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Here's how to ace every test—and make it look effortless

Every fall, you hit the halls thinking the same thing: This year, you’re going to be That Girl. You know, the one with straight A’s, who is editor of the school paper and has an awesome social life (with a cool crew).

But somewhere between landing a spot in the starting lineup and campaigning for student council, you find yourself careening down Homework Mountain and caving to the nasty naysayer in your head. Not anymore! Here are (surprisingly) easy ways to get in the right mindset for your most amazing year yet...

Silence the "I can't do it" voice by, well, doing it
The start of the year is the best time to get after a big goal. Sure, you may be shooting for the moon...but just because you’re aiming high doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Besides, you know what that corny class-room poster says: Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.

Deep breath. Work backward to tackle overwhelming goals. Start with what you want to achieve, like making the all-state choir. Then, list each step you need to take to make it a reality and set a deadline for completing each task. The progress you make as you cross off each step on your list will keep you working toward the finish line.

Put the tough stuff first
You know that one thing on your list you’d rather clean out your closet than complete? Yeah, do that first. We know it stinks, but once you get the job done, you’ll free up time for the things you truly love.

Tune it out (or turn it off). And by “it,” we mean everything. Your feed. Your cat. Your chipped nails. Tell the world you’re taking an hour to focus on something important, set a timer and work hard until you hear that ding. You’ll be surprised by how much you can complete when nothing else is begging for your attention.

Love every challenge you take on
The most important thing is not to be good at everything—it’s to find what makes you feel happy and energized. That may mean signing up to tutor ESL students...but, sigh, saying adios to the Spanish club vice presidency. So if something sounds just “meh,” don’t be afraid to say no. Then, use your extra time to focus on an opp that truly gets you fired up.

Hand off the spotlight. Sure, that part-time photography gig sounds like a once-in-a-lifetime chance. But if it’s not getting you psyched—or playing into your future plans—try suggesting someone else who could really use the chance to shine.

Ask for help *before* you need it
We’re going to let you in on a little secret: No matter how awesome That Girl is, she’s not doing it all on her own. And neither should you. Whether it’s enlisting a peer tutor for earth science or swapping essays with a friend for a totally honest critique, we all need someone in our corner.

Shout it out. Get more support than you think you need. Whether it’s friends, family or teachers, assemble a tribe of your best people and ask them to hold you accountable. Let them in on your success, too!

Take yourself—and your time—seriously
We know you’d rather meet up with your crew after school, but trust us: You’re much better off scooting home and working on that history paper due next week. Why? When you give yourself tons of time to get stuff done, you’ll stress less—and likely will do a better job.

Say no, sans guilt. Make sure you’re not giving up any of your precious time just because you’re afraid to say no. Yep, you could bake six dozen cupcakes for your class fundraiser...but so could someone else. So stop spreading yourself thin and give yourself a much-needed breather.

Keep your cool
The way you behave when things are less than perfect shows everyone the kind of person you really are. The next time a project goes off the rails, put the meltdown you’re dying to have on a back burner and focus instead on troubleshooting the situation.

Take responsibility. When you make a mistake, you’ve got options: You can point the finger at someone else, you can pretend nothing bad happened or you can own up to it. Easy to say, we know, but find the strength to go with the last option. Coming clean and focusing on fixing the sitch shows maturity—and will help make the hard stuff easier to handle the next go-round.

Don't just act smart—be smart
Being a back-to-school superstar isn’t all great grades and brag-worthy after-school activities. The way you interact with everyone you meet is just as important. So conduct yourself according to how you wish to be perceived by those around you. Want to be known as the nice girl on campus? You know what to do.

Clueless? Get creative. Even the savviest social butterflies find themselves in situations they don’t know quite how to handle. When in doubt, think, “What would my role model do?” (and we’re partial to, “What would Beyoncé do?” because channeling Queen B hasn’t failed us yet!). Having a role model helps you make good decisions that support your goals.

Refuse to let defeat derail you.
So...yeah, you lost the tennis tourney. But that doesn’t mean you have to give up your dream of being the next Serena. Goals are just milestones on your larger path. Sticking with whatever it is you set out to do, even if you smash ’em into the net, is far more important than boasting a perfect record.

Take pitfalls in stride. Criticism, rejection, losing—it all hurts. But there are ways to shift those negatives into positives. To turn your sorry situation around, take five minutes to consider how you could do better next time rather than dwelling on disaster. Then, head back to square one by mapping out the steps to improvement.

Know how awesome you are
Need something more concrete? On a scale of 1 to 10, we’d say you clock in at 11, easy. So believe it. Confidence is about being the best *you* you can be. It’s not that you’re stuck up...it’s just about being your own best friend first.

It's time to get real. Be honest about what you’re good at, what you could stand to do better at, and what’s just not your thing. Understanding your strengths and weaknesses will help you pinpoint ways you can improve, know when to call for reinforcements and help you appreciate the ways you truly kick booty. Because you do!

How do you stay posi under serious stress? Share in the comments below!

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by GL | 10/26/2018
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