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3 Habits to Lock in Before the School Year Gets Stressful

Summer: that beautiful time of year where students get to relax, destress, and unwind a bit. Fewer early wake ups, less studying, and lots of time to spend enjoying life with friends… But all good things must come to an end, and now, just like that, school is back in session.

The transition isn’t always easy, especially if you finished off last year feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or disorganised.

Now, coming back from summer vacation, is the perfect time to build the healthy study habits you've always wished you had. Before assignments pile up and challenging content gets in the way, try these three tips to make everything that's still to come a whole lot more manageable:

1. Get on a consistent and sufficient sleep schedule

During the summer months, the temptation to hit the "snooze" button is much stronger for students: you can probably get away with staying up late and waking up at lunchtime, at least some of the time. But then the academic year starts, and suddenly you have to be up at 6am or 7am, five days a week.

The self-imposed jet lag from summer needs to be corrected, otherwise you risk falling behind early on. If you're not getting enough sleep, you won't have the mental capacity or energy to absorb new information and learn the material. Ideally you won't even let this happen, but it's especially important to prioritise early in the semester before the stress and pressure of exams and essays really heat up!

Make a written weekly schedule to keep you accountable to those all-important 8 hours of rest. Achieving this might mean you need to sit down with a mentor to plan out how homework, extracurriculars, meals, family time, and sleep all fit into your week. Just having that extra pair of eyes and motivating presence can be a huge accountability booster - which is never a bad thing!

2. Keep an up-to-date calendar... and actually use it!

Whether you're totally digital or consider yourself more successful with pen and paper, it's important to have an organization system that works for you.

Again, sitting down with a mentor early in the semester to plan ahead for the next several months can be extremely useful here. Discuss which subjects you expect to challenge you the most, any large projects or assignment you already know about, and any time periods you expect to be stressful (such a school trips, planned college tours, etc.).

Putting all of this information down in one place is step one. It's also important that you keep this calendar with you, referencing and updating it daily. If a big event comes up for sometime next week when you had planned to be working on an essay, carve out five minutes now - as soon as you find out about it - to sit down with your calendar and shuffle responsibilities around. If a teacher tries to schedule a review session for this Thursday, take out your calendar and see if you're free so you don't double-book yourself.

For more tips on how to manage a digital planner, click here.

Not only will these habits keep you less stressed throughout the semester, but your teachers, coaches, parents and mentors will also appreciate your new level of independence and responsibility!

3. Don't be afraid to ask teachers for help with staying organized

An unfortunate trend our mentors sometimes notice is that students often believe teachers are purposefully keeping information from them!

This could not be further from the truth. Remember, teachers are human beings with deadlines and competing priorities just like the rest of us, so usually any lack of communication on their part is just a bit of oversight rather than intentional.

Students who are building better organizational habits will benefit from finding 10 minutes to chat with their teacher outside of class about their expectations for assignments. Some useful questions to ask might include:

  • How many essays can we expect to write this semester?
  • Are you able to share assignment due dates, or at least which weeks I should expect to have an essay for this class?
  • Will there be more than one draft expected?
  • Is there anything I can do now to make sure I'm not overwhelmed when you do assign a big essay towards the end of the semester?

You may not able to get a clear answer on all of these points, but it never hurts to ask and get as much information as you possibly can! Open and clear communication is critical, and it's never too early for students to learn how to be the owner of this task.

And finally, the follow through

Many students will still need some assistance to implement these tips, and that's okay! Getting organised is (and should be) a continuous process - and we're here to help.

Reach out to Client Services ( today if you're interested in having an ESM mentor walk you through these habits in more detail or ensure your student follows through with them.