Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today


Five Back-to-School Tips for Teens

Helping teens prepare for a successful school year.

Where has the summer gone? It seems like just yesterday that the final school bell rang and students eagerly raced for the door to begin their much awaited break. Fast forward a couple of months and it's time to begin another school year? Just walk through any major retail store and advertisements, school clothes and other back-to-school essentials line the shelves reminding us that 2013-14 is awaiting its debut. Sure - the newness a school year brings is fun, but other than material items, what things does a teen need to have a successful term? To answer that question I turned to some "experts" - a middle school student, a high school student, a parent, and an educator. I asked all of them the same simple question: "What advice would you give to a teen about how to have a successful school year?"

Top 5 tips on how to have a successful school year from the experts:

Middle School Student (8th grade male)

1. "Try your best. Not everyone can get all A's, so it's important to give it your all. As long as it's your best, then you're giving it all you’ve got."

2. "Don't sleep in class… you may miss something really important, plus you wouldn't be trying your best if you did."

3. "Don't tick off the teacher. That's not a good way to start the school year."

4. "Get to class on time. Be ready and prepared and don't skip class or you'll violate tip #3."

5. "Be nice to people. Treat them like you want to be treated (and yeah, that includes teachers).”

High School Student (11th grade female)

1. "Don't just start with a positive attitude, keep that attitude throughout the year;it's helpful to your friends and teachers. Also, you'll be more efficient and the year will seem to fly by. Positivity will also help with getting all your work done."

2."Stay organized. School can be frustrating when you're getting a lot of work and papers,so the easiest way not to get stressed is by keeping everything organized. Make sure to have a separate binder for each class; it will make life bearable in high school."

3. "If you're absent for a few days, make sure to get the work you missed. Your teacher is the best one to get you caught up and to explain things to you, because he or she is the expert in the class – not your friends. "

4. "Stay away from the drama. The only bad thing about school is the drama because so many people get sucked into it and it ends up making people feel awful. Drama can take your focus away from your work. If you don't completely focus on the lesson or your homework or even class work you won't understand what is going on. You'll be too focused on what is going on around you. So stay away from drama."

5."If you are dating someone you may be completely focused on that person… which isn't a bad thing, but it isn't a good thing either. If you spend 24/7 with that person you'll probably get bored of him or her and not know what to talk about anymore. Which can get pretty awkward in the hallways. Also, if you don't spend any time with them then they will start to think that they aren't important or that you don't even like them. So maybe dating during school isn't the best thing for you academically but if it isn't affecting you by taking all your attention away from school then everything should be fine. Also, a lot of drama can come along with dating so you'd just have to be aware of that. I suggest not dating or dating but not giving it all your undivided attention, just some attention. Also, this can have an effect on your social life at school and you'll just ditch your friends which isn't what you want during school because they may ditch you when you need them. It is a very complicated life at school. Just make the best out of it."

Parent of a Teen

Parent of a Teen

1. “The first tip I would give is to believe in yourself and to try to always do the right thing. Sometimes people will do what is cool as opposed to what is safe or nice.”

2. “Keep your focus on your school work. Pay attention in class and complete your homework.”

3. “Don't procrastinate when it comes to studying and homework.”

4. “Be selective with the friends you choose. Don't befriend someone who is not a good influence on you. Don't judge a person, but if someone makes you feel uncomfortable, or if their definition of right and wrong is different from yours, gently stop spending time with him or her. Surround yourself with people you can grow with in a positive direction.”

5. “Create joy in your life by not beating yourself up. If you’re not doing well with something ask for help. No one is perfect at everything, but everything is perfect about you.”

HS Teacher (nine years in education)

1.“Find out the resources that are available to you. If this statement completely alludes you, here are a few questions that may serve as a guide and/or starting point:”

  • Do your teachers post assignments on their websites?
  • Does your school have a homework hotline?
  • Does your school offer tutoring for specific exams, such as the HSAP, SAT, ACT, etc.?
  • When does each teacher offer tutoring? (teachers are usually required to offer at least an hour or two of additional hours either before or after school)
  • Does your library have a wide selection of study materials? (many have a section that offers SAT, ACT, and HSAP prep books for you to check out)

2. Come up with a plan/schedule to help you manage your time after school. Prioritize academics, athletics, family time, social time, church/synagogue/mass, etc., and devote a specific amount of time to any of the aforementioned that are important to you.

3. Set personal goals for each of your classes and share them with your teachers. They will appreciate your forethought and respect you for taking responsibility for your own education.

4. Join a club or after school activity! This is a time in your life to figure out what kinds of things interest you… so get involved and see what sparks, or ignites a passion in you!

5. Always be HONEST with your teachers (and everyone else for that matter!). If you had a rough night at home and forgot to do your homework, don’t lie about it. Teachers will respect you so much more for being truthful! Remember… you will need recommendation letters from your teachers for college, employment, etc. and nobody will recommend someone who is not truthful.

Wishing you and your teen a successful 2013-2014 school year!

More from Raychelle Cassada Lohmann Ph.D.
More from Psychology Today
More from Raychelle Cassada Lohmann Ph.D.
More from Psychology Today