5 Tips to Thrive Academically in 2021
Throughout 2020, many students have experienced serious disruptions to their school year. Although far from complete, initial research has shown that students could experience a learning loss of 30-50%!
As we start to say goodbye – and good riddance – to 2020, it’s important to note that these disruptions and changes will continue for at least part of 2021. And the effects of 2020 will be felt long after the pandemic is over.
That’s why we’re sharing 5 keys ways for students to thrive academically right from the start of 2021.
Following these 5 tips, will help you to not just get A’s at school, but to grow intellectually, learn new skills, and pave the way toward your future, despite the less-than-ideal circumstances.
Let’s get started!
Tip #1. Get the Most Out of Your Current Classroom Situation
Whether your school is currently at-home virtual learning, in-person classroom learning, or a hybrid of the two, there is no doubt that it probably looks very different from year’s past.
You may find it difficult to concentrate for long periods of time when it comes to virtual learning. You also may miss your old school routine and find it hard to be motivated when your much more isolated than usual.
If you’re feeling frustrated, don’t worry. You’re not alone!
While your school experience may not be optimal right now, here are some quick tips that will help you earn high grades, all the same.
Set up a routine.
We won’t bore you with all the research. Just trust us: routines are absolutely key to helping you stay focused. When you have a routine, you train your mind to automatically shift into a learning mindset that will improve your concentration, increase your productivity, and consequently, give yourself more free time.
Try to always go to bed and get up at the same time. Get fully dressed for virtual classes (no pajamas!), and have a specific place you go to study or learn. Let the whole family know your virtual classroom time, so they won’t disturb you, and try to schedule study or homework time for the same time every day.
For at-home learning, enhance your environment.
Set up a place in your home like it’s your own classroom, whether it’s a desk in your room or one half of the kitchen table. Neatly set up your books, paper, pencils and calculators in that area. Make sure your sitting in a stiff chair – not a couch or recliner – so your body is in a posture to be alert. Try as much as possible to keep that place for learning only. Don’t play games, talk on the phone, or eat in that area. That way your mind always associates that area with learning, and only learning.
Communicate with your teachers often
Your teachers want to help you! Whether it’s through email, a Zoom meeting, or an in-person meeting, talk to your teachers frequently. If you’re struggling with a concept or an assignment, don’t wait until you receive a bad grade or feel completely overwhelmed. Reach out to them consistently and frequently for extra support.
Ask for help!
It’s not just your teachers that want to help. Whether it’s participating in MEK’s Learning Circles, asking your mom to review your essay, or setting up an online study session with your friends, keep looking for ways to get additional help.
Even in the best of circumstances, even if you are the brightest of kids, you would sometimes need additional help. So especially now, it’s only natural that you would need help to master new skills and build up good study habits.
Tip #2: Fill in the Gaps with Outside Resources
Even if you do all of the above, you might find that the disruptions of COVID-19 has caused gaps in your learning. Or you may be struggling with a challenging subject being taught in a new and virtual format.
The key to true academic success, not just in 2021, but throughout your education is to build a strong foundation. No matter the subject, concepts build on one another, getting more complex as you go further into middle school, high school, and college.
If you have gaps in that foundation, it’s going to make mastering complex concepts much more difficult.
So look for resources outside of school to either help you discover and then fill in those gaps.
For example, MEK’s HS Honors Courses are designed to help students master subjects such as Algebra II, Pre-Calculus, Geometry, and Advanced English. It even helps you ace your school finals!
Tip #3: Keep Taking Steps Toward Your Future
It can be tempting to put your future goals on hold because of the disruptions of the pandemic, but often that can just lead to more stress and anxiety down the road.
Instead, use this time to reflect on what you want to accomplish academically in 2021.
A great place to start is to think about your end goal, which for most people is college.
Is there a specific college you have your heart set on? A field of study or a career you’re interested in? Do you just want to ensure that come your senior year, you’ve set yourself up to have plenty of options?
Once you have a big end goal in mind, ask yourself: What I can do this next semester to get me closer to that goal?
If you’re in high school, the answer probably lies in preparing for college admission tests such as SAT, SAT Subject, ACT, or Advanced Placement exams. Top scores in these tests pave the way to admissions in competitive schools, scholarship money, and even college credit.
