rebelling against low expectations

13 Tips to Have the Best School Year Ever


Teachers everywhere are sharpening pencils, scarecrows are in display windows, and Wal-Mart has officially stocked the shelves with full-priced backpacks.

It’s back-to-school time yet again.

Maybe you’re starting college. Maybe you’re homeschooled. Maybe it’s your senior year or your freshman year or maybe you start junior high this year.

No matter what stage you’re at or what context you’re in, school is an inevitable reality in our lives. We can begrudge it or we can embrace it – that choice is up to us.

So for those of us who want to make the most of our education, here are thirteen ways to have the best school year ever:

1. Be grateful.

Recognize that education is a privilege, not a burden. Thus, you are blessed to be pursuing one. There are thousands of underprivileged teenagers all over the globe who don’t have access to an education – but who would do anything to get it.

Look at school with a fresh perspective this year, with a heart grateful to God for the wondrous opportunity that you have.

2. Get (and stay) committed.

Decide if education is important enough for you to commit wholeheartedly to it – and then commit. If learning really is a privilege, don’t waste it in bare minimum, just-good-enough effort. Choose every day to make the most of it.

3. Stop complaining.

About your classes, about your teacher, about your homework, about your gym, about your principal, about your cafeteria food. A complaining spirit says that you are dissatisfied with the circumstances God has put you in.

Do we realize that when we complain about our education that we are reflecting ingratitude to God for putting us in school?

4. Make friends.

Whether you’re homeschooled or in public school, reach out and build relationships. Hang out with those younger than you – and older than you. Follow good examples and set a good one of your own. Make connections and foster friendship.

5. Stay humble.

Don’t grow puffed up with pride – at your grades or your popularity or the fact that you’re homeschooled or the fact that you’re in public school. Recognize that as a student, you are here to learn and grow, not show off how much you know.

6. Respect your teachers.

Whether that’s the dreaded biology professor or whether that’s your mom, love your teachers and show them the deference they deserve. They are your authorities, your academic leaders. Honor them as they guide you.

7. Make yourself uncomfortable.

Step outside of the box. Break out of your comfortable sphere. Join a club or a co-op. Try out for basketball. Sit at a different lunch table. Talk to different people. Be unashamed in your gospel witness. Don’t be unwise, but make your year memorable with godly discomfort.

8. Don’t make it about grades.

This one’s for all my kindred spirits out there – the perfectionist, GPA-obsessors who have nightmares about C’s. Friend, true education is not about grades; it’s about learning something that shifts your perspective, changes your paradigms, and enlightens you about the world. Don’t grow hardened to learning by making your education just about letters.

9. Have fun.

No, I’m not crazy. School can be fun, because here’s the thing: like everything else in life, it’s all what you make of it. Look at your studies with joy. Find the things you like about learning. Discover your favorite subject. Throw homework parties with your friends. Involve your parents. Engage your teachers.

10. Find your passion.

Figure out what you love to do. Chemistry experiments? Literary critiques? Algebra? Squats? You have a rich opportunity to sample a diverse array of subjects. You’ll discover some things you hate to do, but you’ll also find delight in things you enjoy doing. Look at school as a way to find what captures your interest.

11. Keep calm.

Dear fellow students, please don’t stress. It’s just a test. It’s just a paper. It’s just a teacher, just an interview, just a [fill-in-the-blank]. I have learned this time and again from bitter experience. Your worry never pays off. It inhibits you, cripples you, disorients you, and makes you selfish. Then suddenly it’s gone – and you wonder why you were ever concerned.

Stay calm by planting your feet in a ground higher than school; place your trust and satisfaction in Christ.

12. Work hard (for God).

Paul’s oft-quoted command from Colossians rings distinctly true for the student: “Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically as something done for the Lord and not for men” (Col. 3:23). Don’t get blinded by self-importance. Do your work well and do it for the One who is more important than any of your teachers.

13. Know that you’re not a student first.

It can be tempting to make student our first identity, but we are foremost children of God. The reason we are here is not to make good grades but to glorify our King (1 Cor. 10:31). In a few years, we won’t even be students any more.

Yet we will forever remain children of God. Thus, how we live should reflect that.

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Photo courtesy of Leo Hidalgo and Flickr Creative Commons.


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About the author

Jaquelle Crowe Ferris

is the former editor-in-chief of The Rebelution and author of This Changes Everything: How the Gospel Transforms the Teen Years (Crossway). She's the co-founder of The Young Writers Workshop and hosts a podcast for youth called Age of Minority. She's married to Joe and lives in Nova Scotia, Canada.


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  • Awesome, awesome post!! 🙂 Thank you so much! I’m starting my junior year next week, taking duel credits at our community college! So glad I got to read this and get my perspective right! Especially about being grateful and not being stressed! 😉 I tend to be one of those GPA-obsessed people, but God’s taught me so much about doing my best but then trusting Him with the results!

    Thanks for the post! 🙂

  • Thanks, Jacquelle! Yet another great, encouraging post right when I need it. 🙂 Tomorrow I’m going to a new, Christian school for the first time. It’s a great opportunity that I didn’t know if I would be able to get, and I’m both slightly scared and very excited. I get really stressed about schoolwork and deadlines, so thank you for reminding me to do everything for the glory of God. Even- or maybe especially- school.

  • My last semester of school didn’t go very well so I’m excited to start fresh next month. Thank you so much for writing this encouraging article. I hope to use your tips throughout this school year and beyond.

