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Back to School Tips

College
Written by Elizabeth Brenneman
Updated: August 29, 2022
13 min read
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Going back to school can be daunting, no matter your age or education level. Between homework, time spent in class, extracurricular activities, and more, starting the academic year comes with many responsibilities and time commitments. In addition to taking on schoolwork, students in college must also worry about tuition and making living arrangements. With all the stress surrounding the start of the school year, you’re likely looking for ways to make your experience easier. Utilize this comprehensive guide for students and parents to make this upcoming year productive and successful.

With the new school year starting, it's time to pay tuition. Sign up for Bold.org here to start qualifying for scholarships now!

Students studying on a school staircase

Tips for back-to-school success

  1. Back-to-school tips for high school students
  2. Back-to-school tips for college students
  3. School supplies
  4. Back-to-school tips for parents
  5. Back-to-school scholarship
  6. Frequently asked questions about back-to-school tips

Back-to-school tips for high school students

Studying

As you start high school, you may have to start studying much more than you had to in junior high. It can be difficult to find time for studying between your extracurricular activities, spending time with friends, going to practice for your sport, and just having fun. Your mobile devices can also be a distraction than can stand in the way of better grades.

To help yourself stay focused, consider setting yourself a screen time limit so you can stay disciplined and keep yourself on schedule. There's nothing wrong with taking time to relax or have fun, but excelling in your academics also takes a lot of work.

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To set yourself up for success, make sure you have a good environment for studying and doing homework. Not everyone has the same resources available, but even if you don't have a computer or your own bedroom, it's important to try to find a peaceful space to work. Try to find a quiet space in your house, such as a kitchen table or basement, to sit and work on your tasks. If your house is loud or you don't have an adequate study space at home, consider going to a public library or working in a classroom after school.

College Readiness

To begin preparing for college, make sure to take your academic work seriously. Depending on your grade level, you may want to start preparing for the college admissions process by going on college visits, asking teachers for letters of recommendation, researching application deadlines for your colleges of interest, or working on your college essay.

If your school offers Advanced Placement or honors classes, try taking some to get a taste of what college-level work may feel like. If you successfully pass an AP test, you may even get college credit! Even if you don't take honors classes, your grades are still important. If you find that you need support, you can ask your teacher for help, and you can even try to find a tutor, depending on your resources.

If you're getting ready to take any standardized tests, make sure you give yourself adequate time to study. There are many free resources for students taking the PSAT, ACT, and SAT, so take advantage of study websites, books, and classes to boost your test scores. If you do well on the PSAT, you may even earn a scholarship or commendation from the National Merit Scholarship Corporation, which will look great on your college application!

You can also start applying for scholarship opportunities, as high school is a great time to earn funding for college. With tuition now costing $9,377 for in-state students and $27,091 for out-of-state students each year, college is becoming increasingly difficult to afford. Utilizing your high school years to find scholarships is a great way to reduce your need for student loans once you enroll in college.

Extracurriculars

While grades and test scores are certainly important, extracurriculars are also a big part of high school. Playing a sport, participating in a club or student government, or getting involved in theater are all ways to improve your skills, express yourself, and make friends. Extracurricular involvement can also improve your college applications by showing your school involvement. Many school districts may also require students to complete community service hours, so don't wait until the last minute to get involved!

Students walking outdoors on their school campus

Back-to-school tips for college students

Studying

Studying in college often feels even more difficult than studying in high school. With more independence and career opportunities, setting aside homework time often feels impossible. Consider studying with your friends to make studying more enjoyable. However, if you have trouble staying focused, it may be a better idea to study alone as you might be more productive. If you have roommates, try to create your own study space or find a spot on campus where you're able to get your homework done.

To manage your schedule, make sure you plan ahead and keep track of any big tests, papers, or projects you'll have throughout the semester. Make yourself a study schedule so that you're always prepared for these big events. Since college professors are often less involved in monitoring students than high school teachers, you'll have more responsibility for your performance. Make sure to stay on schedule with your homework so you don't fall behind and make sure to have good attendance so you don't miss any important lessons or updates.

Managing a syllabus

A teacher may have given you a syllabus in high school, but you likely didn't glance at it after the first week of classes. In college, your syllabi are much more important as they will not only have the homework schedule but also the dates of all important assignments. Each syllabus will also have the professor's expectations, class policies, grading scale, and office hours.

Make sure to thoroughly read all this information and to stay on top of your readings, discussion posts, or any other requirements of the class. The syllabus will also outline the topics you'll cover during the semester, so you can look ahead and be prepared for the coming lessons. Your syllabus will likely also have a list of books you will need to buy or rent for the class as well.

Befriending professors

College classes often have many more students than you may have gotten used to in high school. Each class also usually meets only a few times per week for one semester, so you'll likely be spending significantly less time with your college professors than you did with your high school teachers. If you enjoy making connections with your teachers, it may be jarring to have less interaction with them.

