Skip links

Excelling Academically in the New School Year

I love the ‘back to school’ season because I love the new opportunity presented at the start of each academic year to make the current one better than the last, the best one yet. However, I might not be alone in experiencing that these feelings may fade after your first essay crisis or even 4 weeks into the academic year.

So how can you prepare and maintain success throughout the academic year? Well I have put together tips and advice drawing on my own thoughts and some lessons that I learnt from Angela Duckworth’s book ‘Grit’- The Secret to Success.  

The first key thing to remember is that success is relative and must be defined for each individual, so ask yourself the following question:

“What would success look like for me in this current academic year?”

Is it attending all your compulsory lectures and classes? Is it finding a better balance between work and play? Is it achieving a certain set of grades? 

Whatever it is, remember that we all enter the academic year with different priorities but we must ensure that our priorities and goals are clearly defined so that we can actually track our progress and better plan for our futures. 

Now, how do we absolutely boss the entire year?

Get rid of the idea of ‘natural genius’. Throughout secondary school, I convinced myself into a narrative that everyone who did well at my school was just ‘naturally good’ at their subjects. Of course, everyone has different strengths and weaknesses, but the purpose of school is to learn. I had to give myself permission to work on the subjects I wasn’t ‘naturally good’ at and slowly but surely, I found myself doing a lot better. Freddy Nietzsche says that our promotion of the “cult of the genius” makes us believe that genius is “something magical” thus “we are not obliged to compare ourselves and find ourselves lacking.” I wouldn’t exactly use the word ‘lacking’ but the principle holds true. For as long as I told myself that my peers were just naturally good at their subjects, the longer I had an excuse not to make an effort to improve in those areas

Set some goals and systems. Once you’ve defined what ‘success’ looks like for you in the next academic year, break this vision down into smaller goals. For example, to improve by one grade in Biology. The system to achieve this might be to spend an extra 30 minutes on biology every Friday. Two days might be spent making short flashcards, the next two days reviewing them and another day, doing an exam question on that topic. I like to think of goals as the end point and systems as the vehicle which allows us to progress towards the goal

Progress over perfection. Each academic year is filled with highlights and some very lowlights. However, it’s important to adapt our mindset from being 100% perfect the entire year to committing to continuous growth. Give yourself grace from the start of the year by admitting that you may not be at peak performance every day. However, always remind yourself of things that you are grateful for and remember why you committed to that specific goal. 

Actionable Next Steps:

  1. Define what ‘success’ looks like for you this academic year
  2. Write down your goals- academic, relationship-wise, wellbeing-related and so on
  3. Start planning and developing your systems that you will put in place to help achieve your goals
  4. Develop a way for you to track your progress e.g. a habit tracker or a jar full of little notes of exciting opportunities or developments that you are grateful for. It might help to look back on that jar and see each time your biology mark has gone up! 

Written by KB
KB is an undergraduate studying Law (first year). She loves to read, write, enjoys tasting deserts and she likes to help young people like herself to dream (cheesy right!) and exceed external limitations. She’ll be writing on all things navigating university, academic and personal growth/development and of course, reviewing the best books in town!

Leave a comment