For many high-schoolers, the end of summer is a demanding time. With universities and scholarships to ponder and piece together, as well as looming deadlines and test dates (not to mention extracurricular activities, work, volunteer, and sleep!) – there is no doubt that the final year of high school is the most hectic. While the new school year marks a fresh start to yet another 190 days of homework and exams, it is also a moment to explore new opportunities and prepare for the thrilling months ahead. I wrote this article to emphasize a point that many high school students forget: for universities and scholarships, being organized, enthusiastic, inquisitive, and proactive are equally important as good grades. I’m thankful for knowing before grade 12 that post-secondary institutions value “special” over “smart”. In addition to volunteering regularly at children’s camps, the hospital, and teaching preschoolers to ice-skate, engaging in unusual activities, like aerial gymnastics, paid off.
I was offered the $60,000 Science Schulich Leader Scholarship to the University of Waterloo, where I will study Honours Kinesiology. Here are the top five tips that allowed me to navigate the seas of stress and senioritis.
1) Organize your time and tools before you begin.
Prioritizing is essential. Hours on Instagram or Netflix aren’t necessary when you have multiple projects to work on. Start planning, and more importantly, doing, as soon as possible.
I prefer finishing worksheets during class time, and studying effectively at home. High school is the ideal time to experiment with different study methods and select one that works for you (choose study buddies wisely, too!). My sister loves flashcards, whereas I’d rather redo equations, rewrite notes, and label charts, webs, and diagrams. Motivate yourself with checklists, and splurge on a high-quality calendar or agenda for all due dates, exams, and other commitments. However, beware the tendency to over-schedule.
2) What’s worth doing is worth doing well: devote time to activities you love, and let those hobbies shine on university and scholarship applications.
What is the purpose of forcing yourself to spend hours on something you hate, only to count down the minutes until you’re done? If you do what you enjoy with passion and meticulousness, success will come naturally. I recommend exploring many different pursuits to discover your “thing”. One or two activities will likely pique your interest – dedicate time and effort to those hobbies. I love oatmeal and devour a steaming bowl of oats every morning. In fact, I’m so obsessed with oatmeal that I created a healthy-living blog, www.cookiesnchem.com to share nutritious recipes with readers around the world. Even if you are fascinated by something as simple (or strange!) as oatmeal, do something big with it! It is your uniqueness, diligence, and perseverance that makes you stand out.
3) Demonstrate effort and participation by asking questions.
Why am I procrastinating? Is the task too tedious or too taxing? Interrogating yourself will allow you to discover the root of the problem. Don’t stop there, however – challenge yourself to raise your hand in every class. Educators adore curious and engaged students who are interested in what they are teaching. Your participation will certainly be noticed and appreciated. Better yet, your teacher’s explanations will enhance your understanding and make test-writing more manageable, since memorizing is unnecessary if the concepts make sense.
4) Take initiative by stepping out of your comfort zone and into the learning zone.
If you want something, the best way to get it is to do research and ask for it. Never hesitate to tell people what you want. Last year, I was desperate to be the Volunteer Team Lead at the local hospital, so I told the coordinator. The following week, I started serving as a liaison between patients, nurses, and volunteers. Another time, I surprised my sister with the opportunity to model for Triple Flip – simply by writing a polite, yet persuasive, email to the manager. Employers will recognize your confidence and ability to express yourself, which is a huge asset for them.
5) Relax and give back – to yourself!
From the provincial exam to your yearbook quote, strong writing skills are essential during your senior year. Learn the proper usage of certain impressive words, feel free to reuse your favourite sentences, and always express yourself articulately. On another note: though improved study habits are rewarding enough, I prefer treating myself to fancy desserts after a semester of hard work. During stressful exam weeks, keep in mind that your health is more important than a mere quiz. Nourish yourself, get active, and sleep as early as possible, especially the night before a test, to refresh your mind and body.
While hoping for the best and preparing for the worst is key to maintaining senior sanity, don’t forget to treasure your last year of high school – perhaps your last year of school in general. Grade 12 is an unforgettable roller coaster ride of endless paperwork, hilarious photos, and ominous due dates. Cherish this milestone year by spending time and making memories with friends and family. Do your best in everything, and remember, all’s well ends well.
Cindy is a 2015 Schulich Leader Scholar and Kinesiology co-op student at the University of Waterloo.
On previous internships, Cindy has worked at the Toronto Health Centre, tutored anatomy and physiology at a nursing college, and assisted with research at the University of Prince Edward Island. Additionally, Cindy did a five-month exchange term at the University of Queensland in Australia, where she studied tropical diseases, health psychology, specifically health of marginalized communities. You will find Cindy skating, practicing aerial silks, cooking and baking, or blogging, during her free time. Cindy is interested in nutrition and sociology of athletes, and hopes to become a sports medicine physician.