Luckily, college professors still enjoy getting to know their students. However, you may have to work a bit harder to build a relationship with your professors. Don't hesitate to reach out to your professor if you have questions about a homework assignment or policy or if you need support with a certain topic.

Going to office hours is also a great way to ask questions and build a relationship with your professor. Befriending professors, especially those who are in your field of study, can be helpful if you need letters of recommendation for graduate school. Building a relationship with your professor can also give you extra support when you're entering the workforce, as professors can be helpful in connecting you with job opportunities.

Extracurriculars

Your extracurricular involvement may look different in college than it did in high school. You may no longer play sports unless you're one of the select few student-athletes at your college or university. However, even if you weren't recruited for a sports team, you can still get involved in intramural or club sports to meet other students and stay active.

Colleges also often have far more clubs than high schools do. You can join clubs related to your field of study, interests, demographics, and passions to make friends and prepare for your future career. Extracurricular involvement can also set you apart if you're planning to apply for graduate school.

Career preparation

As you work on your college degree, there are many other steps you can take to prepare for your future career. You can build connections with professors and other students to expand your network for when you begin the job search. You can also get involved in student government, your school newspaper, and other clubs to establish your career skills.

College is also a great time to seek out internships, which are a vital way to build your skills before graduating and seeking employment. You can also work a campus job to earn money and work on your time management skills and other credentials.

School supplies in a pencil case

School supplies

School supply shopping is one aspect of the back-to-school season that many students actually enjoy. With so many exciting products to choose from, it's easy to get carried away when buying supplies. To get ahead of the game, try to shop as early as possible to guarantee that stores will have everything you need. As the new academic year approaches, crowds will get bigger and more products will be sold out.

When buying school supplies, take practicality into account rather than just appearance. Make sure you have adequate supplies and that they're durable and will last you all year. If your school gives you a list of required supplies, make sure to get everything you need before buying extra items. If you're going to be starting a sport, you may also need to buy some sports equipment or apparel so you're ready for practice and game days. You can ask your coach for product recommendations if you're not sure where to start.

If you have the budget to buy extra materials while back-to-school shopping, consider buying a planner to keep track of assignments, due dates, and other responsibilities so you can stay organized. You can mark the date that you'll be starting classes so you can plan out when you will buy school supplies, complete summer assignments, etc. You can also block off athletic practices, club meetings, homework time, and more to make sure all of your responsibilities get taken care of.

Depending on your level of education, you may have to buy certain books for your classes. You can find these books at your campus store or online, and you can buy used books or rent your textbooks to save money. You can even sell your books when you're done to earn some of the money back since college textbooks can be a significant expense, costing an average of $105.37 each. Altogether, full-time undergraduates pay an average of $1,226 for books and supplies each year. As a result, 11% of students skip meals to afford books. The high cost of attendance at many colleges can be daunting, so keep reading to learn about the exclusive #Back2SchoolBold Scholarship that can help you curb the expenses of starting school!

Parents getting their child ready for school

Back-to-school tips for parents

Going back to school can be stressful for parents, too! Between figuring out lunches, pick-up schedules, extracurricular activity schedules, and more, getting your children ready for school can be challenging.

If you have young children, consider picking out their outfits the night before in order to save time in the morning. If your little one is stubborn, you can even have them approve the outfit to prevent an argument or tantrum in the morning. You can also pack some or all of your child's lunch the night before to simplify your morning routine.

If you live near the school, having your child ride the bus can be a real time-saver, especially if you have multiple kids whose grades are in different buildings or if you need to get to work around the same time. You can even coordinate a carpool system with other parents and take turns dropping off and picking up the kids from school or sports.

Parents can also prepare for the year by starting their back-to-school shopping early. Waiting until the last minute often means large crowds and out-of-stock products, so start early to ensure you get everything your child needs for the first day.

If you have younger children, consider setting up a laundry system that's easy for them to understand so that they always have clean clothes. You can also stay organized by leaving sticky notes, to-do lists, and other updates for the whole family when you're not home. Make sure to also have a conversation with your kids about what you expect from them throughout the year. Plan ahead and remind them to alert you as soon as possible about any permission slips they need signed, projects they'll need help with, and more.

Finally, if your child struggles to wake up early and has been waking up late all summer, you can get them prepared for the start of the school year by waking them up a little earlier every day in the last week or two of summer to help them transition to early morning wakeups.

School can be a stressful time for your kids, regardless of their age, but you can make the process easier by helping them with their time management and assisting with study tips and preparation for big tests. Don't be afraid to get involved and set a good example for your children so they know how to balance academics and other responsibilities with fun.

