A Few Things to Do for School Success in ’92

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES. Mary Laine Yarber teaches English and journalism at Santa Monica High School. Her column appears weekly

With a new year just a few days away, it’s a great time to make some resolutions to better yourself--especially if you’re a student.

Yes, you should promise again to do your homework and avoid procrastinating, but here are some suggestions for ways to improve your schoolwork (and life in general) that are enjoyable--and some are even free.

Start with the best key to an organized personal and school life: a date book. Of course, many students buy date books that have catchy features and flashy covers, but a simple pocket calendar works too. You may find a stack of free daily planners in your school’s offices or neighborhood stores.

A date book is no help, though, unless you write homework deadlines, exam dates and social appointments in it, so resolve to be conscientious about that in the coming year.


There are some effective daily habits that can improve your schoolwork too.

For example, vow to spend at least 20 minutes on each subject every day. If you have nothing assigned in a subject, then spend the time reviewing. Twenty minutes may not sound like much, but consider its cumulative effect over a year. It’s much better than an evening of desperate cramming.

Many students complain that television woos them away from schoolwork--so in 1992, do something about it.

Watch less, and try different kinds of programs. Catch at least one newscast a few times each week so you’ll know about the world you live in. Sit through a PBS program now and then, preferably one that ties in with your studies at school.


Use the time when you’re not watching TV to read for fun every day, whether you prefer romance novels, science fiction or the sports pages.

The more you read, the faster a reader you’ll become, and that’s a definite advantage in school.

Keep a journal, whether you write every day or just on especially good or bad occasions. It helps you work out problems, relieve stress, and write more quickly and clearly.

One word of caution about journals: Parents sometimes stumble upon them, so bear in mind that some thoughts are best left inside your own head.


Daily exercise should be another resolution for a well-rounded student, and the academic advantages shouldn’t surprise anyone: Exercise clears your head, makes you more alert and provides self-confidence that carries over to other areas.

Join a club or organization at school, if you haven’t already. It’s a safe, structured way to make friends if you’re shy, and it’s a good reason to get up and go to school in the morning.

Down the road, club membership also looks good on college and job applications.

Get involved in community service. Find a cause you care about and help it along, whether it’s the environment, needy people or politics.


Take a computer literacy class (or at least typing) at school, regardless of your college or career plans. Keyboarding is required for an increasing number of entry-level and part-time jobs.

Typing well will also save a lot of time in college, where a large number of assignments must be typed.

Besides the subjects you study in school, think of one you’ve always wanted to know more about and then pursue it in your spare time--maybe an hour a week.

If you learned about a new topic each year, imagine how smart and interesting you’d be by adulthood.


Finally, no matter what your grade level, start thinking ahead toward college and your career. Ask a school counselor what you can do this year to work toward your goal, whether it’s looking through college catalogues or asking questions of a professional in the field that you would like to enter.

Diagram a realistic and specific path to your dream college or career, post it on a wall at home and keep your resolution to start it in 1992.

Of course, few students have time to keep all of their resolutions. But implementing even a couple of them will help make you more successful in 1992.