It’s a lot more fun to do things that aren’t school work than doing school-related things, isn’t it? 

I know that I dread starting my work as much as I look forward to having it done so I can go fool around.

However, I’ve recently learned that what you’re assigned to do is only half of what’s to be done, the rest is training yourself personally to become better in what you’re doing. Building good habits when it comes to your academics and general aspirations is essential to going from good to great.

Studying — boy. oh. boy, I can’t stress how important this is. For my younger readers, if you’re out there, I know that you might do well on tests right now without even glossing over your notes or books, but I’ll tell you from experience, that ends after ninth grade or so.

I’ve found the best way that I study is reading over the text and taking general notes about information that’s shaky in my memory, and then writing some sort of catchy rhyme about whatever notes I might take, almost like I’m writing a rap or poetry.

It doesn’t even have to do anything with the fact you’re trying to remember, but at least for me, associating the term with another word that rhymes helps me remember it when I really need to. For example, “Black v Board rhymes nice with four!."

Other highly recommended methods of study are to use flash cards (online flash cards are nice), or quiz a friend — if you can stay productive while doing it. 

There’s more to do than just studying, though. 

Assess your habits! This is a tough one to do, as it requires you to admit you aren’t perfect, but once you get past that it can really help you out in the long run! 

One thing I’ve learned to keep in mind, is if I’m talking too much or listening too much. Sometimes it can feel good to just talk as much as you can, but you’re missing valuable information that you could be learning from somebody or being annoying them, ESPECIALLY if this person is in some sort of instructor/mentor role to you.

It’s also good to take time to sit back, relax and think about what you’ve been doing and if your priorities are in order. Worried about the results of "The Voice" more than your GPA? Reassess and correct. 

None of us is perfect, and improvement is a forever ongoing process; there’s always something that can be fixed.

Really, more than anything, don’t just do the bare minimum asked of you to get by. The greatest minds didn’t become great just by doing what they were told to do; they took it upon themselves to become better than the average. 

To become excellent, you need to exceed, and to do that, simply doing what’s dished out to you by teachers isn’t gonna cut it.

Don’t be afraid to go out and learn about things school won’t teach you either. If it interests you, chances are it’ll one day become of some use to you! Learning can be pleasure when it’s about a topic of your choosing, so don’t be afraid to use Google to remedy your boredom! 

It’s what made me so interested in history, law and politics, so who knows, you may discover your new passion!

Ultimately, to sum up what I’ve been saying, never stop being hungry. Do as much as you can to get ahead, because, as my teacher has said, “the people that work the hardest seem to be the luckiest.”  

Austin Czechowski is a senior at Cobleskill-Richmondville High School. Would you like A Word of Advice from him? Send him an email at, or send him a letter to "Teen Talk: A Word of Advice," C/O The Daily Star, P.O. Box 250, Oneonta, NY 13820. ‘Teen Talk’ columns can be found at

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