  • Thanks for posting this. This is a great article and it really helped me change some parts of my life as I return to school. Keep up the great work and thanks for writing!

  • I really needed these reminders. Thanks, Jacquelle! Number three was specifically convicting. I need to grow in thankfulness rather than grumbling and complaining.

  • Personally practical, scripturally saturated (at least behind the scenes), and crystal clear. I will definitely aim to implement those 13 tips into my school year. I have actually recently obtained a passion for learning, so I am greatly looking forward to this new school year. Thanks for being our editor.

    By the way, what do you plan to do with your degree in communications?

    • Thank you for your kind encouragement, Matthew. As far as my degree, I’m planning on going on to grad school, so I picked a somewhat general undergraduate major. I’d like to write more professionally. I’m also considering teaching English as a second language or pursuing early childhood education. We’ll see what the future holds. 🙂

      Many blessings to you as you start this new school year!

      • Hi Jaquelle!

        I just wanted to say that for the record you write the most professional topics that I have ever read. So I will be excited to see what else you will accomplish when you learn more.

        God Bless,

  • Thanks for reminding me that school is a privilege, not a chore, and that learning is supposed to be exciting, fun, and wondrous. And that complaining is poisonous(something I definitely need to work on), even though it tends to be the norm in public school.
    I’m actually getting excited to see what God has in store for me this year!
    -Grace (

  • I definitely agree with #3! Tons of people, even myself sometimes, complain about homework or teachers. It’s not right. Tons of people all over the world can’t go to school. They can’t afford it or the opportunity just isn’t there. All they would want is to go to school. So no child should complain about it. You might not realize how important school is now, but in the future you’ll thank God for that precious opportunity.

    God Bless,

  • Wow, thank you for these tips! I just started school last week and am struggling to get back into a routine! If I consider myself doing schoolwork for God’s glory, it definitely changes my perspective of how hard I can do!

  • Sooooo good! I really needed this, thank you!
    Another two things I’ve found SUPER useful: (1) Have time with God everyday!!! and (2) Have a Sabbath every week! I strongly believe that God multiplies and blesses our time when we set aside a day to relax and recharge in Him. I doubt I could have gotten through my CRAZY year last year without it. It’s one of those great concepts God invented that very few people talk about any more. Yeh, it’s not something to get legalistic about at all, and each person can make their own choice, but I know you won’t regret it if you follow it!

    • Just wanted to say, I’d totally second the Sabbath idea. 🙂 For too long I’d just ignored it, but I think it really does fit with the way we were made.

    • Our family does Sabbath too, it’s so good and refreshing, I highly recommend it as well! Having time with the Lord everyday is also extremely vital, starting your day off with Him in His presence eliminates stress and worry and gives me more peace and wisdom for my day! Great comment girl!

  • So I just dropped most of my outside-the-house activities. Two co ops and my mime team, gone… So while #4 hasn’t been too difficult before, I expect it to be hard this year.
    Any advice on making friends at college, anyone? That’s where I am three afternoons a week, and it’s the only place I really see people…

    • What? MimeforJesus is no longer in mime team? I don’t even know what to make of this. 😉

      In all seriousness, as far as your question goes, I would focus on building connections with the people around you, in your classes, at lectures. Start up a conversation with someone. Get to class a few minutes early with the intent to meet someone new. And then reinforce that connection when you see them again.

      I guess that’s part of getting outside your comfort zone, too. You have to make an effort to reach out to people. Sadly, the world that we live in means that few people will look up from their phones to reach out to YOU. My biggest advice would be, make it intentional. Look for opportunities to make friends and you will find them.

      • Yeah, I’m not entirely sure what to make of it myself. :/ It’ll be good in the end, though!
        Thank you! 🙂

  • Ah, this article resonates deeply with me! Especially #8. I’m…a freakish perfectionist at times, and it almost ruined my school year last year. (I think my anatomy textbook is stained with my tears…)
    Thanks Jaquelle! I was looking for an article like this yesterday. 😉

  • Number 1 and 3 are definitely hard at my school. And I love my school–it’s small, Christian, community-centered, and fun! But almost everyday when I start a discussion or join one with my classmates between class periods, we complain to each other about a test or a certain class/teacher, or even that we are here at school at all, and soon it turns into a mutual complain-about-everything-education fest.
    I am guilty of it like most of the people in my school. However there are many times also when we appropriately empathize with each other about the difficulty of something and encourage each other–so I will try harder this year to start doing this instead of complaining.
    I also find that thanking God for the difficulties in life totally brightens my outlook. For example, instead of grumbling, “Gosh, this teacher is out to get me in everything I do. Why does the teacher always pick on me to answer the question when he clearly knows I don’t understand it?” I could say, “Thank you, Jesus, for this difficult teacher, because I know that he challenges me because he believes in me and wants me to do better–even when it feels like the opposite. Plus, it teaches me patience and to respect my teachers no matter what.” This doesn’t just apply to school, but everyday life:)

  • I think numbers 3 and 11 are the most hard for me to do. This school year, I am going to make a commitment to strive to stop complaining and keep calm, amidst my busy schedule. After all, school is a privilege, not something to be taken for granted! Thanks for the encouragement! -Zoë

rebelling against low expectations

The Rebelution is a teenage rebellion against low expectations—a worldwide campaign to reject apathy, embrace responsibility, and do hard things. Learn More →