I’ve spent nearly ten rewarding years as an ACT Test Prep Coach, preparing incredible young people for over 100 ACT and SAT tests. In addition to gifting me with great joys and challenges, this work has revealed valuable insight into the habits, practices, and mind-sets that successful students share.

Let’s first define “success” as an individual student performing at her or his best: completing assignments, managing stress, and feeling proud of and fulfilled by, his or her school-related achievements and relationships. Read on for how to get to your best in five steps.

1 Know yourself. Plan accordingly.

Make a list of all your good and bad habits, your feelings around your academic performance, and obstacles. Do you procrastinate? Do you stress about an assignment until it’s done? Do you underestimate how much time it will take you? Now put this data to work for you. Ask someone whose opinion you trust for help you come up ways to reinforce the positive and minimize or neutralize the negative. This is your study plan.

2 Start early and evaluate often

Ask: what’s the endpoint and what will it take to get there? What does the finished product look like? Make an outline, write a one-paragraph mission statement, or draw a diagram to give you a sense of what a “completed” assignment looks like. Now back up: what are the steps to get you there? Then with each step forward, check your progress.

3 Guard sleep

Nothing good happens after 12am. Lights out, mic dropped.

4 Lose the phone when doing homework

Turn it off, put it in a drawer, or give it to a parent to stash away for a set period of time. My favorite suggestion: Hide it in your bed, beneath all your sheets and pillows. You won’t hear it buzz, and it will be juuust annoying enough to dig it out that you’ll be able to stop yourself from doing it.

5 Ask for help

When teachers, parents, other adults, or friends see you reaching out for help, they’ll be honored by your trust and happy to connect with you. There will always be someone eager to help because helping feels good, and helper and helpee each learn from the other.


What project or plan can you use to put these five steps into action right away? Use the summer to try it out! Then let us know how it worked.

Looking to get a start (or finish) on that college admissions essay? Our communications strategist is a professional writer and former university writing instructor. Schedule a one-on-one virtual meeting with Carolyn this June to lock down a draft before pool season. All you need to bring is a few prompts you’re considering and she’ll send you off with a plan for a first draft.

Want to help your middle and elementary school learners get more out of their summers? We’re thrilled to offer students a chance to work directly with Erika Bussmann through our new summer enrichment program. Perfectly suited for reluctant readers in elementary and middle school, or more motivated and advanced students looking for that extra push, the summer enrichment program will aim to help kids develop a love for reading while acquainting them with their local libraries. Erika can also help advanced students plan (and execute) their summer reading schedules and projects.

Contact us to learn more about scheduling summer enrichment sessions with Erika, or essay coaching with Carolyn.