high school student looking confident

How to Succeed in High School so You’re Set for Life

Everyone likes to talk about the best ways to succeed in adult life, but they may fail to mention how you can use your high school experience to prepare yourself for that wonderful post-graduation future. Here’s the truth: developing productive habits during high school will give you the absolute best chance at success in college.  

Many of the factors that facilitate success, both in high school and in the future, are the internal skills you pick up along the way. You might not be able to see these intangible qualities like you can your GPA or a college acceptance letter, but they’re just as important!

Here are some great tips for success in your high school career.


Learn Responsibility

Having made it to high school, you’re probably all too familiar with the term “responsibility.” Every time you hit a new milestone, whether it be starting your freshman year or learning to drive, someone is there to remind you that it’s “a new responsibility.” Unfortunately, they might have a point. 

By incrementally increasing your autonomy over various parts of your daily life, you will grow used to making your own choices about how to handle your time as well as how to deal with the results of those choices, whatever they may be. 

For example, you may decide to join the executive board of your favorite club. Now your involvement is greater than when you were a member, and your peers are relying on you. As part of that team, showing up for them is a responsibility! Or maybe you went to your friend’s house instead of finishing a homework assignment for class. Owning up to your mistake and accepting the consequences of a lower grade is a responsibility, too. 

Becoming a responsible person isn’t about always getting everything right, but rather learning from the kinds of choices you make. You’ll probably be learning this lesson for the rest of your life, but it’s never too early to get started!

bright and smiling student in a classroom

Gain Self-Confidence

We know you’re obviously not going to wake up one day with an inherent sense of self and a sudden imperviousness to the opinions of others. You will, however, get better at defining your interests and using your voice to represent those interests to others, which will help you present yourself more confidently.

Of course, there’s the fact that defining yourself is a lifelong process because you’re constantly changing, but don’t let that prophetic truth stop you from being in tune with your present self! You could try turning to astrology to figure out what’s best for you, or you can …

Decide on Your Goals

You might feel like you’re being pressured to make choices that will alter the course of your life while you’re still young and unsure, but that doesn’t need to be the case! Don’t decide where you want to be in 10 years just yet—instead, decide the best way for you to maintain several strong options. As long as you get yourself on a path that keeps some doors open, you can keep adjusting things until it feels right. 

For example, you don’t need to know what your end career goal is now. Instead, figure out whether (or where) you want to go to school. So many options exist within that decision alone, from four-year universities to no school at all!

  • Four-year colleges offer opportunities for professions with more traditional requirements; a bachelor’s degree in itself can get you started in a vast array of careers, and four-year degrees can also serve as a precursor to further education. (But don’t worry about that yet.) 
  • Two-year institutions are a great option for those who are interested in becoming medical technicians, accountants, or even some types of business administrators. They’re also a cost-effective way to get general education classes out of the way, even if you later intend to finish your degree at a four-year college.
  • Trade schools can help you develop skills in a chosen field and are often required if you’re interested in technical careers like welding or cosmetology. They can also help connect you with future apprenticeships, if necessary. 
  • Skip the Degree! In some instances, you don’t need to go to any specific school at all. You can do anything from real-estate certifications to EMT training to heading straight into the workforce—no matter what, you have options that don’t include years more studying.

It’s important to keep in mind that success can come in many formats. Small successes like getting into the classes you want will build the foundation for bigger successes like getting accepted into the program you want most. Remember to be proud of the little things!

Evaluate What Drives You

If you’re not intrinsically dedicated to bettering yourself as a person for the sole purpose of eternal fulfillment, don’t worry; you’re not alone. However, you do need to find a way to maintain your motivational momentum. 

Perhaps the promise of good grades gets you up in the morning. Or maybe it’s that you really love your extracurriculars, and in order to have the most time to spend on those you have to knock all your other responsibilities out of the park. Or, possibly, you just recognize that you have to work hard and finish high school in order to get out. All of those are totally okay! 

As long as you keep a driving force in your life that can help you push through the tedious or less fun activities or responsibilities, you will find your success in high school.

Manage & Organize Your Own Schedule

How do you feel about time management? Are you a dedicated, post-it note using, color-coded yearly planner type of person? Or are you reliant on your instincts and a helpful hint from a parent to let you know it’s just about time to kit up for soccer? Either way, in order to remain successful in your future endeavors, you should develop a system for organizing your schedule. 

Whether you’re barreling into the working world or heading straight into more schooling, it’s essential that you stay conscious of your bandwidth. You’ll figure out how much you can handle at once (perhaps that fourth intramural sport could be put on the back burner for now) and learn to set up your weeks, months, or semesters from there. 

It all comes back to knowing yourself. If a planner isn’t insistent enough for you, perhaps the reminders app on your phone will be a great resource. Whatever you need to do to stay on top of your schedule, do it! If it works, it works.

student preparing for exams in their room

Develop Tricks to Stay Focused & Get Stuff Done

It can be incredibly difficult to stay on task, especially when that task is not especially fascinating. By Friday every week you may never want to see a math equation or a literary analysis assignment ever again. Unfortunately, you’re probably aware that a responsibility being boring is not a good enough reason to give up on it.

Maybe you’re the type to stagger gummy bears down the pages of your books for intermittent awards while doing a particularly dense reading. Or perhaps you put on noise-canceling headphones and listen to the same bubblegum pop song over and over until you finish what you’re working on. Whether you need to block out the world entirely or add stimuli until you can focus, it’s important for future success that you begin to figure out ways to combat distractedness earlier than later.

You could try changing up your scenery, for one. Load up your backpack and set up camp at a local library or coffee shop, and try to knock out at least one task before you head out. When you leave, you’ll have one less thing on your plate!

If you’re not interested in relocating, try an interval system. Set a timer on your phone for 20 minutes, during which you devote as much brain power as possible to reading or working on your assignment. After those minutes are up, set another timer to give yourself a break to get distracted on your phone or with another task. This way you get on top of those inevitable distraction periods while also having some serious work time. 

Remember: this process is full of trial and error! Sometimes tactics that used to work grow old and you have to hatch new plans to keep yourself on track. That’s totally okay—even if you find you can only write essays if you’re wearing mismatched socks and a captain’s hat, what’s important is that you get your tasks done.


No matter what your methods end up being, developing healthy skills for success in high school will certainly contribute to long-term successes in the future. And, no matter what that future looks like, we know it will be bright!

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