How to Succeed in High School: Three Simple Rules

Updated on April 17, 2018
Jule Romans profile image

Jule Romans is a retired high school teacher with more than 25 years of experience helping students succeed in the classroom.

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How to Succeed in High School

Success in the Classroom: It's Easier Than You Think

Succeeding in high school is easier than most people think. It all boils down to three simple rules.

  • Be Present
  • Be Prepared
  • Be Positive

These Tips Will Help You Succeed With Your Teachers, Too

Most teachers simply want students to come to class prepared to learn. They want their students to put effort into the learning process. Much of the time, that is all it takes to succeed in high school. Before you know it, your teachers will be impressed, and you will be a success.

Just be the best student you can be. Don't get discouraged if these tips take a little time.

Some classes are harder than others. But, I guarantee you, if you implement these tips, you will succeed in even the toughest class.

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Good attendance is the key to good grades and good communication with your teachers.

How to Succeed in High School: Be Present

Be Present: Attendance Is the Key to Success

Good attendance is the key to good grades and good communication with your teachers. It's tough to succeed in high school if you aren't in class very often.

Most schools have attendance policies. If your school doesn't have a strict policy, you'll have to discipline yourself to take this step.

Try never to miss more than 5 days in a semester. You'd be surprised how much of an impact this simple step can make. Teachers (and your future employers) value attendance almost as much as achievement. So, show up every day.

Be on Time, Be Early

Always plan to arrive in class at least a couple of minutes before class starts.

Once you are inside the classroom, spend time preparing for class. Take out your notebook and supplies, organize pens and pencils, and put away all unnecessary items. That way, when the bell rings, you are already prepared to learn.

If you spend just a couple minutes each day getting organized, your teacher will notice, and you will receive positive attention. Teachers appreciate it when students take time to keep their class materials in order. Getting that positive connection with your teacher is one essential key to succeeding in high school.

This may sound too simple, but it really is true. Students who are punctual do better in class because they are prepared to learn, and they receive more positive attention from teachers. Being prepared pays off when you need your teacher's help later on.

Be Present Physically and Mentally

Pay attention to your assignments, your teacher, and your classroom environment. Paying attention means developing proper note-taking skills, practicing correct listening, asking good questions, and refraining from side conversations.

Paying attention means that you can:

  • Listen effectively
  • Take good notes
  • Ask the right questions
  • Stay focused
  • Concentrate on tasks

It's just as important to be present mentally as it is to be present physically.

Go the Extra Mile and Make Your Presence Known

This is an incredibly easy way to make your presence known in the classroom. . It is very often overlooked.

You may not realize it, but after you leave class, it becomes very obvious if you leave a mess. The teacher can see your desk, and what you left behind. Teachers like students who take an extra moment to make sure their area is clean.

If you have time, it doesn't hurt to help pick up a little extra trash as well. This is a sure way to win your teacher's approval and appreciation. Teachers are the ones who must clean up the room between classes. Students who help make that job a bit easier are rare. Your teacher will be grateful. Trust me. I know.

Getting that positive connection with your teacher is one essential key to succeeding in high school.

How To Succeed in High School: Be Prepared

Be Prepared to Learn

Being prepared means being ready to learn. Success means preparing your mind as well as your homework and supplies. It also means being on time to class daily.

It's important to be prepared. You can prepare yourself, your assignments and your supplies

Be Prepared to Follow Directions

Following directions is probably the most important strategy for success in high school. This includes reading all assignments carefully, completing them to the best of your ability, and revising as needed. It also means concentrating on test and quiz questions to be sure you are understanding what the teacher is asking.

Be prepared, and be willing to:

  • Read and understand assignments
  • Follow instructions
  • Seek feedback
  • Revise your work
  • Answer test questions

You might notice that many of these tips relate to good learning habits. That is no accident. Good learning habits lead to real success in high school.

Success means preparing your mind as well as your homework and supplies.

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Prepare Your Assignments

If a paper or assignment is due, prepare it completely the night before so that all you have to do during class is locate it and turn it in. This includes such picky little details as stapling multiple pages together, writing your name at the top of the assignment, and putting every section in the correct order. Check everything twice.

