With the days getting shorter and the nights getting colder, one can’t escape the inevitability of summer’s end. A funny thing about endings is that they tend to signify new beginnings, like the beginning of a new school year. The piles of homework, the skill-testing math quizzes, the reading assignments and the like are coming as sure as the snows of winter. Don’t panic.

As a former student who did it both the hard way (mostly) and the easy way, I’m willing to let you in on some inside secrets. The tips are not listed in order of importance and they’re not guaranteed to turn you into an A+ student overnight, but if followed they should make the scholastic road a little smoother. School doesn’t have to be as hard as rocket science – unless of course you’re studying to be a rocket scientist.

Timing Is Crucial

The adjustment can be difficult when the carefree, days of summer give way to scheduled classes, a return to routine and, worst of all, deadlines. The trick here is not to fall behind early or you’ll find yourself playing catch-up for the rest of the school year. I spent years developing elaborate stories to get extensions on my assignments. The longer I put off the work, the more heavily it weighed on me. I can’t stress strongly enough the importance of not falling so far behind that your pile of homework begins to resemble something on the scale of Mount Kilimanjaro. Make a work schedule and stick to it. Be sure to put aside a couple of hours each day during which you can tackle your homework uninterrupted. It’s not a bad idea to use an agenda to mark down important dates when projects are due and tests are given. I forgot are two words that don’t impress teachers.

Location, Location, Location

It may sound ridiculously simple, but finding a good space in which to work can make a difference on your study habits. Some people work better at the kitchen table than they do at a desk. Some folks get more work done in the library, while others prefer to study in the comfort of their favourite chair. If you find you are too easily distracted you might need privacy to get your work done. Experiment a little and find a location that is best suited to your own particular needs. For example, my best ideas come to me when I’m away from my desk, so I keep a small notebook with me to jot notes down wherever I am. If you find yourself staring at a blank page suffering from writer’s

block you might consider taking a walk to clear your head and let your thoughts flow a little more easily.

Repetition Is Good For The Soul (?)

I had a teacher who used to say this all the time. I’m not exactly sure whether it’s good for the soul, but I do know that repetition is good for the memory. In school, as with anything else in life, practice makes perfect (or near perfect). With reading assignments, for instance, it’s never a bad idea to read the material once without taking notes. When you read things over a second time you’ll be more familiar with the material and will take better notes. Good clear notes are a valuable resource when it comes to reviewing material and you’ll thank your lucky stars that you have them when exams roll around. Everyone develops their own note taking style, so try a few methods to see which one works best for you. Markers, highlighters, post-it notes . . . use whatever works for you. might be a handy tool to help key points stand out on a page. No amount of note taking can replace what your teacher is telling you to focus on in class. If the teacher has put something on the blackboard, or has repeated a key point, take note. If your teacher begins a sentence with “this will be on the exam,” take notes!

Don’t Be Shy

If you don’t ask questions you won’t find any answers. Don’t be afraid to raise your hand and ask the teacher to explain what you don’t understand. You’re not supposed to know all the answers, which is why you’re in school in the first place. Your classmates don’t know it all either – trust me on this one. When asking questions in class you are probably no different than most of your fellow students except that you’re willing to stick your neck out there to find the answers. A classroom is a place where information should be shared and this is something that can’t be done in silence.

A Mind Is Like A Parachute:

It Won’t Work If It Isn’t Open

The key here is to keep your options open. It is easy to convince ourselves that we stink at math, that we don’t get science, and that we’ll never need to use geography in the course of our lives. You never know what you’ll like and what you can be good at unless you try it. If you have access to mind-expanding tools, such as books, libraries, and computers, use them – they won’t bite.