5 ways to hack your high school education

Are you or your high schooler thinking any of these things?

A lot of school is a waste of time… Most classes aren’t very interesting…I wish I could study what I WANTED, instead of what someone else says I have to…I want to do things in school that are exciting and matter…I want to go to college but don’t know what I’ll do after that.

Here are 5 Hacks for you that will help!
  1.  Learn how to study so you can spend less time doing it.
  2.  Hack every assignment – personalize it, change it, own it.
  3.  Follow your curiosity. Find your passion(s).
  4.  Start with your end game.
  5.  Make your counselor your friend.

1. Learn how to study so you can spend less time doing it.

Did you know that re-reading text is not a great way to learn? Did you know that struggling with what you’re learning helps you learn it more DEEPLY? Did you know that it’s better to study for shorter periods over several days than to study intensively for longer periods? And did you know that auditory, visual or kinesthetic learning styles don’t really matter?  

Most of us never actually thought about HOW we study or learn best, but there is great information out there, based on solid research that can help you become more efficient. If you could learn class material and do well on tests – while spending less of your time studying – would that be a good hack?

Ideas for Action #1:

Watch this video summary of the book MAKE IT STICK – the Science of Successful Learning:

 It’s a great book that rounds up a bunch of the best, substantiated practices that can help you learn things more efficiently and for longer. Note: their advice is supported by actual research, unlike a lot of study/learning advice out there. ( If you Google ‘how to study better’ there a fair amount of junk to wade through, consider yourself warned.)

Spend some time finding out about how you can study better and then TRY THINGS until you find what works. Free up time for other pursuits!

2. Hack every assignment – personalize it, change it, own it.

Maybe you have a book report, math homework or a science project in front of you. Get into the mindset of a creator before you start. If you were a creator (which you are), what kind of stamp would you put on this project?  How would you make it yours?

In school, most students are in the mindset of an executor – someone who’s executing on another person’s plan. This makes sense – it’s the teachers who are telling you what you have to do every day/week in class! Of course you’re an executor! Being a great executor will get you A’s, which is what your teachers and colleges care about. but it can often be tedious and boring, and you’ll have to use more energy forcing yourself to do assignments you don’t care about beyond the grade.

So experiment with making all your work YOURS. For math homework, maybe you just choose a green pen instead of pencil, or you draw diagrams, or you change the names in the word problem to your friend’s names…MAYBE for the book report you decide to go OFF LIST – find a book you actually want to read – have the librarian find you one on skateboarding, or surfing, or Mother Theresa, or whatever you’re curious about – to make the book report more interesting and ‘yours.’  Then you TALK to your English teacher, pitch your idea of going ‘off list’ for the book report this one time, give reasons why…good things will most likely happen.  Maybe you incorporate the drone you got for Christmas into your physics project…

You’re probably used to doing what others tell you – parents, coaches, and teachers have been telling you what to do your entire life! But during high school, it’s time to start telling yourself what to do. In a few years, you won’t HAVE someone giving you an assignment on how to get As in life.  Hacking your assignments now is a great first step towards building your ability to take charge.

Ideas for Action #2:

Hack your English assignments to have more fun and align them with who you are.

Change your mindset for one assignment and find a way to personalize it beyond what’s expected.

Each time you do this, you take a little bit more charge of your day, your learning, your effort. You’re practicing changing what happens in the world around you. You’ll find that high school becomes a wee bit more fun, as you experiment and take low-level risks.

Look at your school work as an opportunity to have an impact, rather than just one more thing you HAVE to do.

Click here (or on the image) for “50 alternatives to a book report” if you need some inspiration.

3. Follow your curiosity. Find your passion(s).

People do their best work and perform at their best when they’re doing something they’re passionate about and something that aligns with their natural strengths and talents. Can you think of a time when you’ve done your best work – does this ring true? If you hate school (or a class), what are the odds that you’re going to excel at it?

You probably can’t avoid classes you’re not passionate about, BUT you can use points 1 and 2 above to hack those classes and enjoy them more. You can also increase the time you spend on things you’re passionate about.

Maybe you adore snakes…

What are you passionate about? What questions do you have about the world? What looks like fun to try?  

How can you spend more of your time – in school OR OUTSIDE school – exploring your curiosity and interests?

