and what the effect was. I got better grades in the units I made and studied flash cards for. Also, when it is time for finals, you have months worth of information condensed on well-made flash cards.
Alyx: You buy notebooks for a reason. If you a strict physical note-taker make sure you have plenty of pens and pencils. Be comfortable with your writing utensils and prepare to go through a few pages of your notebook. Some teachers hand out fill in the blank note packets and those do not always work for students. Do not be afraid to develop your own distinct note-taking style. If the teacher presents you with a certain way to take notes that will not work for you it is always a good idea to communicate that with the teacher. Everyone learns differently and there is nothing wrong with asking for adjustments.
Maddie: This is probably an unpopular opinion, but I always prefer to do projects alone. There were people in my classes who were competent and I knew they did good work, but my work ethic did not match theirs. Doing a project alone gives you the reassurance all of the work will be up to your standards and everything will be completed on time (that is, if you will complete the work). Working in groups is definitely an important skill. Even when I do work alone, I still like to collaborate with other groups. This is not a good option for everyone, of course. I have found that for group projects, group members are sometimes unreliable and, if the project is graded together, their work may make your grade go down. At the end of the year, I had two big projects on my plate (English and History).
The few weeks I had to work on them were some of the most stressful in my life. My friend and I spent hours at the public library researching for APUSH. We fell in love with the library, to the point where it is our go-to spot for work now. It is quiet, which I prefer, or you can put some earbuds in and listen to music. Being in that environment made us want to work, and we worked really hard. (My friend and I did separate projects but enjoyed working and collaborating together and we kept each other motivated. We also helped each other on their project.) Find somewhere you can go and focus on work. If you cannot drive and have to stay at home, DO NOT WORK IN YOUR BED (it is always recommended that you only use your bed for sleep). Instead, I worked on the dining room table, which is where I do the majority of my work.
Sometimes, inspiration will not strike. My friends, family and teachers were a great help. They gave me ideas and helped me along the way.
Alyx: I have always been one to enjoy group projects. I love interacting with other people toward a common goal. Sometimes, however, there is a group member that does not do their share of the work. Always start by talking to the person and if they do not comply go to the teacher for help. If the student has a serious reason for why they cannot help the group then the teacher can work that out with them. Listen to group members for input and keep an open mind. If your group is lacking or is off task do not shy away from taking a leadership role. Leaders are always needed in communities.
Going into junior year I struggled with my motivation. Students will often struggle with motivation from day one. There is always work to do and lack of drive to do it. Here are some tips to stay motivated that I have found helpful:
- Keep an agenda – checking things off the list will relieve some stress and you will want to continue to complete assignments.
- Focus on a goal – for me, my goal was to get straight A’s and do well so I could go to a good college. This may make some not want to do work, but if your goal is to go to college, you need to work even harder. If you do not work like a college student in high school, you will not thrive in college.
- DO THINGS EARLY! – when you get an assignment, you often feel enthusiastic and ready to work on it. Channel that energy and get to work! Later on you will be thinking about how much you do not want to do it. Complete assignments early as assignments stack up fast. This past year, math homework was required but we did not have to turn it in right away. At the end of the week, I had 5+ math assignments to do, and a review for the test. Do your assignments when they are assigned. This was such a time saver and stress reliever for me. While everyone else was scrambling to finish work at the last minute, I had plenty of time to check things over before submitting it. You might get home and not want to do any work and that is okay. Take a short break but then remind yourself of your goals. Stay motivated and do your work.
Alyx: My trouble with motivation stems from mental illness. In the past I have felt that graduating was not enough of a reward for all the work students go through. I have come to learn that graduating is not the only reward. You can earn scholarships, develop lifetime skills and find your passion. Every challenge you have faced so far in life you have also overcome. Fighting yourself every day is exhausting, so cut yourself some slack. Never forget that you are the longest project upon which you will ever work.
AP European History was one of the hardest classes I have ever taken. There is so much information in so little time (as is the case with most history classes). I did not have the same work ethic in AP Euro as I did in APUSH but I am sure if I had taken notes, studied more and paid attention in class, I would have done better. The AP Euro test is also one of the hardest. Do not stress if you do not get a good score because few if any at all can achieve a 5.
APUSH was one of my favorite classes, but I know many people feel the opposite. Follow the advice I gave beforehand on taking handwritten notes and studying. Also, if your class has study sessions – go to them! And when you go to them – STUDY! If there are not any study sessions, talk to your teacher or some classmates to schedule them.
