Tips for Top Students

Young man taking notes at computer

If you’ve coasted through school so far, it’s time to learn how to take good notes.
Image: Shutterstock

If there is one piece of advice that high-achieving high school students need to hear, it is to learn to study.

No, seriously.

In grade school, middle school, and high school, for a certain type of student it can be very easy to coast. You have a good memory, you test well, you’re able to stay on top of things even with high school’s crazy amount of required busy work. You take notes in class, but rarely need to look at them. And that’s the weak spot, right there.

In college, it’s easy to get in over your head quickly if you go on in the same manner. You spend less time in class, overall, but the work is harder and escalates quickly. So it’s vital, back in high school, to cultivate good study habits.

Keep taking notes, but pay more attention to how you do so. Experiment until you find a format and an organization that works well for you regardless of which class you’re in. Get in the habit of taking notes in every class discussion, whether it’s for a test or not.

Make those notes comprehensive. Every topic your teacher touches upon goes into your notes, every assignment they mention and everything they say about it. If they mention a supplemental source, you write it down. If they repeat something they’d said previously, go back and highlight your notes on the first time they covered it; it’s probably important.

Studying starts with your notes. At home, in your study space and ready to work, start by copying your classroom notes, focusing this time on the subject you’re studying for. Copy them out onto clean paper or a new file. This reinforces your memory of the details. Follow up those supplemental sources. If the teacher mentioned anything you didn’t understand, do a bit of research yourself, noting your source, and take notes on what you find.

With high school’s focus on test scores, they are notoriously poor at teaching studying itself. It’s not difficult, but it takes initiative.

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