In high school, a year can feel like an eternity. By the time May and June roll around, you may feel like an entirely different person from that kid who started the school year back in September, and your classes from the fall may seem like a vague memory. Unfortunately, finals don’t make allowances for this kind of nostalgic haze—come May and June, you are going to have to dig back into that vault, and remember it all. Here’s some advice on how to organize a year’s worth of work, and get prepared for your finals.
Assemble Your Materials
Begin by assembling all your notes, homework assignments, handouts, PowerPoint slideshows, papers, quizzes, tests, note cards, etc., and organizing them into an orderly system.
How you do that depends on how you learn best, and what makes the most sense to you—you may want to put them in chronological order, or you may want to group them by type (i.e., go over all the homework assignments, then the quizzes, then the tests).
What scores do you want to get on these finals?
It’s less helpful to think “I want A-pluses on all of them, of course!” and more helpful to think about exactly what scores you need to end up with the end-of-year grades you want. You know how your teachers tend to test you, and score you—you’ve had a year’s worth of experience with that—so you probably have a pretty good idea of what that final is going to look like, and how difficult it will be for you. Depending on how your school and your teachers run the grading system, it may be possible for you to figure out exactly how many points you need to score on the final to end up with your target grade.
What do you need to do to achieve those grades?
Make a checklist for yourself, for each class, with all of the things you’ll need to do in order to be as prepared as you possibly can on test day. Going over a year’s worth of work is a big job, to be sure, but it seems a LOT more manageable when you break it down into smaller, do-able tasks, and check them off as you go. Here are some ideas for that checklist:
Go back to your outlines
- At CATES, we strongly suggest that students keep working outlines going throughout the year for class notes and class readings. Doing so certainly makes it easier to stay on top of the material, and be ready for quizzes and tests as they come at you through the year, but it also pays off big time come midterms and finals. If you have been doing this, congratulations, you’ve made your job that much easier as finals approach. If you haven’t done this, definitely consider doing it for next year—it’s a huge help, and a good habit to get into.
- Review your past tests
- Review the review sheet (if your teacher gave you one)
- Create a study group
- Attend teacher review sessions (If your teacher offers these, GO. They are a gift to you. Do not miss them.)
- See your teacher during office hours
Create a Schedule
When will you complete these tasks? What is your goal for each class in each day of the two or three weeks leading up to finals?
Get it Done!
Just do it. You won’t stick to the schedule you originally laid out for yourself—nobody’s perfect—but stay on top of your evolving schedule, and update your schedule and checklist regularly. If it helps, have someone to hold you accountable—that could be a parent, a tutor, a friend, or a study group.
It’s springtime, the birds are singing, the sun is shining, you got into college, and your days as a high school senior are rapidly coming to a close. It IS time to celebrate, yes—you made it!—but it’s important to remember that high school isn’t over yet, and there are colleges that are keeping up with what you’re doing, and some that might want to see your end-of-year grades. While it’s true that the finish line is in sight, you’re not quite there yet, so here’s some motivation to stay on top of your academics:
cap and gown
- Prepare Yourself for Next Year
- You are going to college—it’s really happening. It’s going to be amazing, but there will also be more distractions than you could possibly imagine, and if you think staying on top of classwork is hard now…well, just wait. Use this time at the end of your high school career to build up your focus and fortitude, and succeed academically despite the distractions of senioritis (and the possibility that most of your friends have already checked out). If you go into next fall with this experience and skill under your belt, you’ll have a great foundation for keeping a good balance between work and play at college.
- “We ain’t going out like that…” You’ve worked really hard to get to this point. Why stop now? Later on in life, you’ll be happy to saw things through to the finish line. When you join the working world, you may not have the liberty of “coasting” at the end of projects or deadlines, so it’s better not to get into the habit now. Plus, you’re better than that!
- How do you want people to remember you? Your teachers have impressions of you, hopefully good ones, which you’ve earned over the past four years. What do you want them to think and say about you after you leave? We had one student who scored amazingly well on her standardized tests, got great recommendations, and got into a ton of schools…and then became a disruptive force in class. Her teachers were extremely disappointed in her behavior and her tenure at her school ended on a down note. You owe it to yourself to leave on a high note, so hang in there—graduation is just around the corner!