High Five: Ways to reignite your academic engagement


We’ve all been guilty of viewing school as a chore. Procrastination sneaks up, a yawn of boredom escapes, or busyness and final exams force a nervous breakdown on the horizon. But in reality, school is a privilege, and not just because of the pretty diploma. If you put in the effort, each class can broaden your mind and change your life. If you find yourself in a rut this schoolyear, here are some of my favorite ideas to start over and re-engage with your schoolwork.

Write it Out

At this moment, I am thinking about babysitting my brothers, writing this article, catching up on two high school literature classes and getting a writing portfolio together for a scholarship contest ending Dec. 6. Last night I conducted experiments with soil at 11 p.m. for my Eastfield dual-credit environmental science class.

Go grab a notebook or dry erase board. Don’t torture yourself by keeping all the busyness in your head. Write down every responsibility whirling in it, no matter how big or small. Try to tape or hang it where you will see it most often. This allows you to rest a little, knowing it’s all right there in front of you. Put your effort into the things you want to do, not into remembering what they are.

Rainbow Pages

It’s important to write notes, whether in class or from a textbook. The act of writing helps you remember important points, and the notes as a whole will become a valuable resource for studying for your next test. But even if you’re enthusiastic in writing notes, 20 pages of gray pencil marks may be an intimidating sight when you go back to review them.

A popular suggestion for studying is to invest in pens of all different colors. You can color code your notes (e.g., people in blue, dates in green, miscellaneous facts in red) or use colors at random just for fun. Rather than intimidating, the notes will be eye-catching with so much color on the page.

Study with Me

Many people see “Study with Me” videos and wonder what sorts of people watch hours-long videos of people studying. Well, I don’t. I play them in the background while I study. Many have instrumental music that blocks out other noise – including my noisy thoughts. Some have a timer to show me how far I’ve made it and how much time is left. Some include breaks to refresh my focus and allow me to grab a snack (such videos often read “Pomodoro technique” in the title or have a slash mark – 45/15 would mean it alternates with studying for 45 minutes and resting for 15).

Seeing a person, even on video, studying out of the corner of my eye makes me feel like I should match that effort. Unless you pause it, it won’t stop, so it pushes you to keep going. For a study video to be effective, you should commit to following it from the moment you push play. I enjoy it and highly recommend giving it a shot to see if it works for you.

Good channels to try are “Merve”, “love, nika”, “Maria Silva”, “cafe.studyy” and “Study Dream.”

The Power of Perspective

Going from passive to serious about studying may lead to falling for the extreme of “school is everything and my life is ruined if I don’t get this done.” This attitude is the perfect way to give yourself a mental breakdown at every missed goal. Sometimes you need to put things in perspective by focusing on what you’re grateful for, including your accomplishments.

At the end of every day, write what you accomplished that day and what you’re grateful for. I made a sheet on PowerPoint with a box for each day of the week. Maybe Monday’s accomplishment was “read half of chapter 1, did discussion board 2” and you’re grateful for “ice cream” because you had a really comforting bowl of it that afternoon. This can help you learn to appreciate yourself and life for what it is. Upon review of your written accomplishments, you’ll also notice how much work you are realistically capable of in a day and can schedule the future with that in mind.

Experiment with Yourself

Effective study strategies are largely subjective. Some are at highest productivity listening to a playlist of favorite songs while doing homework, but this only brings distraction and frustration to others. I like that with online textbooks I can have the computer read chapters aloud or copy and paste it into an app on spreeder.com to speed-read it. However, sometimes I prefer a paper textbook and print out online material to read away from my laptop.

The best study tip I have is to experiment. Try out these ideas and others you can easily find online or from teachers and past or current students (WARNING: don’t waste all your schooltime researching tips for school!) Some will work, some won’t.

Be kind to yourself. Stay focused. Take advantage of opportunities to grow through every assignment. I wholeheartedly believe in you.