Keep up with the readings, do all assignments and put your best effort forward. As long as you have a basic understanding of what you read and took some notes, you can contribute to class discussions.
DO NOT USE SPARKNOTES (for any books in any English class). The teachers know when you take information/questions from SparkNotes.
If you plan on taking an AP test, practice timed writing throughout the year. Sometimes teachers will give you a pop-timed writing. Get a Barron’s book and read it. Take notes and learn from it. It has all the information about the essays and how to write them.
Ask as many people as possible to read your essays. Get feedback and edits and learn from them! Many other English teachers will read your essays and give you tips, too!
Oh, math. So many people struggle with math for so many reasons. Do all of the homework, do the review, do extra problems. If you do not understand something, ask and have it explained to you. I know everyone can understand math, it is just that you need to dedicate yourself to it. Put time into it and work hard. I really struggled with math freshman year. Going into senior year, I love math.What changed for me was my work ethic. I spent more time focusing on assignments. When I did not understand something, I would ask. I would participate in class, and even when I shouted out wrong answers, I would keep trying. Go to your teacher, go to another teacher, go to your parents or siblings or friends or someone in a higher math class. Teachers do not want math to be hard for you. They want you to understand. I have had teachers who will meet with me before school, during lunch, during passing time, after school and even when they had another class.
I know you might be thinking that the math you learn will never apply to your life (and some of it will not). I think this all of the time. I am going into journalism and my mom does not understand why I am taking calculus. But some degree of math is involved in any career you go into. You need math to manage money, invest in the stock market, pay taxes and really to do anything. Math is more applicable to your life now than ever before. Additionally, if you choose to only take the three required math credits, you might have to take math in college, which is apparently more difficult and harder to balance.
I hate science (There will always be one course that you absolutely hate and sometimes you just have to hold on and never back down.). Nothing will ever convince me otherwise. But I powered through my chemistry class by asking for help all of the time. I went to every study session and did all of the homework, even when it was not required. Labs are not just to have something physical to do and goofing off during lab time can destroy your grade as labs are often a large portion of it. Science teachers also love to put questions about the labs on tests and quizzes. Remember to bring your equipment so that you do not have to pay a rental fee for it or make up the lab.
For me, French is one of my favorite classes, but I know some other people dislike FL classes. It can be frustrating when you are the only one in the class not understanding something. My French teacher happens to be the loveliest person ever, and I am always able to go to her for help. If your teacher just is not enough, there are a million resources online (and apps for smartphones). And some teachers are fluent in many languages, and you can go to a Spanish teacher for help with French. Many upperclassmen have completed 2 or 3 years in FL and are also willing to help.
Art, Music, Technology and Engineering, Business Information Technology and Family and Consumer Science
All of these departments are not part of core classes but are equally important for a student’s development. These are areas where students can awaken or express talents. The arts have been around as long as language if not longer. Society needs musicians, artists, mechanics, engineers, marketers, accountants, cooks and caretakers just as much as it needs everyone else. If you do not feel you have found your calling in the core classes look on the school website for career clusters and pathways. The high school also has academies for certain career pathways (it is never too late to discover more). Contact a guidance counselor or a specific department’s teacher for more information.
Extracurricular involvement: joining sports and clubs to make connections and satisfy hobbies.
Clubs and sports can make one of the greatest investments of high school. You may find your passion in an extracurricular and there is nothing wrong with that. It is important to continue to do things you like while working hard at school and if you can find a hobby in an extracurricular it is a great gift. Clubs like student council, newspaper and others can mold you into a great leader, team builder or organizer. Advisers for clubs and sports can be used as references (as per permission of individual) for jobs, college applications and other activities. The clubs and sports themselves can be used on college applications to show dedication and leadership qualities.
Activities are often the best place to meet new people and make friends, as you share a strong common interest. It is easy to find your place in an activity you enjoy and you may even find a family in it as well. Fill your calendar with meetings and games to stay organized and invest yourself to grow as a person. Do not overload yourself. Make sure you still have time to take care of yourself and complete homework to the best of your ability.
High school is hard, but it can also be the best time of your life. Being committed, outgoing and focused will help you succeed. Take time to focus on yourself. Work to the best of your abilities. Put yourself out there and have fun. Embrace all of the changes, learn from your mistakes and do not stop trying. Remember that asking for help is not a weakness. Be the person you want to be.
Neenah High School, be amazing.