Get started by taking an initial practice test to see where you stand. Then start planning a first and second test date and map out your preparation plans.
If you’re in middle school, your next step may be preparing for a high school admissions test to a prestigious academy.
You can also think about activities, academic competitions, or volunteering opportunities that can help you build up your resume, learn new skills, showcase and develop your talents, or help you discover your interests.
Even with COVID-19, there are online and off-line activities that are still available to help you do all of the above. For example, check out MEK’s spring math competition events, this list of writing contests, or these volunteering options.
Tip #4. Eliminate Obstacles
Sometimes we can ignore recurring problems that are hindering our education because we just think “that’s just the way it is” or “it’s not that big a deal” or “it’s only temporary.”
But the smartest thing you can do during a difficult time is to eliminate as many obstacles as you can. Sure, you won’t be able to get rid of them all, but your mindset, life satisfaction, and classroom scores will improve when you try to troubleshoot consistent problems.
Here are just a few examples:
Example 1: My family is always interrupting my virtual class time.
Maybe your dad is just asking what you want for dinner, or your mom is reminding you to take out the garbage. But often when our parents interrupt our virtual learning, it takes us out of the classroom mindset.
We miss what the teacher says, we start feeling distracted, or we lose our train of thought.
Talk openly with your parents and siblings about your scheduled virtual time. Ask them to respect it just like it was an actual classroom and only disturb you if it’s an emergency. You can always schedule breaks, so you’re not unavailable for long periods of time.
Example 2: My brother is always on the family computer at the precise moment I need to work on an assignment.
Right now the electronics in your house may be busier than ever. If you don’t have your own device, it can be frustrating to have to share computer-time with your parents and siblings, when it may be the center of all your educational, entertainment, and social needs.
Again, open communication and teamwork is the best option. You and your family are all in this together. Talk to them about setting up a schedule that can work for everybody, so you have consistency and routine for when you can use the computer, printer, or tablet in your house.
Example 3: My connection is always choppy during virtual class.
You may only have so much control over your home internet connection, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make the most of it. If you’re consistently have technical issues that make virtual learning a pain, start brainstorming ways to fix them before the spring semester. Ask your parents for their help in troubleshooting computer issues.
A quick Google search will show you tons of how-to videos and blogs for fixing common issues.
Example 4: When I go on school campus, I find it hard to concentrate because I’m worried about my health.
If your school is meeting in-person, it makes sense that you may have some anxiety or concerns about possibly getting sick or getting someone else sick.
Try to reduce your anxiety by following all the recommended guidelines and trusting that those guidelines will keep you safe. Don’t be afraid to speak up when you’re uncomfortable with a situation. Talk to friends, family members, or teachers about your worries.
If your anxiety starts to seriously hinder your ability to learn, seek help from you school guidance counselor or a therapist to help you learn new coping skills or explore alternative learning options.
Tip #5. Give Yourself a Break
“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.”
― John Lubbock
When we say give yourself a break, we mean this in a couple of ways.
For one, be kind to yourself.
It’s a difficult and changing time for everyone, and you’re not going to be perfect, nor should you expect yourself to be. If you’re having trouble in school, struggling with virtual learning, or feeling worried or stressed about other pandemic-related issues, it’s okay.
That just means you’re human. Forgive yourself when you make a mistake. Keep your sense of humor and your wits about you.
In another sense though, giving yourself a break means to give yourself periods of rest and relaxation. This goes back to our earlier tip to have an area that is just for studying, so when you are sitting in that part of your house or room, your mind is focused on learning and completing assignments. But a dedicated learning area has a second benefit: when you walk away from that desk or chair, you can fully relax.
Give yourself frequent breaks throughout the day to improve your grades, your focus, and your wellbeing.
When you’ve shut the books for the day, take time to do things you really enjoy or that fully relax you, so you can be rejuvenated for the day ahead.
Get Ready for 2021
Want more expert help? MEK is ready to support you in all your 2021 goals. Download our Spring 2021 Catalog to see all of our test prep and academic enrichment courses for 3-12th graders!