Girl sitting at table with laptop

7 Things Highly Successful Students Don’t Do

7 Things Successful Students Don’t Do

School can be a challenge for even the brightest of students.

After all, it’s not always easy to balance work between so many classes at the same time, especially those as different from each other as English and math, or history and physics. 

However, it’s important to know that anyone can succeed in school. Don’t forget — studying is not a talent. It’s a skill that can be acquired or improved with time, effort, and positive habits. If you find yourself working hard but still struggling in class, you may be making these 7 common mistakes:

1. Studying Alone

Never struggle alone! If you ever find yourself confused about a problem or concept, don’t be afraid to ask your peers. And in the age of social media, doing so has never been easier. 

Simply reach out and create a group chat with others in your class as a question-and-answer forum. On the weekends, try to meet up with some people for a study session at a local library or Starbucks. It’s great to be part of a group of friends who can help each other with schoolwork and encourage each other to improve.

*2020/2021 update: Right now, meeting your friends in-person may not be an option. But you can still hold online study sessions on Zoom or Google Hangouts!

2. Managing Time Poorly

Let’s face it: most people procrastinate. The ones who don’t are typically the highest achievers in school and in whatever field they eventually decide to pursue. 

Use a planner to keep a record of homework and important events for each day. List all of your due dates for tests and long-term projects on a calendar. Create a daily schedule by designating specific times of each day to different tasks. It’s perfectly fine to relax and take breaks, but just make sure you’re being productive for most of the day.

Alarm clock on laptop

3. Getting Distracted Easily

In the digital age, it’s easier than ever to get distracted. While texting and group chats are helpful tools for asking questions and discussing schoolwork with your friends, don’t get too carried away…

Make sure to sign out of entertainment-based social media accounts such as Twitter and Instagram during study sessions in order to better focus on your task at hand. That new tweet or post can wait until later!

4. Being “The Quiet Kid” in Class

Almost all teachers will tell you that the most successful students are the ones who ask the most questions. Be inquisitive! Most teachers are more than happy to answer your questions and clarify confusing concepts for you. If you’re still having trouble, don’t hesitate to go for extra help during office hours or seek outside tutoring help. 

In class, also make sure to participate in discussions and stay involved as much as possible. Doing so will ensure that you don’t lose focus or interest during the lesson, so you’ll be able to remember and understand concepts better.

*2020/2021 update: If you class is held in a virtual setting, it’s even more important to make a conscious effort to participate. It’s easier in online classes to tune out or become distracted. Plus, your teacher is more limited in the variety of interactive or hands-on activities he or she can assign. Try to set a small goal for yourself: commit to asking or answering at least one question per class. Then build up throughout the weeks. You’ll be amazed what a difference it makes in how much you get out of the class!

5. Studying Inefficiently

The key to scoring well on difficult assessments is knowing how to think critically and problem-solve, rather than just memorizing and regurgitating information. 

When studying for a difficult test, begin by reading over your notes to make sure you’re familiar with the material covered in class. Next, make a study guide of the key concepts and re-explain them to yourself or someone else to ensure that you fully understand them. Finally and most importantly, make sure you spend enough time solving practice problems. 

Find a relevant set of questions from your textbook or the internet and try to complete them within a time limit. Simulating exam conditions will help you become more comfortable with general test-taking environments, a skill that will carry over into high school, college, and beyond.

6. Cramming for Exams

Right before the day of an important test or presentation, don’t burn the midnight oil to cram! A few extra hours of sleep is more beneficial than a stressful late-night study session (which may in turn, even cause you to not sleep well). 

Always try to begin studying a few days before the exam, perhaps in smaller time intervals. Once you have a solid understanding of the material, doing a general review on the night before will surely help. But try not to procrastinate and save everything for the last minute! For more tips on breaking bad study habits, check out this blog on the worst studying habits.

Girl studying at library

7. Having a Negative Mindset

Attitude is everything when it comes to academics. Those who claim to hate school and complain about how classes are useless typically happen to score the lowest. The best students, on the other hand, are the ones who are inquisitive and genuinely excited to learn something new each day. 

After all, life is all about the pursuit of knowledge. We live in a day and age with more educational opportunities than ever before in history, so try to be appreciative and embrace the journey!

Why Positive Habits Matter

By steering clear of these 7 common mistakes, you should see a significant improvement in your academic performance. Wherever you may be in your academics, it’s never too late to establish positive study habits!

Lifelong learning is essential in the fast-paced world we now live in. Developing ways to efficiently retain knowledge will not only help you achieve success in school, but also guide you in your future career. 

Quiz: What Type of Successful Student Are You?

Your turn! Whether you’re currently in high school or are looking forward to it, it’s always smart to plan ahead. Think about your priorities during these four key years of your life. What do YOU want to focus on?

☐ I want to ace my Honors courses. I’m interested in getting on the advanced track for high school, plus building an early foundation for college admissions tests, like the SAT.

Recommendation: Explore our High School Honors courses to ace your current subject and beyond.

☐ I want to master core areas, like Reading, Writing and Math. I’m interested in practicing skills that will help me surpass my peers in school.

Recommendation: Explore our academic enrichment courses and MEK Learning Circles.

☐ I want to get into my dream college. I’m interested in achieving top scores on my admissions exam, writing an amazing essay, and standing out from a super-competitive crowd.

Recommendation: Explore our prep courses, available for SAT and AP Exams.


Alex W.

Alex W. is an alumni of MEK Review's BCA Prep and SAT Prep programs. He also graduated from the prestigious Bergen County Academies in the Academy for the Advancement of Science and Technology (AAST). Currently, he is pursing a STEM degree at the University of Michigan - Ann Arbor.


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