Key to Student Success

Key to Student Success

The key to being a successful student is not in being the smartest, it’s working the hardest. This doesn’t mean you need to study 24/7. It means you implement effective study methods for your way of learning. Although some students only require minimal effort to pass a class, as the years go by, the assignment workload increases and being naturally bright is not enough anymore. If you’ve always struggled with school and have classified yourself as a “bad student”, don’t be discouraged. By developing effective study habits, you will be ensuring not only higher grades, but also a better understanding of the material and overall skills that will be beneficial to everyday life.

  1. Get Organized: Set up a planner or a daily to-do list to help you keep track of your daily activities. This will help you visualize your tasks and set time to get your assignments done in time. Setting up a planner can be as easy as downloading an app or writing things down on your phone notes. My favorite planner app is Planner Pro- Daily Calendar. Along with the app Do! You can set it up as a widget on your phone so every time you open it you will be reminded of what you need to get accomplished.
  2. Don’t multitask: Research proves that a person is physically unavailable to multitask and focus on more than one thing at a time. Therefore, try not strain your brain by watching Netflix or listening to music while you study. Although classical music had been found beneficial to the learning process.
  3. Divide it up. Studies show that the brain needs intervals and repetition to learn new material. Work and study in bursts of time, and take study breaks. Follow the Pomodoro Technique developed by  Francesco Cirillo which requires one to study for 25 minutes and then follow with a 5 minute break. Repeat this study method 4 times before taking a long (30 minute) break. This is the most effective way to retain as much information possible.
  4. Sleep (set hours) don’t underestimate the importance of getting eight hours of sleep. Sleep sharpens your focus and allows you to be more productive during the day. It also improves your working memory. Additionally, while you sleep, your brain recharges and creates new pathways to help remember new information. Sleep not only benefits academic performance but also quality of life. 
  5. Effective notes: Taking effective notes helps maintain record of what you learn while helping encode the information into your memory. Evaluate your learning methods and what areas you need to set more time to work on. Some learn best by writing down information. The most effective tactics when taking notes is using flash cards, highlighting, diagrams, writing in the margins (What? Why? How? Where? Who?), and finally condensing information in the form of a summary so a simple version of what you wrote is encoded into your long term memory. If taking notes is not the most effective way to retain information, then create visual aids or diagrams within the notes to create a visual association to the topic. If you learn best by listening, try recording lessons while you add thoughts to the lesson. Another effective way to practice what you learned is by pretending to teach someone the subject. This is the ultimate test of understanding if you are able to pass along what you learned.
  6. Organize study space: Having a study space is essential to study effectively. A separate space away from distractions, even possibly aesthetically pleasing can create a comfortable study environment fosters productivity and minimizes distractions. However, working on your bed is the exception. Studying in bed reduces focus because you associate bed with comfort and laziness. Also avoiding studying in bed can lead to a better quality of sleep at night. 
  7. Ask Questions Be engaged during class and focus on your teacher no matter how difficult it might be while online learning. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you are lost or don’t understand something during class. Someone will most likely be wondering the same thing. After all, your grade and education are on the line. Is your being shy a valid enough reason to receive a low grade? If you still can’t muster up the courage to ask a question during class, directly message your teacher on teams or ask a classmate to help you understand.
  8. Read syllabus: Most students completely ignore the Plan For Success given at the beginning of the semester. However, a syllabus is important because it lays out expectations, how your grade is calculated, including how much the final is worth, late work policy, etc.. 
  9. Practice Self Discipline As a teen and young adult, it is nearly impossible to not procrastinate. It’s natural instinct to put things off until the last minute and later  find yourself unable to complete the task because you become overwhelmed by the thought of the assignment alone. By clearing yourself of distractions (phone, Netflix, social media), you will force yourself to get work done and alleviate some of the stress that comes with unfinished work. 
  10. Stay motivated: Make a list of your short and long term goals. Not all have to seem attainable at this time, a goal is something to work toward and put effort into achieving. An effective way of keeping motivated is to hang up something that symbolizes your dream and reminds you of what you’re working towards in your room or study area. This way, every time you get fed up with school work you will look up and remind yourself why you are putting in the effort.
  11. Reflect: Keep a journal or write in your planner every afternoon or night to reflect on what you learned throughout the day. Write down a few sentences or a paragraph in each class so that you can quickly look over it the next day before attending class so that you are well prepared.


 In an anonymous poll conducted on 51 students by North High student, Kate Velazquez, when asked, “Do you struggle finding motivation to do well in school? Why?” 46 out of 51 students said they had difficulties in finding motivation. Here are some of their responses:

  • “Yes, in general I struggle with any motivation but I think I get really overwhelmed by the amount of work that I kinda shut down and lose all motivation.”
  • “Yes, a cycle of repetition becomes overwhelming and exhausting which causes me to lack motivation to do well.”
  • “Yes, sometimes the lessons/content seem a bit pointless or monotonous so it’s difficult to convince myself to do them.”
  • “Sometimes because there is a large workload and in hindsight it feels like it will never get done so starting it feels like a chore.”

However, when asked, “Is there anything that helps motivate you to do well?” 44 responded yes, and only 7 said they had nothing to motivate them to do well in school. These are some of the things that help them push through the workload:

  • “Thinking about my future career and my advancement towards it usually helps motivate me to do well!”
  • “Whenever I am stressed, I remind myself that I am the reason for my own success in the future and that helps me stay motivated.”
  • “My biggest motivation would be my end goal. I want to learn, I want to grow, I want to go to college, achieve my goals, have the future I imagine; therefore; those ideas motivate me to do what I do.”

Students were asked, “How much time do/can you spend outside of school to complete homework?” Replies varied from no time, to 10 hours. On average, students spend 3 hours a day doing assignments.

Moreover, when asked, “Are there any reasons you’re not able to complete assignments when you’re outside of school?” 48 out of 51 students responded with reasons why they find it difficult to complete assignments out of class. Most which dealt with other responsibilities and their mental health. Here is what they responded:

  • “I am generally unmotivated and find it very difficult to concentrate.”
  • “It’s either that I come home from work late, work all day, distracted at home, or because I have no motivation to do anything. It’s not that I’m lazy but sometimes, I feel mentally tired and it takes a toll on me.”
  • “Working two jobs, providing for my family, and mental health.”
  • “Depressive episodes make it really hard for me to get anything done, even outside of school.”

Finally, the 51 students were asked, “What are some effective study methods you use?” The most common responses were:

Drinking caffeine, using the Pomodoro Method (studying in bursts of time and taking breaks in between), taking effective notes, listening to music, and setting up a rewards system for time spent doing school work.