Six tips for making your transition back to school smooth and stress-free

August - that wonderful time of year when summer winds down and retailers all around the nation remind us that the start of the school year is right at our doorstep. We get flooded with advertisements telling us what styles we must have and what supplies we absolutely need to survive the next eight or nine months of schooling. However, back-to-school preparation should be much more a mental preparation process than a financial and consumerist one.

Here’s a look from a secondary (middle and high school) teacher at factors to consider beyond buying clothing and school supplies: 


Schedule: Over the summer, our schedules have probably gotten out of sync with what a typical school day looks like. Now is the time to start making the switch to get the body used to the (generally) earlier hours the school day demands. Begin rewiring your sleep cycle by going to bed a little bit earlier every night until you’re at about the time you’d want to be hitting the hay during the school year.

To ease into these new sleep habits, start getting up 15 minutes earlier every morning and going to bed 15 minutes earlier until you arrive at your target bedtime/wake time. Alternatively, you can go to bed at the same time you have been every night (let’s say 2:00 AM) and then simply force yourself to get out of bed early (7:00 AM). The next day, you’ll most likely be tired, but as long as you push through the day without napping, you’ll likely make it to bed much earlier than you regularly would.


Food: For many of us, the school season is one when we’re constantly on the go. Whether we’re going to and from classes or shuttling from school to an afterschool club or athletic practice, we’re often pressed for time. This time crunch means that we’re often sacrificing good nutrition for the convenience of fast food and packaged or frozen meals.

Take the time before you head back to school (and on the weekends once school starts) to plan your meals and snacks. Recognize that most of us won’t have the time or the desire during the week to cook or make shopping lists, so do these things when you’re rested. Consider cooking large batches of a variety of healthy foods during the weekends that you can take with you and heat at school. If that’s not practical, look into “cold” (no heating needed) foods that you can munch on throughout the day. Nuts, pita chips, 100% whole wheat bread, and fresh fruits and veggies that can be eaten raw make healthy, low-calorie, easy-to-pack alternatives to the sugar- and fat-rich menu items most fast food items offer. When possible, buy healthy food in bulk to avoid numerous time-consuming trips to the grocery store.


Tour the school: You’ll have lots of things to get used to during the new school year: new classes, new classmates, new teachers, new activities, etc., so why not get familiar with as much of your new world as you can ahead of time? Take a walk in and around your new school grounds and scope out the terrain in advance. Figure out where your classes will be and where spots you’ll commonly visit are such as restrooms, dining areas, administrative offices, etc. Getting the lay of the land now will make you feel better when school starts and you’re navigating confidently through crowded hallways/campuses of lost people.


Supplies: Yes, you do need some of these, although definitely not nearly as many as retailers are hoping you’ll buy. Resist the impulse to get everything you want just because it looks so nice/cool/fashionable in the store or on the ad. Instead, see if your teacher(s) have posted supply lists or class syllabi somewhere on the school’s website (several schools do this nowadays in today’s technological climate). Buy only what it says there, and then only after looking through your room and backpack from last year to see what supplies might be in reusable condition. Chances are you at least have some pencils, paper, and erasers somewhere that can be put to use once again this year.


Goals: Summer is almost over – yikes! Take a moment to think about what you really wanted to do during this off time and see what you can accomplish. Is it still possible to squeeze in a weekend trip or mini vacation to somewhere? Make it happen! Is there some household chore you wanted to do before the start of the school year, like cleaning out your closet or helping your parents retile their bathroom? Get to work! You’ll have much less time once the school year starts to do these things, and you’ll probably start the semester off with a feeling of accomplishment if you do them now instead of putting them off some more.


Fun: But why think too much about school when it’s not here yet? Get your planning and shopping done as quickly as possible so you can get out and do what you love doing for the remainder of your summer. Good planning and time management now and throughout the school year will help ensure that you get plenty more free time even once school starts, which will in turn translate to more time to do what you love.