Tips to be More Prepared for the Future


Max Tapper

In our early childhoods, staying organized was encouraged, but we were not entirely responsible for being so. Our parents would likely provide us with necessities for the day. Shirts, shorts, and bookbags would give our young minds an understanding of what it was like to attend school. In our classrooms, cubbies would make locating needed items much more accessible for our teachers and us. At snack time, if some apple juice were spilled, a grown-up was bound to help clean up the mess. As we progressed into elementary school, our elders would still help us with daily instruction and planning. However, students were held more accountable for completing assignments and bringing their supplies. 


Middle school would impose a stricter approach regarding our responsibilities. If you did not do your homework, you could either make it up for partial credit or accept a zero. Many of our teachers would hold this mindset, knowing that high school would be more demanding than we had been accustomed to. During our time in this building, we have been exposed to an active environment, with challenging classes and various clubs highlighting our interests. We have likely had issues prioritizing and making time to do what matters to us. Since I have been through this before, I assure you these issues are fixable. I am Max Tapper, and I am here to give you, my fellow students, some suggestions on improving your planning skills to ensure your success for what is ahead. 


  1. Set Reminders on Your Phone

Many of us have likely enjoyed having cell phones throughout our adolescence. Numerous social media platforms and colorful, fast-paced games have consumed our attention over the past few years. However, we must not ignore the other advantages of this piece of technology. If we need help, we can always call or text a parent or another family member. We can also use our cell phones to keep track of important information in our lives. Do you struggle to remember when your next doctor’s appointment is? Do you worry that you will forget to attend your next meeting for a club? If either scenario is the case, I strongly suggest using the little screen in your pocket to your advantage. 


Depending on your phone type, you will see an app titled ‘‘Reminders’’. The icon of this app should have three vertical dots: blue, red and yellow, with a horizontal line after each one. It would help if you used this extension to note what you must do and where and when to do it. I recommend you go on the App Store if you lack ‘‘Reminders’’. Within the search bar, write ‘‘reminder apps’’ and see what comes up. Select an app formatted in a way you know will be easy to navigate. The easier it is for you to use the app, the more likely it will help you. You will find that standard technology makes a difference in society’s functions. 


2. Set Timers When Completing Tasks

At some point, we have all considered how long it would take to complete something. Students have found that specific assignments take longer to finish than others, especially those requiring more concentration and accuracy. Many students can sit down and do what needs to be done, but some struggle with focusing on their tasks. Even if you long for straight-As, you cannot sit at the desk all day. If you do that, you will likely accomplish much less than you intend. Incompletion might not bother some students as much, but I feel obligated to finish what I started. Limiting how much time you spend on one task at one time is critical. When you work independently, you should be specific about how long you will sit there.


 You likely want enough time to complete what must be done, but you should avoid being in a position where you find yourself trying and failing to make progress. To avoid that situation, either on your phone or laptop, time yourself for 20 to 35 minutes and see what you can accomplish. Once the timer starts, make sure that you remain actively focused on the current task. The more concentrated you are, the more you can get done. When you hear the timer go off, feel free to get up and take a 10 to 15-minute break. Once you regain focus, reset the timer and continue working. Following this pattern will make you more productive and less anxious. Having a time-sensitive routine will make you better understand the importance of doing things in moderation.  


3. Learn to Communicate with Teachers and Other Staff Members

Early in our education, we were not expected to know how to set appointments or schedule meetings in an academic setting. Our parents and guardians have been accountable for exchanging information with our teachers and staff members for some time. High school has taught many students that communication with those in authority will often be their responsibility in the real world. Think about the extracurricular activities that you have joined during your time at Colts Neck. Did you miss a meeting because you did not see the date posted on Google Classroom? Were you ever late to an event because you did not have the correct address? In these moments, you may not have necessarily felt at fault. However, you need to acknowledge any mistake you made in your communication to avoid a repeat of such occurrences. 


When a teacher or staff member posts information regarding an upcoming event or meeting, you should consider three questions: who, where, and when. Who is running it, and do you know you can trust them? Where is it taking place, and will you be able to get there efficiently? When will the event or meeting occur, and do you have time to attend it? Ensure that you read carefully through the information provided to understand where you need to be and at what time. You must contact an associated teacher or staff member if unsure of what is provided. It is also important to notify those organizing the event or meeting when the information is insufficient. If you notice that an address or room number has not been provided, email them asking for it. By asking the right questions, you will develop your ability to work with others to solve problems and prepare for things to come. 


4. Be Concise When Appropriate

Consider a recent time when you were given a worksheet or research project. As you likely know, there is a difference between these two types of assignments. Worksheets are meant to be completed within a set period, whether inside the classroom or at home. Worksheets are often formatted to make them accomplishable for the student, specifically through open-ended or multiple-choice questions.  Research projects are more demanding since students are responsible for completing them independently and on time. Students must also decide how to answer the prompt or support their argument. Many have found that developing a quality response or defense cannot be done in one sentence. Whether doing English homework or writing a History essay, you have to answer the question being asked. 


When given assignments in the past, you have likely found yourself repeatedly analyzing the question or statement provided. You may have felt confused about what was being asked of you, having difficulty developing an answer. Once you started writing, you might have wanted your response to be as detailed as possible. Although you may not have wanted to admit it, you probably had more content than you needed. If your teacher approves, I suggest highlighting or underlining the critical information within what is provided. This approach will make determining your response’s content easier and avoid repetition. Responding to questions thoroughly yet concisely will serve you well with how you communicate in college and beyond.


5. Learn to Identify Your Priorities

Not everyone responds to their duties in the same way. Some people generally take a relaxed approach, but this does not always entail they take their work seriously. These people might struggle with completing assignments at a specific time and in a particular manner. Hence, it can be challenging for more attentive individuals to work with them. More attentive individuals tend to pay closer attention to detail in their responsibilities. These people often ask and talk more about how and when to do things. However, those most dedicated sometimes get ahead of themselves, where holding themselves to the highest standard can land them in trouble. Even the best students or employees must know when to slow down and ask themselves what is due tomorrow. 


Effective prioritization is, at least from my experience, quite easier said than done. I have a very active mind and can struggle to keep it from racing with assessments and due dates. I strive to do my best in school, intending to complete every assignment thoroughly and accurately. However, there have been times when I have spent too much time on one task knowing that I had potentially more important things to do. Junior year has taught me that you do not have time to do everything for everyone. Just because you have to give a presentation on World War II does not mean you cannot study for your test on quadratic functions. In the real world, you will have to be strategic about how to meet approaching deadlines. You will find that you will accomplish more if you have a plan. Mistakes are to be made, but you must learn from the past to prepare for the future.