What are your chances of acceptance?

Your chance of acceptance
Duke University
Duke University
Your chancing factors
Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)

5 Habits of the Successful High School Student

Is your profile on track for college admissions?

Our free guidance platform determines your real college chances using your current profile and provides personalized recommendations for how to improve it.

There are often those students in high school who seem to have it all figured out: straight A’s, a competitive amount of extracurriculars, leadership positions, top standardized test scores, etc. This successful high school student doesn’t have more or less responsibility and stress than another student. However, the successful high school student is able to navigate their responsibilities in an efficient, calm, and organized manner. They do this by being focused and forming habits that keep them at the top of their academic game.


Whether the above depiction of a successful high school student fits you perfectly or you find yourself falling a little short, this post is for you. Here are five habits of the successful high school student that are easy to implement and can do wonders for your academic performance. See which ones you’re already a pro at, and which ones you ought to try.


1. Using an Agenda or Planner

Keeping an agenda or planner is an easy way to make sure you never miss an assignment or commitment. Whether you’re writing in a physical agenda, making notes in your phone, or writing memos on a piece of paper, writing down everything you have to do keeps you organized and allows you to visualize your workload.


To learn more about the benefits of using an agenda or planner, see How Using a Planner or Calendar Can Make Your Life Easier.


A planner is most effective when you use it to track all of your commitments, not just schoolwork. Be sure to write down your meetings, work hours, important dates, and anything else that you are going to need to remember later. This way, you will have everything that you need to accomplish in one convenient location, and you will be less likely to overcommit yourself on any given day.


Lastly, be sure to write down your assignments in your agenda as soon as they are assigned. Don’t wait until lunch or the end of the day to remember and write down everything you have to do. By that point, you may have already forgotten some of your responsibilities for certain classes or clubs, which defeats the purpose of using a planner in the first place. Don’t feel weird about pausing during class or a meeting to write in your agenda—many successful students do it!


2. Snacking Throughout the Day

High school generally lasts 8 hours a day, and most students only get a small lunch break. Odds are, at some point during the school day, you are going to get hungry, cranky, and tired.

In order to combat this, you should keep a few light snacks in your backpack or pockets to munch on throughout the day. If you snack periodically, you’ll keep your body energized so that you can be focused and attentive in class.


Note, however, that you don’t want to have too many carb-heavy snacks. Carbohydrates, while filling, can actually make you more sleepy and distracted than alert. Snacks that are full of carbohydrates include, but are not limited to, chips, cookies, and candy.


You should also be sure to get permission from your teacher before eating in class. Some teachers do not allow students to eat in their class, as it can be distracting to other students and attract ants or other pests. Moreover, many science lab teachers don’t allow students to eat in their class because it is a safety hazard. Make sure that you have snacks that aren’t loud or disturbing to the class and that you check with your teacher before you eat.


In addition to snacks, you may also want to consider keeping a water bottle with you during the day. The more hydrated you are, the better you’re likely to perform.


3. Putting the Cell Phone Away During School Hours

Using cell phones in the classroom is not conducive to effective learning. If you are on your phone during class, chances are you aren’t paying attention to what the teacher is saying, and you might be missing some key information. Moreover, whatever you are doing on your phone is likely to grab the attention of your classmates around you, distracting them from the class material as well.


Furthermore, some schools and teachers do not allow students to use their phones in class. You could be breaking the rules or code of conduct by using your phone when you should be learning. This could lead to your phone being confiscated or other disciplinary measures.


The smart decision is to simply put your phone away during school hours. Don’t just put it on vibrate or silent mode, because the flash of a screen notification could still distract you. Turn the phone off and put it in your backpack or locker. That way, there’s no way you’ll be tempted to look at your cell phone during class.


Of course, there are special circumstances and emergencies where you may need to use your phone. If you need to make an urgent phone call, either use the school phone if your school has one or tell your teacher and step out of the classroom before making your call.


