‘Feeling so in control’: How a thoughtful teen calmed her hectic high school life

Student spotlight – Stephanie Davis

‘Feeling so in control’

How a thoughtful teen calmed her hectic high school life

Slowing down, reflecting

“I couldn’t make time to reflect on all the changes,” Stephanie said, as she recounted the most significant challenge she had faced in high school.

Sophomore year, she had transferred from a small, Catholic school in Denver to the big, competitive public arena of Hinsdale Central, which ranks 10th in Illinois. And while she didn’t think sports could get any more demanding than club volleyball was for her in Colorado, she ended up on both Junior Varsity and Varsity teams as a new student at Hinsdale Central—on top of taking all honors classes.

Stephanie was caught in a cycle of volleyball matches and tournaments, hours of homework and studying, and little sleep. This led to a steady decline in her health, grades, and mental stamina. She started worrying about her future but then turned to a friend who prodded her to find happiness each present day.

She realized what she had to do: “To slow down and stop pushing myself to unhealthy limits,” she said. She began taking art classes and appreciating the calm it brought her. She woke up early to make nice breakfasts, drink coffee, and have meaningful conversations with her family.

“I reevaluated my values and goals,” she said. “I evolved into a person with a more positive and reflective perspective. I went from prioritizing good grades and athletic performance to looking at the bigger picture of my health and success.”

Helping others gain time

She went on to seek health for more than herself. Wanting to relieve her mother from some stress and see her smile more, “I replaced my mom as my personal chef,” she said. What started with making her own breakfast expanded to fixing her own lunch and dinner and eventually shopping for groceries. She got creative with nutrition but more importantly, benefitted her mother, who started taking more time for personal relaxation.

“I loved watching her initially wound-up life slow down,” she said. “I began high school focused on school and sports, relying on my mom to work the rest behind the scenes. But as I understood the significance of contributing to her happiness, I realized I had to take responsibility for myself.”

Working in personal interests

Since middle school, when she took a trip with her parents to Europe, Stephanie has been fascinated by other histories, cultures and languages. Spanish became her favorite subject, and she wanted to delve into it beyond the classroom. Yet, since homework, activities, and an internship were consuming, it was difficult to find the time and energy to pursue that passion.

“Learning from earlier successes in time management with sports, I began applying the same skills to maximize time for improving my Spanish during my junior year,” Stephanie said. When she got home from school, she would listen to a Spanish podcast for thirty minutes before homework. On Fridays, she would visit a Spanish website and create flashcards for about seventy words to learn for the week. She also received weekly articles by email from a language learning site.  She used plane rides and other chunks of free time to chip away at her own 500-plus-page book on Latin American history.

“Taking time to invest in these interests of mine has been fulfilling and has greatly influenced my future goals,” she said. She now plans to major in International Business and minor in Spanish at New York University, her first-choice college where she was recently admitted. She aspires to “work with a bigger purpose” in areas of significance to her.

Eliminating social media

Stephanie’s number one piece of advice for high schoolers today is to eliminate social media while studying or doing homework. “It’s hard not to keep checking your phone, and it’s so easy to procrastinate, like ‘Oh, look I got a message,’” she said.

At the end of Sophomore year, she ended up deleting her Instagram and Twitter accounts and wished she had done so sooner when her sports were the most challenging to manage along with schoolwork. “I would’ve gotten a lot more sleep and had a lot less stress,” she said. “After practice or a tournament, you’re so tired. All you want to do is get on your phone and stare at your screen, but that wastes time and you’re more tired the next day; and it becomes a horrible cycle.”

Getting ahead of the week

Stephanie tackled the stress of Junior year by practicing study skills that More Than Scores And Tests taught her. She learned to get all her homework done during the weekend and takes notes on the material before the teacher covers it. That way, when she’s listening in class, she’s reviewing her notes and filling in any blanks. She rereads the notes during the week to drill the material in her head, and this helps her “hear the notes” in her head and perform better at test time.

More importantly, Stephanie smiled more—and slept more. “It’s so easy to leave the weekend, and start with no momentum, saying that you’ll take on the week, but the week controls you,” she said. “But getting ahead on the weekend, you’re so much more prepared and confident in your schoolwork, which becomes a lot easier to manage. You start your week feeling so in control.”

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