Please login now to access the My Options Box.  If you don't already have an account with us, click on the Free Registration link

College Resources

Resource CenterGetting in & Applying to CollegeCollege PreparationPositioning Yourself for Academic Success

Positioning Yourself for Academic Success

Now that you’ve shaken off the dust from middle school, you’re going to hear one phrase repeatedly. Your parents will certainly be quick to assert it. Your teachers and guidance counselors will cheerfully echo the refrain. We’re pretty confident we’ve mentioned it in other articles. High school matters. For the first time (to a degree), the grades you earn and the activities in which you participate can truly affect your future. This statement shouldn’t cause you to panic. And it definitely shouldn’t send you running to hide under the covers indefinitely. However, it should get you thinking about how you can successfully approach your secondary school career. So, what’s the key to achievement?

Set Goals

One of the best ways to become successful is to set academic, extracurricular and professional goals for yourself. When coming up with a list, specificity is key. While it’s great to say you want to do well in school, that’s rather ambiguous. And it’s harder to accomplish (and easier to avoid) tasks when they are vague. Instead, think about what you really want to strive for both in the immediate future and throughout your tenure in high school (and beyond). It could be aiming for an “A” in chemistry class, eventually making the varsity soccer team, getting into a particular college or even just sitting at a new table in the cafeteria on Monday. No matter what you decide, having goals will allow you to become more focused and determined. You’ll appreciate having something to work towards. What’s more, you’ll learn how to pick yourself up if you fall short and you’ll get to revel in your triumph when you succeed.


You should recognize that goals aren’t static. Along with your interests and ideals, they can evolve and change. And that’s perfectly okay. It doesn’t make sense to stay on a particular path that no longer appeals to you. And it certainly makes it more difficult to accomplish the original goal. If your passion for ceramics has eclipsed your passion for volleyball, that’s fine. Pursue that with vigor. You’ll discover you’re happier and probably more successful as well.

Ask for Help

We all struggle with things from time to time. Whether we’re having trouble nailing a jump shot, hitting a high note or figuring out how to add matrices, it’s inevitable that we’ll hit a wall at some point. After all, perfection is a rarity. If you’re having difficulty with an assignment or task (or even with a friend), don’t hesitate to ask for help. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about. Neither flailing about on your own nor throwing your hands up in resignation will help the situation. And ignoring the issue will likely just make it worse. Instead, gather the courage and ask a parent, teacher or even a friend. Your teachers will be happy to clarify, your friends will appreciate your confidence in them and your parents will be thrilled that you’re actually engaging them in conversation.

Find a Study Buddy

We recommend finding a friend in every class that you can rely on. Whether there’s confusion about an assignment, notes have been lost or a midterm just around the bend, you can turn to one another for help and encouragement. It’s always easier heading into a classroom when you know someone has your back. Plus, school work is a lot more palatable when you are working side-by-side with friends (provided you can still be productive).

Get Organized

Staying organized is integral to achieving success. While in theory this might seem obvious, it can be difficult to put into practice (especially if your natural inclination is to simply shove papers into your backpack). Make sure you have a separate notebook (and perhaps even a folder) for each subject. Remember to date all of your notes and assignments. This will definitely come in handy when it comes time to study for tests (particularly for midterms and finals). Maintain a calendar so you can keep track of projects, exams and events. You’ll be more prepared if you have an eye for what’s coming down the pike and you’ll be less likely to miss deadlines.

Get Involved

We realize high school can be intimidating, especially at the beginning. You’re navigating a new building, new teachers, new classmates – all while being the little man (or woman) on campus. However, high school is all about embracing new opportunities and experiences. Try joining a club, go out for a sports team or audition for the school play. Extracurricular activities allow you to develop passions and can even help inform your academics. Additionally, the more involved you get, the quicker you’re likely to adjust to your new surroundings. And there’s a definite side benefit: colleges are often attracted to applicants who demonstrate diverse interests and community involvement.

Challenge Yourself

After completing a few semesters of high school, you’ll have a good feel for what the workload is like and what teachers expect from you. If you’ve been working diligently and seeing results you should contemplate taking some honors or advanced placement courses. By taking tougher classes, you’ll get to engage a particular subject more fully. What’s more, honors and AP classes will allow you to hone and sharpen your intellect to a greater degree. And you’ll be demonstrating to colleges that you’re not content to just coast.

High school will definitely be full of challenges, both academic and social. And while it’s an exciting new chapter in your educational career, it can also be nerve wracking. By taking a moment to consider what elements are needed for success, you can begin to position yourself accordingly.    


Thank you for visiting

My College Options® is an online college planning program that connects millions of high school students with colleges and universities.

Please email us at to find out if your institution is doing everything it can to reach qualified, prospective students. We look forward to hearing from you.

To learn more about the tools and resources available to you, click here


Don Munce