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10/08/2014 04:07 pm ET Updated Oct 08, 2014

5 Ways To Make This Your Best School Year Ever

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You know those back-to-school clothing commercials with kids in new jeans and stylish tops sporting backpacks and gripping notebooks? The students on TV always look so confident and happy, like they just won the gold medal in Going Back to School. You tell yourself, “That’s going to be me this year!”

Now that you’re almost done with high school, you really want this to be the year you become the best version of yourself: hardworking, productive and successful. Consider Her Campus your personal trainer and make this the year you go for the gold!

1. Get organized

English quizzes, SAT prep, band practice—you feel like you’re busier than you’ve ever been. As a studious and accomplished high school student (yes, that’s you!) applying to college, you have many responsibilities. How do you keep track of what you’ve done and what you need to do? Here are some organizational tips that worked for current collegiettes:

  • Go digital: “I kept a running table on a Google doc that had all of my deadlines and application requirements for college and my SAT goals all in one place,” says Shannon Deliljani, a sophomore at the University of Southern California.
  • Make a poster board: “To keep on track with my college applications, I bought a large poster board,” says Summer Ford, a collegiette at Boston University. “On it, I listed each college and their requirements in an organized chart. Under each college I applied to, I listed the following: number of essays, number of short-answer questions, SAT/ACT score requirement, GPA requirement, transcript submission, application fee, application due date (most important!). There’s obviously more that could be added to the list depending on what's important for the student to remember or submit. As I continued through the application process, I checked off what I had completed for each school.”
  • Keep an agenda: “It's really important to use your planner,” says Gloria Kimbulu, a sophomore at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. “Some people think planners are dumb/nerdy, but they are actually really helpful.”
  • It doesn’t matter if you like to keep things digital or if you’re a visual learner who prefers an elaborate color-coded poster board. If you find a method that works and stick with it, you won’t have to worry about forgetting to send in that supplementary essay for your top-choice school or having to pull an all-nighter to finish a project that you left till the last minute.

2. Build a strong relationship with at least one of your teachers

When you go to college, classes will be different from what you’re used to in high school. Unless you go to a small liberal arts school, which tend to have small classes, you’re probably going to take at least one lecture class with hundreds of students where the teacher never learns your name. It’ll be rare for you to have classes the size of the ones you have in high school, so take advantage of them and make yourself known to your teachers! Teachers are great resources to talk to about college, and they’re the ones you’ll be going to for recommendations.

Make yourself stand out by staying alert during class. Take notes and ask questions, and don’t be shy about asking questions and stating your opinions. If your teacher sees you putting in an effort during class, she’ll be more amenable if you ever need to reach out to her for help.

A great way to build a strong relationship with a teacher outside of class is to join a club related to something you love. If your favorite teacher doesn’t have a club but is always talking about yoga or Harry Potter, ask if she’d be willing to help you start a yoga club or a Quidditch team! You’ll get brownie points from your teacher (and colleges) for showing initiative, plus you’ll get to meet other students at your school who share your passion.

Teachers are a great source for inspiration and assistance, whether you’re struggling academically or applying to college, so having a strong relationship with one will make your senior year easier during the stressful times.

3. Find a study buddy or study group

Senior year can certainly be stressful, but there’s no reason it should make you feel lonely, too. Find some friendly people in your classes—not your best friend whom you know will distract you with Ryan Gosling GIFs—to go over SAT vocab flashcards or prepare for the upcoming calculus exam with you. A study buddy might offer insights that you wouldn’t have considered yourself, and explaining concepts to other people can be one of the best ways of making sure you understand something.

Worried about reaching out to someone from your class for the first time? “Just relax,” says Claudia Dimuro, a student at New York University. “Don't hesitate when it comes to talking to people. It's your last year – might as well take chances in making new friends.”

If you know you get distracted around lots of people, take this advice from Lara von Linsowe-Wilson, a collegiette at Oregon State University: “Try having Skype dates instead! Doing this makes it easy for you to compare answers and work together with your friends without being able to goof around as much because you're sitting at your desk, which has far less distractions than the typical group setting.” Skyping also means you don’t have to dress up and leave the house—a win-win. And getting help understanding the material while helping your new friends will make this their best year ever, which means everyone wins!

Click here to read the rest of the article on Her Campus.

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