Toby Walker, Vice President of BASIS Independent Schools, shares insights on steps teenagers can take to prepare them to excel in high school. Mr. Walker served as Head of School for BASIS Independent Silicon Valley for more than five years before moving into the role of VP of the network. He was also an AP History Subject Expert Teacher at a BASIS Curriculum School.
High school brings many new experiences and changes for teens that can present themselves as scary if they lack proper preparation. Succeeding in high school is important for setting students on the right path for college and beyond. Here are some simple steps that teens can follow to get them ready for their high school years.
1. Read Often and Widely
Developing discipline around reading comes from simply reading a lot. It doesn’t rely on so much what you read or sticking to a particular reading list. I recommend reading about subjects you are really interested in whether that is video games, travel, science fiction, or mystery. Reading widely about a variety of topics in both fiction and non-fiction will build that discipline while discovering your interest.
Developing the discipline to spend time with a book is an important skill for high school because students will be assigned a great deal of reading throughout those academic years. The amount of reading is often a shock for students when they are in an English or history class, and they find out that they have to read a given number of pages per day. It requires planning and discipline. That’s why developing a reading habit now is crucial.
One clever idea that is easy to set up is a book club with friends. The club will allow you to be critical of a text and have a forum for sharing your thoughts with others. It is such great practice for seminar classes in college.
2. Develop Strong Study Habits
Schoolwork becomes difficult if you leave it to the last minute. Especially once you get to high school, make it a habit to start actively planning and devoting time to homework. Cramming before an examination is not particularly healthy. It is a sign perhaps that you did not allocate time appropriately beforehand. Learning to think ahead at all times is important and will help develop those strong study habits. Also, make sure that you have a good understanding of teacher expectations. Talk to your teachers. Ask them questions and discuss your ideas.
3. Be Resourceful
Learn how to get the most out of your school. Learn who your administrators are. Learn who your teachers are. Learn who runs which clubs, societies, and extracurriculars. Those people are there to help you. Find out where the college counseling office is and find out about the services that are available to you as a student.
4. Be Friendly
Schools really are friendly places and the people who work at schools have chosen to work there because they want to interact with school-aged students. Don’t be afraid to talk to the adults in the building as well as to your peers and fellow students. Don’t be afraid to ask questions when you are lost or don’t understand something. If you don’t know the answer to something, it is very likely that you are not alone!
5. Be Creative
All schools can feel like there is an established and set way to do things. Things are organized in a certain way because that’s just how they have always been done. In my experience, that is completely not the case. Schools are dynamic. They move with the times. Good schools are schools that embrace change. As a student, if you see or notice something that could improve the school experience for you or others, then suggest it. It is a great way for you as a student to develop skills around project management and presentation skills. For instance, if you think your school could really use a new club or extracurricular option, then think about how to approach the administration and get involved in that.
6. Be Inclusive
When you get to high school, you may already know a lot of people. You may have already gone to school functions or you may have come from a school with students you already know in your classes. Always be on the lookout for people who seem lost. People who need a friendly face; people for whom it may not be an easy adjustment. The Golden Rule applies at all times but especially when you are going into a new environment of high school. Treat others the way that you would want to be treated.
7. Follow Your Interests
Look for ways to challenge yourself to demonstrate that interest. Give yourself the opportunity to show what you know and show your passion and interests in a subject. If your school offers AP classes, honors classes, or advanced classes in any way, then talk to the teachers about how you can be involved in them. If there is a subject that interests you, then that is the subject that you will get the most out of in school.
8. Prioritize Self-care
Know the things that are within your control. Getting enough exercise, eating decent food, and making sure you sleep enough each night. You can control when you go to bed. Getting to bed at a good time should be a priority so you wake up feeling fresh the next morning.
9. Be Aware of Mental Health
Know the people that you can trust and talk to when things are not going well. Talk to a parent or caregiver or sibling. Make sure if there is something on your mind, then you share it. A problem shared is a problem halved. Also, know the resources available at your school for student well-being; they are often underutilized. Make note of who to go to when you or your friends have a problem. Students are often the first to realize that a peer is struggling, so it is important to know who to direct them to at the school for support.
10. Connect with Peers
Take advantage of the opportunity to interact with other students in your high school. Attend social events and be open to new opportunities. Go and see the drama, arts, and music productions. School is about so many things, but perhaps the most important thing is the relationships you start to build.
For the students who are just now looking ahead to high school, I also want to recommend you find time to be on campus before school starts. It will help with emotional readiness. At BASIS Independent Schools we make it a point to offer shadow days or opportunities for prospective students to visit our campuses. Also, summer programs are a great way to familiarize yourself with a school. We have robust summer programs both on campus and online, and our newest students often use those classes to ease the transition and set a strong foundation for their high school careers.
High school is an exciting place full of opportunities for every student. Above all, it is important to remember to have fun and not let worry or stress take over your high school experience.
BASIS Independent Schools has campuses across the United States including in Bellevue, Washington; Fremont and San Jose, California; Brooklyn and Manhattan, New York; and McLean, Virginia.