Coming straight from a girl who graduated high school as the valedictorian with a 4.57 GPA, went to college on an academic scholarship, and has maintained straight A's thus far, I can tell you that there's more to being successful at school than just intelligence. Trust me, I'm not that smart. So whether you're in middle school, high school, college, or have kids going to school, I have some rules for you to get the most out of the schooling experience, and for making it as painless as possible.
1.) Do What You're Supposed to Do, When You're Supposed to Do it
This really should go without saying, but you'd be surprised at how many people fail classes just because they don't turn in their homework. I promise you that if you just attempt the homework to the best of your abilities, and turn it in, on time, you'll pass the class, and probably with a decent grade! And if you don't understand the homework, that leads me to my next point...
2.) Don't Be Afraid to Ask Questions
A lot of times, we get embarrassed of looking like we don't understand. But to do well in school, you're just going to have to get over that! I've looked stupid in class so many times because of the questions that I've asked, but hey, at least then I understood the assignment and could do it! Don't worry about what people think, because I can guarantee that there are others in class that don't get it, but are just too scared to ask. Don't forget that you don't have to ask in front of the class, because you can always wait until after class has ended and approach the teacher privately. And when you show your teacher you care about your grades, great things happen! That leads me to the next rule of...
3.) Get On Your Teacher's Good Side
No, I'm not saying that you should be best friends with your teacher. Actually, you really shouldn't do that. Please. Don't. But what you should do is demonstrate to your teacher that you have an interest in doing well in their course. Doing this would require rules both 1 and 2, and also contributing intelligently in class. And if you're shy (which I totally understand. My AP government teacher thought I was a mute for the first week of class in high school.), don't worry. Let your work speak for itself! Which leads me to this next piece of advice...
4.) Use a Thesaurus When Writing Essays
No, you don't have to be a master rhetorician to write good essays. That's when a thesaurus will become your best friend. However. Always, I repeat, always check the definition of your new vocabulary words before using them in your essay. Sometimes those cool and fancy words have bad connotations that you're not aware of. Once you get into your junior and senior years of high school, and in any college class, I can speak from experience when I say that essays are a huge part of your overall grade. A good rule of thumb when using the same word: Don't use the same word more than twice in one page. Any more times than that, and you should find a synonym for it. So break out that thesaurus and show off your awesome vocabulary!
5.) Take AP/Honors Classes
I would say that this rule applies to high school, mostly because once you're in college, you'll want to be focusing on your major, and not that hard honors college alegebra course that has nothing to do with the rest of your life. However, in high school, it's important to learn how to learn, and this is what AP/honors courses do. And, the great thing about these courses is: they don't have as much busy work! Plus, they raise your GPA, and they also look great on college applications. I promise, they're not any harder than regular classes. A great benefit of being in these classes is that the class size is smaller, and it's more likely that everyone in that class actually want to be there to learn things. Hooray for no more hooligans setting desks on fire in the regular classes! (Yes, this actually happened to me.)
6.) Study For the ACT/SAT
This should also go without saying, but you really should study for these tests. I took the ACT six times before I got a score that I was somewhat happy with. And the first five times I took it, I didn't study and my scores were all basically the same. The next time, I studied this book:
And it made my score jump from 25/26 to a 30. You literally will only have to study for about ten minutes a day. This book is a miracle, please take advantage of it.
7.) Don't Take the AP Tests, Take CLEP Instead
Yes, yes, I know, I told you to take the AP classes, so why woudn't you take the test? Well, unless your teacher is teaching to the test, chances are, you're not going to pass. Those tests are beasts. But yes, please do still take the class. It will prepare you for how rigorous college courses are. Anyway, if you have any sense, you will take the CLEP test for your course, immediately after you finish that course in high school. If you just finished Alegebra II and Trigonometry in high school, do yourself a favor and shell out the $80 for the test, and go take it at your local testing center. If you don't have the money, sometimes your school can waive the fee, especially if your teacher thinks you have a good chance of passing. Here's a little comparision of CLEP tests and AP tests if you don't believe me.
CLEP Test vs AP test
90 minutes approx 3 hours 15 minutes
Get scores immediately Get scores months later
No essay (except for English) Multiple Essays or Free Response
No national testing date Only one testing date per year
No national testing center Only a few national testing centeres
Coming from a person who has taken both tests, I have only passed one of the AP tests out of the five I took, and it wasn't a high enough passing grade for my college to give me credit for it. However, I have passed every CLEP exam I've taken and recieved college credit for it. If you listen to any piece of advice I've given to you, PLEASE do this. Taking these tests will not only save you boat loads of money, but will also save you so much time from having to take the same, boring general eds over and over again.
8.) Join Extracurricular Activites
I was a band nerd, and was in National Honors Society, which I highly reccomend joining if you meet the requirements (and if you follow the above rules, you should!) If anything, extracurricular will give you something to write about on your admissions essays. Plus, you should easily make some friends. So it doesn't matter whether you're in the school play, Spanish club, or even in an organization outside of school, you really should do something extra. Also, if you're not sure what extra thing to do, volunteering is probably the best way to go. You'll feel good about yourself, and your prospective colleges will love you for it!
9.) Apply For Admissions Early
I'm sure you've already been told this, but you really, really, should apply to colleges and graduate schools early. There's not much to say about this one except the general rule of thumb is that you should apply to six colleges: two "reach" schools (these would be your dream schools), two "match" schools (these would be schools that you have a reasonable chance of getting into), and two "shoe in" schools (these are schools that you will definitely get it.)
10.) Apply, Apply, Apply, for Scholarships
Look, I understand that college is expensive. But money problems are really not an excuse to not go. There are so many scholarships out there that go to waste because no one even applies for them! And plus, if you do everything else on this list, you should have scholarships flying at you left and right. If you really think college isn't an option for you because of money, many states have programs that promise to pay for a public college education. And if your state doesn't, many high schools have programs set up with trade schools that can help you get a trade degree for free. When I was applying for college, I used fastweb.com to keep up to date with all the scholarships out there. Do yourself a favor, and please apply for any and every scholarship, even if you don't quite meet the requirements. Sometimes, there really aren't many applicants, and you can end up getting it anyway!
So there ya have it! A comprehensive guide on how NOT to fail at school. If you have any more tips and tricks, let us know in the comments!