School plays a central role in the lives of many teenagers, in New Jersey, the US, and across the world. During these uncertain times, it can be hard to crack the perfect formula for balancing school and all other equally important aspects of life. However, the truth is that there is no ‘perfect formula’ for success. We all have the potential to be successful in school but there isn’t one uniform way to achieve that success. It takes practice to find a study routine and techniques. For many students, it can take some time to discover their individual strengths and build a strategy that works. For this reason, the following guide is a compiled list of tried and true tips from MTHS students, as well as beneficial findings from experts.
What Students Say:
“Don’t take shortcuts and always try to put in the effort. You’ll never know how much it’ll affect you until you get the grade.” - Nikita Muppoor
“Procrastination will just cause you stress. Try to plan for your assessments and divide your work up over a course of time instead of doing them all at once.” - Brundha Talla
“One study technique that I’ve found really helpful is writing study guides out on paper rather than just typing them. Something about it helps me remember information easier and makes me more confident walking into a test.” - Siera Qosaj
“I think that it’s crucial to take breaks, being successful means knowing your limits and acknowledging them instead of working against them. After a significant amount of studying or working, take some time for yourself so that you can jump back into doing work re-energized. “ - Nitya Majmundar
What Teachers Say:
“Don’t study at the last minute, study throughout the unit. Cramming won’t end up benefiting you. Also, be sure to take advantage of extra resources teachers give you. Most importantly, work authentically, because it’s apparent when genuine effort is put into work rather than just cutting corners.” - Ms. Abruzzese
“Understanding how you learn will lead you to be a successful student. This is all based on your strengths and weaknesses. For example, if you learn better by listening, then it may be more beneficial for you to listen to videos of math explanations. It can be challenging to determine what your learning style is, but I always suggest trying multiple methods. From there, you can figure out what is the most beneficial for you. This skill can really make a big difference in your academic success, especially when it comes to studying. Study smarter, not harder!” - Ms. Sherr
“I think success always starts with the environment. Create a space that is most conducive for concentration. Seclude yourself. Make a coffee, latte or tea. Play music without lyrics. Remove distractions. Know that when you enter this space, the purpose is success.” – Mr. Thumm
“To be a successful student means having the skill set to communicate appropriately, balance a healthy lifestyle, and embrace an open-mind. Every subject and course will work differently, but remaining attentive and responding to new material in a positive way will help students to gain the most of their high school experience. It’s ok to not understand everything at first – ask questions and keep putting in that effort!” - Ms. Tringali
What Experts Say:
Find your learning style - Every individual has different strategies and styles that will work best for them and allow for full comprehension and retention of the material being taught. In order to categorize learning styles, educator and expert Neil Fleming created the VARK model. The VARK model presents four main categories of learning styles including Visual, Auditory, Read/write, and Kinesthetic learners. In order to determine which style suits you best, you might need to reflect on what has worked for you in the past, try out the different styles and see what is most efficient for you, or explore the variety of questionnaires online. For visual learners, incorporating visuals into notes and creating graphic organizers and diagrams may be useful tactics. Auditory learners may benefit from watching explanatory videos or teaching the content to a peer. Read/write learners may find writing out notes and creating written study guides to be beneficial. Kinesthetic learners can use active recall strategies such as making flashcards or utilizing learning games such as Kahoots.
Listen to Music - Studies from the Florida National University show that listening to music while studying may be beneficial. Listening to music uses both the left and right sides of the brain, which can improve memorization. Additionally, listening to music can help lessen the pressure of school as music is proven to be a stress reliever. In regards to sports, it has been proven that athletes who have a track record of underperforming when under pressure can improve their performance if they listen to motivational music before the game. That same philosophy can be applied to test taking, so listening to music while studying or before taking a test might help you improve your performance. Although many teens may not choose to listen to classical music from the 1800s, a Stanford study has shown that music by artists such as Mozart, Bach, and Beethoven can help improve focus, memorization, and categorization. Music can also help recover memories as music and memory are linked. There are certain songs that get stuck in your head, often coined as ‘earworms,’ and if your brain latches on to a song, then it can help memorize the information you study while listening to the song.
Engage with the information - No matter what your learning style is, one factor remains constant: engaging with the material is crucial. Although many may find re-reading content to be helpful, take it a step further in order to interact with the material. Studies from the UNC learning center show that surface level studying will not allow for true comprehension. In order to achieve a deeper level of understanding, one must make connections and partake in active studying. Ways to actively study include creating a study guide, thinking of examples and connecting outside information to the content you are learning, explaining information in your own words, creating flash cards, and making diagrams.
These tips from students, teachers, and experts serve as a starting point to achieve success but it’s important to know that success begins and ends with you. You need to ask yourself three questions, what, why, and how. What are you trying to achieve? Why do you want to achieve it? How will you work to achieve it? Once you find the answers to these questions, you’ll be on the path to success.