Do this with every assignment. It will become crystal clear to your teacher that you are prepared and organized.

These sorts of tasks may take a few extra minutes at home, but they will pay huge dividends when you get to class. Those extra minutes you take at home will allow you to turn in your assignment with a smile instead of a distracted scramble. Not only that, you will stand out from the crowd of chaotic students who aren't completely prepared.

The other students will be scrambling and asking the teacher for assistance with mundane tasks, while you sit calmly ready for the day's work. Even if your teacher doesn't comment on this aloud, your preparation will be noticed.

Organize Ahead of Time

Plan ahead, and bring what you need. Whether it's pens, pencils, a ruler, compass, calculator or textbook, get it organized ahead of time. Take some time every day to organize your locker, backpack, electronic files, and any other supplies you use.

If you keep up with this every day, you will always be ready for anything that may come your way during class. Don't rely on others to provide everything for you. Bringing your own supplies shows responsibility and maturity. Responsibility is the secret lesson of high school.

If you can't afford to buy something, wait till an appropriate time, then ask your teacher how you might be able to solve the problem. Teachers often have extra items that they are happy to loan.

Prepare for Every Class

If your teacher gives out the plans in advance of class, review them daily. Look ahead to see what is coming. Start thinking about how you can study or prepare your next assignments.

Set aside a few minutes to review upcoming lessons. The more you know, the better prepared you will be.

When you enter class, take a moment to make eye contact with your teacher. Smile. Say something simple like "Hello" or "Good Morning."

How To Succeed in High School: Be Positive

Be Positive With Your Teacher

When you enter class, take a moment to make eye contact with your teacher. Smile. Say something simple like "Hello" or "Good Morning." Don't try to have a long conversation at the start of class, just show a quick smile and go to your place.

This trick works really well if you have a particular teacher who is very difficult to please. Greet that teacher with a smile every day for ten days, and watch the change in attitude that results.

With some teachers, you may have to do for several days in a row to really get it to work. Sooner or later, consciously or unconsciously, your teacher will notice your daily greeting. Don't worry, though, it'll also work if you do it every once in a while.

Be Positive With Your Attitude

Remember to smile and be polite on even on days when you aren't feeling your best. No matter what your mood is throughout the day, take just a moment or two to start the class off on the right note. Smile anyway, even if you don't feel like it.

It's perfectly okay to have a bad day now and then. It's fine to be frustrated. It's even okay to hate a particular subject. Just don't express that in the middle of class. Wait until you are out of class and away from the teacher to vent your feelings or state negative opinions. Teachers like students who are kind and polite.

You don't have to lie or pretend. Just reserve your opinions for later. Wait till the right time and place to give a critique. Your teacher will like you better when you show that you value the process of education.

There may be lessons that you think are pointless and stupid. Keep in mind that it's the teacher who created that lesson. When you say unkind or rude things about a class or subject, some teachers may take offense. You may be criticizing something that took that teacher a great deal of time and effort to plan.


A huge part of high school success is developing good relations with your teachers and fellow students.

Be Positive With Your Classmates

A huge part of high school success is developing good relations with your teachers and fellow students.

Take special care to treat all your classmates with courtesy, especially the classmates that other students find irritating. Your teacher will notice your mature behavior and like you better because of it. This will lead to success because you will always be able to rely on your teacher's guidance and help when you need it, because your teacher will respect you.

You might not be aware of this, but teachers can hear almost everything that happens in the classroom. When you make unkind or rude remarks, the teacher notices the negative attitude.

If you demonstrate respect and courtesy to others, your teacher will notice that, too.

Ask for Help the Right Way

Teachers really do want to help students understand the class material. Instead of staying frustrated or confused, ask for help directly.

Don't assume your teacher knows that you aren't comprehending. Try not to make irritated comments or noises. Be clear.

Ask "Can you help me understand this?" instead of saying "I don't get it!" or "This is stupid."

Those types of comments rarely leave room for a teacher to help you. When you ask for help directly, it puts things on a much more positive and constructive path.

Ask "Can you help me understand this?" instead of saying "I don't get it!" or "This is stupid.

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    © 2018 Jule Romans

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