A Back-to-school Checklist for Proactive Students

Getting ready to go back to school can be a busy time. There’s a lot to do, and it can be hard to stay on top of everything, especially for parents who have multiple kids’ schedules and school supply lists to keep track of. 
 
Rear view of a bunch of high school students walking down the hallway

For parents, encouraging teens to take a more active role in their back-to-school preparation is a great opportunity to help them become more responsible and independent…and reduce everyone’s stress level in the process!

 To help with this process, I’ve created a back-to-school checklist (below), which which you can share with your teen, and use as a printable to-do list OR as a list of ideas to keep in mind as they create their own to-do list.
 
Depending on your teen, their school, and your family, you will probably think of other ideas you want to include in this plan as well, but this can at least help you to get started. 
 

Back-to-School To-Do List:

   Write down your goals for this semester.  Writing down your goals dramatically increases the chances that you will reach them. Consider including goals for your grades, your study habits & organization,  extracurricular activities, friends and family relationships, and learning & personal growth.     

   Review + complete any remaining summer work.   Follow the guide at
[link to blog post from earlier this summer] to create a simple, low-stress plan for how to finish your summer work on time.
 
   Get a planner, and practice using it.  Decide how you’ll keep track of your assignments & to do list.  Would you prefer to use a paper planner, like Plum Paper Planners, or Order Out of Chaos Planners, or an online planner like iStudiez Pro  or MyHomework If you can, order your planner early  so you can practice using it before school starts. 
 
   Decide how you’ll take notes.  Taking notes on paper, rather than the computer, can make it easier to remember the material from class, and lead to better grades on your tests– check this article out for more informationIf you’ll be taking notes by hand, decide if you’ll use loose leaf paper or a notebook.
 
   Decide how you’ll keep track of papers for your classes.  Will you do better with a separate binder for each of your classes? One binder with tabs to divide up the material for your classes?  Two binders: One for A day and one for B day?  Or an accordion folder with a pocket for each class and one at the front for homework? 
 
   Make a list of any school supplies you’ll need (planner, binders, lined paper, backpack, pens/pencils, calculator, etc.) and schedule a time to go shopping for any supplies you need.  
 
   Buy any books you will need for your classes.
 
   Set up your study spaceHaving a clean, organized study space ready to go on the first day of school will make it easier to get back into the routine of doing homework every day. 
 
   Review your schedule for the first week of school.  How are you getting to and from school?  Do you need to make any changes in your course schedule?  Do you know where all your classes are?  Do you have any after-school practices or meetings to attend?  When and where will you do your homework after school?
 
   Extra creditGet a head start on your hardest classes by spending some time on Khan Academy (link) or other online resources, learning a few of the fundamental concepts that you’ll be covering this year.  This will help you feel more comfortable with the material when classes start, and make it easier to get off to a strong start.
 
 

Action Steps…

Mature mother helping her child with homework at home.

  1. Encourage your teen to create their own Back to School to-do list.  If they’d like, they could use this one as a starting place…or come up with their own from scratch.  This is something you could work on together, or give them to do on their own.  If you decide to brainstorm ideas together, feel free to suggest your ideas for the list, as well, but encourage them to get the ball rolling first, by coming up with an idea or two of their own before proposing your own suggestions.  Rather than creating the list yourself, you can encourage them to take more responsibility by giving them the pencil & paper and putting them in charge of recording the to-do list items.

  2.  Divide and Conquer.  Discuss who will take responsibility for making sure these things are completed before the start of school.  Some teens will be ready and willing to take more responsibility than others…but there is always something even the youngest student can do.  For example, if you need to shop for school supplies, a younger teen might be in charge of creating the list by Friday morning, so you can go to the store on your way home from work…whereas an older teen might be able to take responsibility for the whole process: creating the list, driving themselves to the store, buying what they need, and getting it set up & organized.

  3. Create If-Then plans.  Decide when each of you will complete the tasks you’re responsible for.  The more specific your plans for when & where you will complete the plan (e.g. I’ll do that at the kitchen table after dinner on Monday) the greater your chances of following through.  

  4. Set up external reminders.  Discuss how you’ll each remember the tasks you’ve just planned to do.  Will you use calendar reminders?  Phone alarms? Location based reminders (e.g. when I get to the office, remind me to…)  If you and your teen both set reminders for yourself, it can reduce your need to act as their reminder system.

  5. Schedule check-in meetings.  Set up a check-in time when you will get together for a ‘team meeting’ to review your list of actions, check off what you’ve each completed, and make a plan for when to complete any remaining items on the list.  This might just happen once, for a student who only has a few things to do.  For students who are going off to college or studying abroad and have a longer to-do list to work through, you might set a time to check in briefly each morning, and review what you’ve each accomplished & what you’re planning to do that day. 
 

Your Turn!

What is your typical approach to back-to-school planning?  
 
Do you usually take care of everything yourself?  Put your teen in charge of getting it done?  Or take a more collaborative approach?
 
What do you usually do for your kids that you could let them be responsible for this year?
 
If you decide to give these ideas a try, I would love to hear how they work for you!  Please hit “reply” and let me know, or leave a comment on the blog, and share your experience!
 
 
 
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About the Author:

Dr. Maggie Wray is an Atlanta-based academic coach who helps high school & college students achieve their academic potential by improving their organization, time management, study skills, and mindset about school. To set up a time to speak with Maggie about how to help YOUR teen develop the skills he or she needs to thrive academically, visit http://creatingpositivefutures.com/contact or email support@creatingpositivefutures.com

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