Starting the School Year off Right

All grades

It’s normal to be full of anxiety at the beginning of the school year. Students, teachers, and parents feel the stress of new expectations, new material, and new people. Here are a few tips to help stay organized and manage some of the new-school-year stress:

1)    Color Coding. Assign colors to school subjects and keep everything for that subject in a color-coded folder, notebook, and/or binder. At the end of every school day, go through each folder to check for homework and notes to review. Keeping subjects separate helps avoid clutter and missed assignments.

2)    Write Things Down! If you never wrote down your homework last year and want to be better this year, now is the time to start! There is usually less homework at the beginning of the year so even writing “No Homework!” in an agenda or wherever you keep track of your to-do lists will get you on the right track. Also, make sure you write things down as often as you can, not typing them into a computer or phone. Hand writing helps you remember so it’s like doing twice the work in one pencil stroke.  

3)    Gather your Resources. If you anticipate struggling in a subject, ask your teacher for some resources at the beginning of the year. You can supplement work in class with videos, games, reading, workbooks, and other activities to help you catch up, or place into a higher level class. Here are some places to start:

  • Your public library has an endless wealth of knowledge. In most cities, you can go online to reserve any book (or DVD or other media) in their catalogue and pick it up at your local branch. (All age groups.)

  • Khan Academy offers free, in-depth videos, taught by experts, on a variety of subjects. It’s an especially good resource to focus on tough math concepts. (Most age groups)

  • German animation studio Kurzgesagt has a YouTube channel full of colorful animated videos that provide simplified overviews of topics in science, politics, philosophy, psychology, and technology. (Best for middle and high school students.)

  • Sites like SparkNotes and CliffsNotes can be helpful SUPPLEMENTAL material for readers struggling with understanding or wanting a deeper look at a particular book. These resources should be used to guide reading, not to replace it. (Best for 8th grade and above.)

  • has a variety of free and paid resources for test prep, homework help, and subject area review. (All age groups.)

4)   Try Something New! It can be stressful to take on new things, but if you look at a new school year as an opportunity for growth, it can be less daunting. I suggest trying a new extracurricular or elective, or even just taking up a new hobby, as a way to get to know people (who can make great study partners!) and to build new skills. I especially encourage this if you are starting at an entirely new school. The beginning of the year is when everyone else is trying new things, too, so you won’t be alone!