Get Smart Student Boot Camp #2:

3 Success Hacks that Will Change Your School Day

You went shopping…backpack, pens, ridiculous amounts of stuff for classes you haven’t even started yet. I’m hoping you also got some really comfortable shoes and the perfect jeans or sweatshirt that will start your school year of right.  You’re looking ahead, but there is still this nagging gloom, worry and maybe even anxiety about starting a new school year.  You might have struggled last year with friends or homework or with attendance because getting up and going to school felt too hard to deal with.


I can’t promise that this blog will help finding the perfect shoes or even heal your depression or anxiety, BUT I can promise that these are three “hacks” I’ve learned over the years that make the difference for students who haven’t really learned the tricks and secrets to school success yet.  And even if you’ve always loved school, you might like these suggestions because you’re starting middle school, high school or college and you want an advantage as you take a deep breath and start in a new place!


Success Hack #1:  Sit up front

Wait!  Don’t throw your laptop or iPad across the room!  I PROMISE I’m not trying to make you miserable! I’m actually trying to help you in two ways.

First – sitting up front the first day of school is a guarantee impression maker.  If you struggle in math or science, I’m serious, sit up front Sit at the side so you don’t feel completely freaked out.  But sit up front.  (NOTE: Some teachers assign seats the first day to deal with learning names.  Go with it.  The other hacks will work for you).


How does this work? Sitting up front is a way to tell your teacher that you are serious about being successful, you aren’t hiding out or avoiding answering their questions, and you want to learn.  It’s honestly a little weird at first, but it works! Teachers notice who slinks to the back. It says something.  Teachers also notice who comes to the front and begin the year off with a connection and commitment to learning.


Next – sitting up front creates a confidence in your brain.  Your body is telling your brain a new message about school, or about this particular subject.  There’s also the details about leaning forward and facing the teacher, but I’ll let you google that stuff.

But won’t that make me the target of teacher questions and student teasing?  Here’s the secret sauce to this seating hack…teachers actually pay more attention to the people in the back and on the sides than they do to the people in the front.  It’s like their brains are telling them that the front row has “got it covered”, and they are more concerned about kids who run to the back on the first day of school. When questions are being asked, they will usually focus their attention over the heads of the front row and towards the back. I SWEAR IT’S TRUE!

And as far as your friends and other students are concerned, they are so tired or freaked out about new classes, they won’t even notice you.  The weird thing about the teen brain is that everyone is convinced that everyone is staring at them, when in fact, everyone is too busy worrying about being stared at.  (I know…it’s swirly and a bit unclear…trust me.  People are too busy worrying about themselves to notice where you’re sitting. And if they say something?  Invite them…DARE them to try out the front row trick with you!).


Success Hack #2: Don’t skip eating!

If you just rolled your eyes…I don’t blame you!  Breakfast at 6:00 am can be brutal on the stomach, but so can not eating all day long. Your brain actually REQUIRES calories! Thinking and reading and working BURNS CALORIES!!  And if you haven’t eaten something before or during classes, you’re asking your brain and your body to find hidden calories inside your guts.  Gross!


But you can’t just eat anything!  Stuff that’s loaded with sugar (including juice!) and carbs won’t carry you through the morning, let alone the whole day.  You have to be strategic with the kinds of foods you eat.  I get it.  Eating lunch isn’t cool.  It’s embarrassing or too crowded to eat at lunch or brunch.  So you’re going to have to put on your big student pants and figure out a way to listen to what your body needs and find two times during the day to EAT and DRINK!


  • Hate making lunch? Have stuff ready to go.  You can get pre-packaged snacks like protein bars (beware of high sugar bars…they’re like eating a Snickers, which is delicious, but not that helpful for the brain!) OR make 5 baggies of stuff to throw into your backpack through the week. Here’s a GREAT article that explains more about the nutrition thing AND gives a TON of ideas!


  • Drink water! Especially if you’re reading this in Colorado.  You need to be drinking so much water, that your pee (ew) is almost clear.  Yeah…that much.  A dry, shriveled brain will get you NOWHERE!


Success Hack #3: Set up a place that is YOUR place to study and do homework.

Your study place at home should be quiet, tech-free (maybe a laptop comes with you for homework and papers…but leave the Googling and gaming for AFTER homework).  You also need a clear space…Don’t try doing effective work and deep thinking in the middle of piles and old socks tossed on your desk. Need music?  Use ear buds and keep the volume low!

  • Talk to your folks about a quiet place to study. Your bedroom is an option, but it may not be the best place to work if you struggle with getting to sleep at night.  (SLEEP TIP:  bedrooms are for sleeping ONLY.  No gaming, no homework, no youtube in the bedroom.  Remember, this is for people who can’t sleep.  If you don’t struggle with sleep, do what’s best for you!). Explain to them that you are trying something new for academic success.  Find a place that siblings and dogs or cats won’t bug you.  College kids – your dorm room may not be the best place to study.  Dorms are loud and disruptive.  The library music room is the BEST place on the planet!


  • Commit to a specific time of day you are going to study. Be sure to give yourself a break before you study.  C’mon!  You’ve been in school 5 – 7 hours!  Your brain and your body need a break!  One important tip:  your brain processes important information best at night.  If you’re studying for a test, study the hard stuff before you go to bed.  Your brain will take it from there!


  • Find a place at school that you can go to during off-periods or snowy days. A classroom of your favorite teacher, a library space, somewhere that is comfortable and lets you stretch out while you finish a few touches for your homework.


I could talk about success hacks for the next three days and still have great ideas to help you! These are just a few high leverage behaviors that are pretty easy to complete before school starts.

The fact is that school is a challenge for everyone…even your teachers!  If you start the year with a few decisions, a few commitments to making some changes, I am confident that you’re going to have a little more success and a lot more support!


School anxiety, social anxiety and depression aren’t going to be “fixed” with these hacks.  These are real and painful emotional issues that a lot of students deal with in school.  If you are struggling (and suffering) with anxiety, depression, stress or relationship trauma, please talk to your parents about it.  They need to know what’s going on from your perspective. Don’t skip class or avoid doing homework to tell them you’re hurting.  Be up front…be honest and TELL THEM.  They can get you the help you need.  If you aren’t sure what’s going on and need some support, please call Laurie at enCOURAGE Counseling.  We can talk for a few minutes, and I can tell you what might be helpful to do next.  I’ve worked with 100s of kids in middle school, high school and college who thought they’d never get through graduation or even the week because of their anxiety or depression.  Call me today at 720-230-3076 and we can talk about what’s going on.  You’re not alone, and I’m happy to give you some ideas and some courage to do what you need to do next!

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