Focusing on high school classes can be difficult if you don’t love every class, and you might find that it’s more interesting to talk with friends or keep up with your favorite television shows and social media accounts. Focusing at all right now, during a global pandemic, can also feel impossible.
However, it’s important to stay focused in high school so that you can learn what you need and graduate with the credentials you want to help you reach your future goals.
Whether you are learning in person this year, online, or some hybrid of both, here are 10 tips on how to stay focused in high school. And actually, these tips will also help you in college and beyond.
1. Identify your learning style.
One of the first steps toward knowing how you can stay focused in high school is to identify your unique learning style: auditory, visual, tactile/kinesthetic..
Are you a more auditory learner and prefer to hear a lesson out loud? Or are you a more visual learner who needs to see words on a page or screen to understand a concept? Alternatively, do you learn better when you can apply lessons to hands-on experiences?
To identify your learning style, you can take an online quiz, ask your parents and teachers, or just sit with yourself and think about how you usually like to learn.
If you notice that you have responded better to certain lessons in school, take note of how those lessons were taught. Making an inventory of successful learning moments will help you recognize your style of learning and also find ways to help augment your learning as a result.
Once you understand how you learn best, you can try to position yourself to learn this way. Even if your teacher doesn’t teach the way you like to learn, you can create ways to review material that activates this type of learning.
For example, if you have to watch a lecture and hear a teacher’s words, make sure you also read the textbook or write notes as a visual learner to see the lesson’s content as well.
You might also let your teachers know what you believe your learning style to be. They might not be able to accommodate you individually every time, but they will likely try to help however they can.
2. Actively participate in class discussions.
Another great way to stay focused in your high school classes is to actively participate! This might seem obvious, but when you take an active role in class discussions, you will take more ownership over the material you’re learning. You will also be more likely to remember information and want to pay attention in class.
Some high school students will be in physical classrooms this year, while others will be online. Either way, make sure you take as many opportunities as possible to actively participate.
This will likely help your grades, since participation is often part of those grades, but it will also help you stay engaged. As a result, you will enjoy your experience much more, and classes will speed by.
Even if you’re normally shy, try to challenge yourself to participate however you can. Try writing down ideas that you think of while your teachers or classmates are speaking, so you can read your notes if you’re nervous about speaking in public. Writing notes will also help you remember material and make your own personal connections to it.
3. Create a productive learning environment for yourself.
Whether you are at home, at a neighbor’s house, in a community center, or in a classroom environment to take high school classes this year, make sure to create a learning environment for yourself that will be productive.
Of course, you don’t always have a lot of control over your learning environment, but exert whatever control you can.
This might mean you sit near the front of the room in the classroom, make sure you aren’t sitting next to a friend who will distract you, or situate yourself in front of a window to make you feel more comfortable.
You can also keep inspiring quotes or photos around you to remind you to pay attention as you learn.
Make sure that, even if you’re at home, you have a chair that allows you to sit upright and is comfortable but not so comfortable that you want to nap. Do whatever you can to keep your learning area clean and organized.
All of these tactics will help you to be more productive and pay attention in high school, either in an in-person or online format.
4. Take notes.
As previously mentioned, taking notes will help you to remember material and also allow you to connect personally to the material.
However, don’t just take notes to take notes. Find a way to take notes that makes sense to you so that you can read them later and understand what you’ve written.
Make diagrams, write in bullet points, or use color-coded pens. You can even draw pictures if that helps you understand and remember content.
However you take notes, you should find a way that works best for you and will allow you to use your notes to review material for tests at a later date.
5. Preview and review material.
Previewing material before class and reviewing material after class will also help your focus in high school. If you know what your lesson is going to be about, consider looking over any classroom material prior to your class or even doing some of your own research online. This will prime your brain to learn and understand the material and might even give you some talking points for class discussions.
Another strategy is to review material you’ve learned right after class is over. This tactic will help you solidify that information in your mind and allow you to process what you’ve learned. This doesn’t have to take long, just five minutes or so after a class, but you’ll be surprised how effective it can be.
6. Keep a calendar for assignments and deadlines.
While you’re in high school, it’s easy to rely on parents or teachers to help you remember important deadlines. But you will focus much better if you keep track of all of that information on your own.
Keep a calendar, whether on an electronic device or in a physical planner, to help you remember when assignments are due. This will train you for your future as a college student and/or employee and will help you take control of your own destiny while in high school.
If you use your phone to keep track of deadlines, you can even set reminders to study or review material. These reminders will help keep you on the right track while you’re wading through your high school lessons.
7. Eliminate distractions.
In a digital society, eliminating distractions seems impossible. However, if you want tips on how to focus in high school, this is probably the most important one to consider as a starting point.
Though you might think you’re multitasking when you text a friend or check social media while learning, studies have shown that you can’t actually multitask.
Instead, you can only focus on one task at a time. So, if you receive a text or social media notification during class, your attention will inevitably be diverted to that notification.
To avoid these types of distractions, keep your phone out of your learning space. Turn off social media notifications during class. You can even download anti-distraction apps to block distractions from ever getting to you in the first place.
8. Practice healthy habits.
Keeping up with your health is an important area of focus no matter how old you are or in what year of school. When your body is functioning properly, your mind will focus better, and you will be better equipped to stay on task during your high school classes.
Get plenty of sleep, drink water, and eat healthy meals. Take time in hours when you’re not in classes or other activities to exercise. Meditate if you need to quiet your mind.
Essentially, follow all the healthy habits that you’ve heard about over time. Though making healthy choices does not always feel fun, your body and brain will thank you. And, you will definitely be more focused in high school.
9. Make connections.
You will also stay more focused in high school if you make connections.
Make connections between your lessons and the world around you. Find ways to relate class concepts to your own life or examples in the news. This will help you remember material and also likely spark your passion for a topic. Learning should not just be about getting high grades and preparing for a future in college or the workplace; learning should also be fun.
Make connections with your teachers and classmates as well. Especially during a global pandemic, personal connections are important. Remember that your teachers and classmates are human beings with feelings, fears, and goals as well. This will help you enjoy the high school experience much more and allow you to lead with empathy as you participate in your classes.
10. Keep your future goals in mind.
Finally, you will inevitably focus much more in high school if you keep your future goals at the forefront of your mind. Why does doing well in high school matter to you? What do you hope to achieve when you graduate? Do you have a target college or internship?
Write down your future goals and keep them close to your work space during classes. These goals will remind you why you want to focus on high school, even when that can feel difficult.
All the work you’re doing now will be worth the effort in the future when you reach your goals! That should be motivation enough to stay focused. You’ve got this!