7 Practical Skills You Must Have for This Coming School Year

Student Life

A wise man once said: “Never stop learning, for life never stops teaching.”

I found this quote exceptionally true, for the world we live in today is growing continuously. We find ourselves are constantly learning new information, acquiring new knowledge, and facing new challenges more and more.

To do so effectively, we need to equip ourselves with the proper and necessary skills and tools. Well, we obviously cannot be superb at every single skill existed. But no worries here, I got your back!

In this article, I will specifically list out 7 practical skills that I believe every student should acquire. These skills will not just help you in school, but also for other plans that you might have such as projects, jobs, internships, and later, your career. Moreover, I will explain why you would want to develop these skills using my own experiences and real-life benefits. Last, a few suggested online resources will be listed for you to develop the suggested skills below.

Alright, let's go!

Skill #1: Typing

Most of the work we do these days at school and work is done using technology devices, through several platforms and software like Google Docs or Microsoft Word. Exams like the TOEFL iBT and recently the AP Subject Exams have been taken digitally by students as well.

Developing a good typing speed will be so beneficial for you as a student at school and/or an office worker for your first job. You can complete assignments/reports more quickly and accurately, thus make you appear to be a quite accountable and competent learner or employee. I still remember how in awe my older classmates were of how fast I typed our handwritten essay into Google Docs in my ESL class, as a direct result of several practices on typing.com. It was such a wonderful feeling to have when they commended me on my skill, given the fact I was only a Freshman, as well as when they inquired about the resources I used to build it.

People get better at typing by regularly typing on their computers alone. Nonetheless, if you want a test to measure your speed your skill, and some extra practices, go to these websites to improve it:

Skill #2: Speed Reading

According to Wikipedia, speed reading is “any of several techniques to improve one’s ability to read quickly.” Reading has always taken up a big portion of our studying in plenty of subjects. Therefore, having a superb reading skill, or speed, should serve you well academically.

I wish I had thought about this before I practically got drowned in Federalist papers while cramming for my AP Government class last school year; figuring out what James Madison and Alexander Hamilton were trying to convey throughout several pages was indeed time and energy-consuming. Phew!

There are several tips and methods for any of us to learn how to read faster. Spend some time researching and experimenting with what technique works best for you, and do lots of practice, with both papers and screens. Here are some resources that I found quite helpful:

  • Speed Reading definition and techniques.
  • A guide by Tim Ferriss on Youtube.

There are plenty of other resources you can find on the internet, as well as in books and from your teachers or peers.

If you're struggling with reading documents that are not in your first language, make sure to stay patient and hardworking, especially if you are studying abroad. It might take you more time to read the same document than how much your native peers would need, but don't get discouraged! Be aware of your current skill, sketch out a plan to improve it, be diligent, and embrace the progress you make. I'm sure you will get better day by day!

Skill #3: Summarizing/Annotating

To successfully acquire knowledge, you can’t just know how to read fast. You need to understand what you read as well. One way to effectively comprehend the content as you read is annotating, and later paraphrasing it into reviewable sentences, phrases, mind maps, or keywords. This activity is undeniably helpful for content comprehension and future reference, am I right? No?

Imagine you have finished the reading assignment for your class tomorrow, ready for any possible discussion and questions arise. However, when you wake up tomorrow morning, no deduced conclusions or comprehension proof of the assignment remains in your memory. There's very little time left to reread; even if you make it before the class starts, the result wouldn't be as thorough and well-comprehended as the one you put together the night before. You would fail to participate in class discussion and ask questions, thus leading to a bad grade, a gap knowledge.

To avoid this kind of situation, you should consider having written notes on the side of the documents, in your notebook, or on a piece of paper. Those annotated notes will be a life savior when it comes to future reference and review. Plus, it won't run away anywhere!

  • A simple guide to annotating literature books
  • A simple guide to summarize a chapter in a History textbook + note-taking
  • A comprehensive guide to annotating

Skill #4: Note-taking

Alongside reading and annotating, note-taking is another essential skill for collecting and memorizing information during lectures, as well as studying for exams. Taking clean, useful, and nice-looking notes are crucial for studying, as well as future reference and review.

According to an experiment conducted at Princeton University, students who take hand notes in one semester report a higher received GPA than that of students who take notes digitally.

I recommend taking notes by hand since it’s better for memorizing and learning, even though it took more time and resources than taking notes digitally.

Here are some online resources for you to look at and learn how to take notes efficiently:

Skill #5: Good Handwriting

Alright, I don’t think I need to explain how important this is. It's true that we mostly use technology to write nowadays, but that doesn't mean handwriting is no longer in use. Plenty of exams are still taken on paper, hand-writing letters and note cards are still deeply appreciated than typed ones, and several other daily tasks that require us to have decent, at least readable handwriting. Good handwriting takes time and the right tools to practice and master, but I believe it's worth the effort. In my culture, people believe that a person's handwriting could speak up a lot about their personality, whether that person is careful or haphazard, rigid or soft, generous or selfish. Good handwriting indicates that you are a careful and organized person, that you put pride in what you do and believe in.

  • A simple guide from my favorite Youtube channel - studyquill.

Skill #6: Planning & Organizing

“A fool with a plan can beat a genius with no plan” - T. Pickens

I hope this quote makes sense to you. It’s just true. Planning is such a critical process in achieving anything, yet many students skip this part or do it haphazardly. Of course, we can’t really “plan” our futures; however, we can set our goals, know what needs to be done, and create tasks for ourselves in the 24 hours ahead. Focus on what you can achieve in the next 24 hours, for the big success is a result of several small steps and achievements.

There are many planning systems you can follow, I will list out a few:

Skill #7: Calculating Quickly in Your Head

For those of you who think Math is useless, especially complex mathematical (Calculus and beyond), you’re not alone. When your Math teacher was trying to explain sin and cosine in Algebra II, you might be wondering: “How does knowing this benefit me in daily life?” Well, you're not particularly wrong. We might not need to have the quadratic formula or the circle equation memorized for our daily tasks like eating, sleeping or hanging out with our friends; however, knowing how to do basic calculations quickly in your head can be quite of use and time-saving in numerous situations.

Here are some resources that I found quite helpful:

That’s all I have for this article. I hope the article was valuable and digestible. Thank you for reading it all the way through. Just by doing so, you've proved to yourself that you do really care about improving yourself in order to accomplish your goals and to be who you desire to be.

Remember, these are not the only skills that you need as a student or just simply a human being. The world we’re living in is so big and getting bigger every day. Therefore, we need to continue improving and developing ourselves in many aspects, for we are the bright future of this planet.


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Nhi Tran

Editor · 24 edited articles · 23 pitched topics · 19 writers helped

Nhi (Nina) Tran is a Vietnamese high school student who has come to and studied in the US since she was 14. Besides journaling and reading novels, Nina enjoys spending her time daydreaming and singing when no one is home. She hopes you are having a great day and enjoying all the articles on The Teen Magazine!

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