How to Mentally Prepare Yourself for School

Three Parts:Meeting Basic NeedsCalming AnxietyTaking Proactive Measures

School can be a bummer, but your grades shouldn't get you down. Getting organized and turning assignments in on time make a big difference. But this isn't just about homework. This is about your future. Through mental preparation you can gain a better understanding of yourself. You'll feel much more relaxed if you are on the ball, and your grades will reflect your efforts.

Part 1
Meeting Basic Needs

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    Make sure you're well rested. Though some people require less rest than others, sleep deprivation has a significant negative impact on performance, memory, and emotional state.[1][2] Never allow pride at how little you sleep interfere with your needs.
    • Sleep deprivation can increase your stress and lead to a panic response or bad attitude, both of which can hurt your in-class performance.[3]
    • Insufficient sleep can also interfere with your memory formation and the positive effects of learning.[4]
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    Diet for success. Your brain uses an enormous amount of energy compared to the rest of your body.[5][6] Lack of energy can contribute to negative feelings, and leave you unprepared to do your best.
    • Disruptions to a maintained, healthy diet can negatively influence your ability to think.[7] Some brain healthy dietary options are:[8]
      • Blueberries
      • Avocados
      • Nuts and seeds
      • Whole Grains
      • Beans
    • Certain foods that disagree with you, no matter how delicious, can make it difficult to focus and create feelings of apprehension.[9] Some examples include:[10]
      • MSG rich foods
      • Precooked foods
      • Processed foods
      • Foods rich in salt
      • Foods rich in sugar
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    Find your learning style. Knowing the best way you learn will save you time and energy when preparing for a new class. The three major learning types are auditory, visual, and kinesthetic (hands-on).[11]
    • Visual learners can benefit from watching lectures, concept maps, color coding material, and using flash cards.[12][13]
    • Auditory learners can assist learning by listening to soft background music, recorded lectures, repeating material aloud, and participating in study groups or discussion.[14][15]
    • Hands-on learners can aid themselves by taking frequent study breaks, chewing gum while studying, working while standing, and doing demonstrations or fieldwork.[16][17]
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    Know your chronotype. A chronotype is a category that classifies the usual sleep time and active period of a person.[18] Try to organize your schedule to suit your chronotype.
    • Night owls should consider a later class schedule. This will diminish the dread and fatigue you may associate with an early morning class.[19]
    • Larks (early risers), should refrain from staying out late the night before difficult classes. A schedule beginning earlier in the day can improve your performance.[20]
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    Purchase the necessary materials. Differences between the first and second edition of a textbook can make a big difference when you submit bookwork to be graded. Check with your instructor before you buy any but the recommended version of your class text. Keep in mind supplemental materials, which might include:
    • Pencils
    • Erasers
    • Pens
    • Highlighters
    • Ruler
    • Graph paper
    • Notebooks
    • Binders/folders
    • Planners/calendars

Part 2
Calming Anxiety

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    Familiarize yourself with your learning environment. Anxiety can create stress that leads to difficulty remembering and poor performance.[21][22] You can spend time in the classroom a difficult subject is held to make it less imposing and improve your ability to concentrate.[23]
    • Organize a study group with your friends in a classroom you feel anxious. This can help ease your nerves.
    • Perceived stress can have a greater influence on mental state than biology.[24] By perceiving a challenge as manageable, we can limit excessive worry or negative thought cycles.[25]
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    Challenge your negative thoughts. Automatic negative thoughts can create fear or feelings of inadequacy.[26] These are typically a kind of irrational thought, and are not helpful when preparing for school.
    • Ask questions about your negative feelings and think about how you want to resolve them. This can lead you to a more positive state of mind.[27]
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    Practice breathing exercises. Studies have shown that breathing exercises are effective tools for stress management and emotional control.[28] Proper breathing techniques can alleviate dizziness, shortness of breath, and increased heart rate.[29]
    • Pursing your lips can slow your breathing to a more natural rate.[30]
    • Counting as you breathe, making sure to breath in fully and then completely exhale, has also been shown to help with stress and anxiety management.[31]
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    Note triggers for your anxiety. These can sometimes be difficult for you to identify. Something as simple as a caffeinated beverage or energy drink might put you on edge and in a bad mental state.[32] Other triggers can be specific events, scenarios, activities, or people. Ask yourself, "What might make me feel better in this situation?" In some cases, apprehension can be lessened by removing caffeine from your diet or asking a friend to tag along.
    • Some common triggers include:
      • Coffee
      • Soda
      • Caffeinated tea
      • Tests
      • Speeches
      • Physical evaluations
      • Presentations.

Part 3
Taking Proactive Measures

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    Make a plan. A laundry list of worries can lead to constant review of negatives that bog you down. Having a plan of attack can limit your unnecessary worry and assist in managing these feelings.[33] Identify problems specific to you and think about how you will respond to them.
    • Writing out a plan of action can give you clarity and a sense of concreteness.[34]
    • Setting a homework or study schedule can save you from forgetting to turn in assignments.
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    Know the goal of the course. Big-picture mentality can help you associate basic principles with more complex concepts.[35] This can be especially helpful with cumulative exams.
    • Mind maps and diagrams are useful tools for bundling complex or detail-heavy subjects.[36]
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    Research the instructor. Even if you can't choose your teacher or schedule, knowing what's in store can help you plan accordingly. Some teachers aren't suited for certain learning styles or personalities. Inquire with friends, upper classmen, and search online to discover whether or not a particular teacher is a good fit for you and, if not, how you might improve the situation.
    • Make use of habits that engage your learning style. For example, during lectures, hands-on learners can benefit from chewing gum.[37]
    • Talking with instructors the first day of class is a good way of establishing a relationship with them. This can be useful if you have difficulty with the subject down the road.


  • A classroom environment is not optimal for everyone, but most people, with proper preparation, can have a successful in-class learning experience.
  • Set reasonable objectives. Remember not to compare, as everyone.
  • Check with instructors for course specific advice.
  • Try to establish a good relationship with the instructors. Go to class prepared so that you make a good first impression. Have good attitude towards everything such as school work, and meeting new people.

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Categories: Back to School | Managing Time During School Years