FOR as long as I can remember, the month of June was never my favorite. June means it’s time to say goodbye to sweet summer, and say hello to school.

School is definitely not a bad thing. It’s actually quite great – it’s where you meet friends, you learn new things, you find out what you’re good at, and if you’re quite lucky, you come across that one great teacher that changes your perspective on everything.

Having gone through kindergarten, elementary, high school, college, and now, in law school, I’ve come across some tips to make school a little bit easier for everyone.

1. The first day is crucial. When I was in high school (and even in college), I’ve always begged my mom to let me skip out on the first few days because they were just “orientation day.” However, I’ve learned that orientation is quite important because, obviously, it keeps you from getting disoriented or lost in class. On the first day, teachers will introduce themselves, talk about class rules, discuss the grading system, and ask the class about what they expect for the school year.

In college, orientation would be really important because the professors would talk about the number of cuts you are allowed for the semester, a must-know for all college students. Try to know what your teacher is like and what he or she expects from a student in order to get that coveted ‘A’.

2. First impressions last. We think of this when we try to make new friends at the start of the school year. However, this does not only apply to your classmates, this also applies to your professors.

Every year, teachers tend to scope out the studious kids from the not-so-studious kids. Even though we sometimes feel that some teachers have personal vendettas against us, it’s usually just because they feel that we are capable of so much more and it’s their job to make sure that we learn from their classes.

That is why teachers love students who recite. They feel that the class pays attention and that students take in what they’re giving out. Although it’s not always a guarantee, if you start out the school year doing well and reciting often in class, even if you slip up a little mid-semester, the teacher will give you a generous grade if she remembers you as a good student.

3. New year, new lessons. The start of the school year also means a clean slate. Forget that red mark you got third quarter last school year or that one line of 7 in your otherwise pristine report card.

Even though lessons pick up from where the last grade left off, teachers will always take time to review what was taught last year. Take this opportunity to either master old lessons or to keep ahead of the class and advance study. It’s a fresh start.

Know your study habits. I’ve learned early on that I don’t work well in study groups. If I know the lesson, I end up being a tutor to my study-mates, and if I don’t know the lesson, I end up leeching from the sucker who does. However, study groups can also be beneficial for others. It motivates you to study at a set time and date. You have other people to discuss and throw ideas around with. You can divide work load and get it done faster. Study groups can be helpful or just a distraction.

Part of a study plan is also knowing what studying style works best for you. Are you the type who remembers lessons best if you take notes and review them at home? Are you the type who learns faster if you read the text books? Do you need weeks ahead to study for an exam? Or will it take you just a few days to be prepared? It’s all a matter of knowing what works for you.

4. Be active in extracurricular activities. I remember in high school, I was part of the volleyball team, was class president, joined essay contests, joined organizations outside of school, studied Chinese and French, joined and organized leadership training seminars, wrote and posted original stories online to quite a number of followers, etc. And while they all took quite a big chunk of my time, I sincerely enjoyed having something other than studies to concentrate on.

It brought a little bit of color to the black and white of my notebooks. But more important than that, it looked good on my college application. Take note: the big universities here have thousands of applicants from all across the country – it’s a full spectrum of ‘bad’ students to average ones to the kids who seem to get nothing but a perfect score.

But quite often, they are willing to take in students who did well in the entrance exams and have the extra-curricular activities to boot over a student who passed the exam but has high grades. It just shows that active students have potential to branch out into other fields aside from academic.

5. Eat breakfast. This applies for anything. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day because not only does it give you the energy you need to start your day, it helps you set your body clock to waking up early enough to have your meal and get to school in time. And by the time you get to school, you will be alert and ready for the day. In college, I made the mistake of skipping out on breakfast to have those extra minutes of sleep. It didn’t work out because by the time it was second or third period, I’d be starving and anticipating break time.

6. Not all things are learned from textbooks. I know a lot of people who take the lessons a little bit too seriously and fail to see the bigger picture. I remember a professor in college who, while in a fit of anger, suddenly told the class that what we were learning isn’t really important in the “real world.” After we graduate, we won’t remember algorithms and proper punctuation and who killed who in what battle. It’s the habits and way of thinking that we develop in school that is most important. It’s the real takeaway from the years in the institution.

7. Don’t stick to just the bare minimum (a.k.a. the school curriculum). Try reading and developing a love for books – the good books, not just magazines and fiction novels with no character development or plot. Don’t be afraid to question what you know, try reading arguments from different perspectives.

8. Read the newspaper – headlines, editorials, opinions, not just the Sunday comic – and get in touch with what is happening right now. Do everything and anything that will allow you to have an intellectual conversation and not just the usual run-of-the-mill gossip.

9. Keep clean. My mom always told me a cluttered desk is a cluttered mind. True enough, I’ve wasted a good amount of time searching for a pen or my book or homework. Keeping a clean desk makes studying more efficient and keeps you away from the panic you get when you can’t find your notes from earlier class.

Keeping clean also means you schedule your activities ahead of time, plan out your week, and avoid having to cram to a quiz or a project. Do not fall into the cram culture of thinking that you can get away with it. You can’t. Eventually, cramming and procrastinating will catch up with you and will cost you your grades.

It’s a new school year and nothing has been set in your class records. Organize your mind, body and equipment and position them into getting those good grades that will make your parents happy. (Leska Ang)