Excelling at school is an important goal for all students, whether it is a high school student entering college or someone who has decided to go back to school to continue their education. While we all have the mindset that we will be successful in school and study, sometimes it can be difficult to stay on task or keep that goal in mind. It is important to set goals, but it is even more important to make a plan to reach them and consider any distractions or issues that might prohibit one from doing so.


Thinking in Terms of Goals

The first and most important thing to do in order to succeed in your studies is to set clear and concise goals.

At Edutopia, they talk about SMART goals. SMART is an acronym for goal setting: Specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely/trackable. This concept is used for all students when creating goals in their education. It can also be used to help you adjust existing goals to be more attainable. The article gives an example of “I will do better on my next report card.” This is the main goal. Next, the SMART method is used to create actions and plans to arrive at that goal.

In an article at Education Week, they explain some extra things you can do to make your SMART goals even more attainable. For example, when making an action plan, use verbs and nouns so that this drives you to achieve the goal. It also states that revisiting your action plans and having a specific timeline are the most important when setting your educational goals.

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Stay Social

Creating goals and working hard to excel at school can require the majority of our time. While succeeding at school is the utmost importance, it is also important to remain social with your family, friends, and coworkers. Staying social allows a release the stress from hours of study and is a good break when one gets stuck during a study session.

The Rasmussen College website goes over several things that you can do to keep your family time, work and social life just as much in the forefront of your life while studying. Make a list of priorities for the week, or even just for the day. Make sure to include some time for your family and friends. Planning your week and notifying your family of your availability decreases stress for you and limits any surprise when others learn that you can’t be there.

It’s always most important to make time for your family, regardless of education goals. Families for Life suggests some things that you can easily fit into your studying schedule that will mean a lot to your family. It could be as simple as setting aside time for them, making dinner together, or going for a walk. All tips are also good for stress relief from studying.

When we become busy with schoolwork, sometimes we lose focus on our friends. Not only is family important, but it’s also important to keep up with friends and going out with them. The Mayo Clinic goes over the benefits of friendship. Studying and school can be stressful, however making time to hang out with friends can reduce stress and boost happiness. Friendships can also help in difficult times during your studies and offer encouragement to continue to strive for your goals.

There is no doubt that you will be spending a lot of time in class. This will eventually lead to meeting the other students and striking up friendships. It’s important to socialize with classmates outside of class. The Steven-Henager College website talks about the benefits of socializing with your classmates. Not only do you make lasting friendships after the courses are over, but you also open yourself to networking possibilities, receive motivation to succeed in class, and help each other. In this article from South University, they list numerous ways that you can socialize and get to know your classmates. You can join a club, introduce yourself to your classmates, or start a study group, to name a few things that can be done right away.

If you are working and going to school, keeping the right balance could be difficult. Making time to go out with coworkers is equally as beneficial as spending time with friends and family. Going out with them after work can foster new friendships and possibly create a new support system during your studies. You may also find that another colleague is trying to achieve the same goals as you. It’s important to note that if you work in a team, you should notify your colleagues of your new goals in education and how it might impact your work. This will build trust and respect with your colleagues, and in times of difficulty, you will be able to rely on them to assist you with any work-related duties.

It also is beneficial to socialize with your instructor. There are several ways to do so. For example, pay a social visit to their office. Since most instructors are at their desk or office for the majority of their time, they do enjoy an occasional social visit once in a while. This will foster good relations with them, and in turn, they can become a valuable person to request a recommendation from in the future. In the article at the University of Minnesota Library, they suggest finding a mentor also, as this can aid in your studies and they can advise and support you in excelling at school.

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Creating a Study Plan and a Formal Study Area

In order to foster motivation to excel at your studies, the best place to start is where you are going to study. Ameritech University shares some ways to get your space ready for productive studying. They state to pick one place and be sure to like being in the place you choose. Look for a place with natural light. Instead of your typical musical choices use ambient noise from a noise machine or non-lyrical music.

If you are an online student, Western Governors University has tips on how to make your environment for learning and studying at home much easier and more productive. Focus on things such as light, sounds, smells, and even Feng Shui to improve your environment for studying and minimize distractions.

Once you outfit your study space, start creating a study plan. Massachusetts Institute of Technology advises that you begin a study plan as soon as you receive your syllabus. Identify tasks and use action words in your plan to promote motivation to accomplish them. Then, work on a timeline, set priorities for tasks, and choose a study style for each one.

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Time and Energy Management

Time and energy management can probably be the most challenging to keep on task. The goal is to revisit and revise your time management goals as needed. At Big Future, they suggest creating a daily to-do list, creating priorities, and finding your most productive time to help with time management. It is always important not to overextend yourself as this can cause a decrease in productivity and health.

Managing your energy is also just as important as managing your time. An article in Harvard Business Review states that time is infinite while energy is not. We use so much energy to balance work, school, and life. It is important to take the time to revitalize and recharge yourself. A lack of energy can contribute to irritability, lack of sleep, and the inability to retain information properly. When you effectively manage your time, you will also effectively manage your energy levels.

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Staying on Task and Establishing a Routine

We benefit most from having a routine to follow. It allows us to see any pitfalls or issues that may arise in the future. At the University of Michigan, they suggest creating a study environment, warming yourself up to study, and having a plan create an effective routine to excel at school. A routine could be studying in the same place every day, using the same warm-up before studying, or even just taking a brisk walk before you hit the books.

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Preparing for Exams

After all the daily studying to excel at class, we now have to prepare for a big exam. This can be the most stressful time in your studying journey but, it doesn’t have to be.

At the State University of New York, they suggest some scientifically proven ways to minimize stress and maximize your chances of success with exams:

  • The best thing to do is study in intervals and, the worst thing you can do is cram study. Studying in 20-50 minute intervals with a 10-minute break is most beneficial to retaining information.
  • Time management is another key to succeeding at preparing for your exam.
  • Also, taking the time to get some cardio workouts in is shown to improve your study time for exams (health permitting).
  • If you have anxiety over taking the exam, be sure to find ways to relieve the stress and create a positive attitude for the exam.


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Best in Class: Excelling at School