If you're a parent who is also in school, make sure to set aside time to prepare for your own classes! If you’re trying to decide whether or not going back to school is the right decision for you, read this guide to learn about the benefits of college!

Back-to-school scholarship

The #Back2SchoolBold Scholarship is a new scholarship opportunity on Bold.org that all students are eligible to apply for. The $500 scholarship is now taking applications and aims to make the transition back to school easier. Students can apply by sharing their best back-to-school tips.

The scholarship will be awarded on October 10th, 2022 and you get to help choose the winner! The scholarship closes on September 25th and sixteen finalists will be selected the next week. Students will be able to vote in the finalist bracket on the Bold.org Instagram to select the winner!

Student browsing through books in the library

Frequently asked questions about back-to-school tips

How can I get myself ready for school?

Preparing to return to school is a difficult task as the new school year often brings about a lot of stress. Even thinking about school can be stressful, leading many students to avoid preparing for the upcoming year. You can confront this stress by preparing both mentally and academically for the year ahead.

To begin, familiarize yourself with your schedule and the location of each of your classes to avoid being late or lost on the first day. Additionally, go over any emails, syllabi, or other information your teachers or professors may have sent over the summer. If your class has an online page, read through any information that has been posted so far to prepare yourself for the first day.

If you had any summer homework, start it now rather than waiting until the last minute. If you're taking a class that builds upon another, such as taking an advanced math or language class, consider going over some of your previous notes to familiarize yourself with any concepts you'll need to thrive in your oncoming classes.

You can also prepare by organizing your planner, cleaning your room, working on college or job applications, applying for scholarships, and completing any other responsibilities that you won't have time for once school starts!

What should I do in the morning before school?

Every student is different, so your optimal morning routine may not look like everyone else's. However, there are several things you can do to set yourself up for success. Most importantly, give yourself adequate time to get ready in the morning. Waking up early can be difficult, but giving yourself an extra half hour to prepare for school in the morning can have a huge impact on the trajectory of your day.

Take the time to pick out a comfortable outfit that makes you feel good, and make sure to set aside time for breakfast. If you enjoy being active, consider setting aside time for a short workout. You can also mentally prepare for the day by spending a few minutes reading, meditating, or journaling. It can also be helpful to make a to-do list for the day or to go review your notes if you have a quiz or test later in the day.

Regardless of how you'd like to spend your morning, it's important to set aside enough time to really prepare for the day. An extra twenty minutes of sleep may sound tempting, but you'll likely feel less prepared and peaceful throughout the day than you would have if you had gotten out of bed and spent the extra time getting ready for the day.

How can I make my school day better?

The school day can be long, especially if you're in high school and have all of your classes back to back. To help improve your day, make sure to eat breakfast in the morning and make a plan for lunch. Being hungry can really distract you from your classes, so make sure to eat enough throughout the day. If your school allows you to bring food into class, consider having a few snacks packed that you can eat throughout the day. Make sure to bring water as well and to have any other necessary materials (highlighters, personal care items, first aid materials, etc.) in your locker or backpack in case you need them.

Getting a proper amount of sleep can also improve your day and help you focus during class. Additionally, make sure you dress in an outfit you'll be comfortable sitting in all day and consider dressing in layers or leaving a sweatshirt in your locker in case you get cold.

Finally, utilize your lunch period and other breaks between classes to talk to friends and classmates. Socializing during these times can improve your mood and help the day pass more rapidly! While it's important to focus on your class materials while at school, taking a few minutes to talk to a friend can really improve your day.

For more student resources and scholarships, sign up here for Bold.org!

Elizabeth Brenneman
Donor Publications Lead

About Elizabeth

As the Donor Publications Lead, Elizabeth specializes in drafting and managing scholarship proposal drafts for donors at Bold.org. She leverages her firsthand experience applying for and winning scholarships and has navigated the process of taking out and paying back student loans.

Elizabeth graduated from Georgetown University with a major in English and Government with a minor in Women’s and Gender Studies and is now a J.D. candidate at New York University School of Law. 

Experience

At Georgetown University, Elizabeth was a news reporter for The Hoya, where she pitched articles, conducted interviews, attended local events, and drafted content. Through college, she also worked as a tutor and served as a mentor for high school students as they applied for college. Elizabeth currently engages in legal and research writing at the New York University School of Law.

Since joining the Bold.org team in 2021, Elizabeth started as a Content Writer and has since become the Donor Publications Lead. She is an avid writer with a passion for creating scholarships for donors and crafting content that informs and assists students and young professionals. Motivated by her firsthand experience as a student, Elizabeth is dedicated to sharing her knowledge and the resources she’s discovered to help the next generation of students succeed.

Quote from Elizabeth

“Change is possible. The more people, organizations, schools, and companies talk about the student debt crisis, the easier it will be for students to find the help they need and for college to be made more accessible.”

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