Want more tips for becoming a successful high school student? Read on, or check out our Mentorship Program, where one of our mentors will work with you for a full year to provide you with the tools to succeed in high school and the college admissions process.

Discover your chances at hundreds of schools

Our free chancing engine takes into account your history, background, test scores, and extracurricular activities to show you your real chances of admission—and how to improve them.


4. Taking Detailed Notes In AND Out of Class

One thing many students tend to tell themselves is that they don’t need to write something down because they’ll remember it. Unfortunately, student’s minds are not always as good at remembering details as they think they are. Even if you’re completely confident in your ability to remember the material presented in class, you should still take notes.


Now, taking notes does not mean writing down a few main phrases that summarize the lectures. Write down both the main ideas and as many details as you can, so that you will be able to comprehensively review the material later. This doesn’t mean that you have to write paragraphs or even full sentences—just make sure that your notes cover as much of the lecture as possible in a way that makes sense to you.


Taking notes is not just useful inside the classroom. It could be beneficial to take notes on your outside readings and lecture slides if you have the time. The more notes you take, the more material you are likely to retain.


Note that it may be tempting to type up your notes, especially during a lecture where the teacher talks too fast to write everything down. However, Scientific American, National Public Radio (NPR), and others have reported that students retain much more material when they take notes by hand versus when they take notes on a computer or laptop.


That being said, choose whatever note-taking method works best for you. Feel free to try out various methods and see which one is the most effective.


5. Following the Instructions

This may seem like an obvious habit that most students follow naturally. However, some students skip the directions on their tests or only skim the instructions for a big project before they complete it. In the end, they may know the material and submit good work, but they’ll get a bad grade because they didn’t follow the directions.


The instructions on any assignment are there to help you. Oftentimes, they can clarify things and make assignments easier. Thus, it is worth taking those few extra minutes to read the directions every time before you proceed with an assignment.


Note that it is also smart to listen to and follow the instructions of your teacher. This includes listening to them when they are explaining homework or projects and following their instructions on how to behave in class. If you do this, not only will you be more likely to catch all the important material in class, but you’ll also be more likely to form a good relationship with your teacher, which could lead to a reward in the form of a good conduct grade or a letter of recommendation.


Wondering how you can get the perfect recommendation letter? See A Step-by-Step Guide to Your Recommendation Letters.


Concluding Thoughts

With AP courses, extracurriculars, SAT/ACT, subject tests, and college applications looming, it is no surprise that high school is a stressful time for many students. However, there are simple ways to be a successful student and navigate all of your other responsibilities that can lead to great rewards.


It is worth giving some of these habits a try while you’re in high school. Many of the tools and skills listed above will be extremely useful in keeping you organized and focused when you start rigorous college courses.


For more information and tips about how to succeed in high school, check out these blog posts:


Eight Tips to Use Your Time Efficiently and Stay Organized in High School

6 Techniques for Dealing with Stress In High School

4 Things You can Start Doing in High School to Make College Easier

CollegeVine’s Top 6 Study Tips for High School Students

How to Effectively Balance Your Time in High School


Looking for help navigating the road to college as a high school student? Download our free guide for 9th graders and our free guide for 10th graders. Our guides go in-depth about subjects ranging from academicschoosing coursesstandardized testsextracurricular activitiesand much more!


Want access to expert college guidance — for free? When you create your free CollegeVine account, you will find out your real admissions chances, build a best-fit school list, learn how to improve your profile, and get your questions answered by experts and peers—all for free. Sign up for your CollegeVine account today to get a boost on your college journey.


Can't see the form above? Subscribe to our newsletter here.

Sadhvi Mathur
Senior Blogger

Short Bio
Sadhvi is a recent graduate from the University of California, Berkeley, where she double majored in Economics and Media Studies. Having applied to over 8 universities, each with different application platforms and requirements, she is eager to share her knowledge now that her application process is over. Other than writing, Sadhvi's interests include dancing, playing the piano, and trying not to burn her apartment down when she cooks!