When you’re a teenager, you’ve been exposed to only a tiny piece of what’s possible to learn, to do, to see (places to go), to create, etc.  It’s the perfect, perfect time to follow your curiosity and try things.  Figuring out who you are, what resonates for you (it’s different for everyone) and what you enjoy doing will also help you eventually figure out a path in life that you love, where you can do your best work.

Ideas for Action #3:

DIY is aimed at young people up to 17 years old and can help you figure out your passions through FUN, no pressure activities.

Spend time every day following your curiosity about SOMETHING. Spend time every day doing something you’re passionate about.  Do something that revives you, re-energizes you – feed your spirit.

Try a new sport or hobby, get a part time job for someplace interesting, set up a club or join a meetup group.

Don’t know what you’re really interested in?  Check out at DIY.org, look through their 70 “skills” and figure out what sounds fun to you. Try a few of the 100s of activities suggested by yourself or with friends – experiment until you find something that resonates!

4.  Start with YOUR end game.

What are your dreams for the future? Become an artist, dancer, teacher, scientist, mechanic, store owner? Travel the world? Write a book? Make money? Help people?  Play around with that and use your high school experiences to start down that path now.

WHY ARE YOU IN HIGH SCHOOL? Because you have to be? Because it’s expected? Because you have ‘no choice?’ Would you view high school differently if you knew you wanted: to become a mechanic like my father…to learn how to run my family business…to make people laugh every day…to learn how to build software like Minecraft…to work for Apple some day…to have the starring role in a musical…Wouldn’t you approach it differently?

You’re not a pile of sand – you can move towards your dreams…

What if you found a better reason to be there: to become a mechanic like my father…to learn how to run my family business…to make people laugh every day…to learn how to build software like Minecraft…to work for Apple some day…to have the starring role in a musical…to have the freedom someday to do whatever I want…Wouldn’t you approach high school differently? 

If you’re excited about future possibilities and have something on the horizon you’re working towards, you’ll be able to tolerate some of the high school ‘must do’s’ in front of you.  Can you find something big that you want to create or accomplish?  Can you find an ‘end game’ that resonates and is exciting for you? 

EXAMPLE: if spending time with animals is what you love doing the most, then maximize high school for that – join 4H, incorporate it into your class assignments, start exploring careers and figuring out what kind of education you will need to get there.  Job shadow a vet, volunteer at the hospital with therapy dogs, work at a pet store…There are 100s of things you could do now during high school to get out of the school bubble and make progress towards your personal end game. And if you decided to be a vet, you know you need your diploma, college, and will have a reason for doing the work asked of you.

Ideas for Action #4:

If you already have an idea of your end game, start exploring what you’ll need to learn/do/accomplish to get there. We can’t actually tell you HOW, because we don’t know if you’re dreaming of being a doctor or a quiltmaker or a pet groomer!  Strategize your high school classes and activities looking at how they’ll help you achieve your end game.  Go connect with people doing things similar to your dream, find out what’s required to get there.

If you’re not sure what you want beyond school, Roadtrip Nation has a fantastic Roadmap that can help you explore possibilities.  They have thousands of videos of people talking about what they do, how they got there, what skills they needed. It’s one of the best ways to see some end games and get the raw details.

5. Make your counselor your friend.

Okay, so far we’re saying learn how to study better, hack your classes, explore your passions…and there’s a person at your high school who can help with all of this.

Your counselor can help you make high school massively better. Tell them you can’t stand your science class and ask for help – they’ll hook you up with the Mad Scientist Club at school, or perhaps send you this Youtube channel on Science and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Tell them you’ve played a lot of volleyball and get them to introduce you to the school coach. Tell them you have an iguana and love reptiles and they’ll find you volunteer service hours at the Reptile Rescue Center…

And if they don’t get you, then change counselors until you get someone that works for you.

Ideas for Action #5:

Counselors want to help you – they didn’t get the job by accident…

Make an appointment with your counselor. Have a conversation with them. Create a person-to-person relationship with them. Be the squeaky wheel (and get the grease).

Basically, ask them for what you want! Use them to find out what’s happening at school that YOU think would help you a) learn more, b) enjoy school more, c) do something exciting and d) [other things you want go here].

Last words –

Whatever you decide to do to hack your high school education, remember life’s too short to be miserable! A solution is out there; but you may have to experiment to find it.

And no matter what end game you’re after, don’t forget:

2017-01-18T16:06:01+00:00 January 10th, 2017|Categories: Education, Ideas for Action|Tags: , , , , , |0 Comments

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