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We all know that creeping, sinking feeling.

The nights are getting cooler and the days are getting shorter. Instead of seeing swimsuits and sundresses at the mall, you're browsing through sweaters and snowboots. And rather than planning your next poolside hangout or movie marathon with friends, you're comparing schedules and teacher assignments.

You may like your classes. You may be looking forward to seeing your friends every day again. But no matter what your year holds, waving goodbye to those lazy, luxurious summer days can dampen even the most hopeful feelings.

It doesn't have to be like that, though. Going back to school can be an opportunity to set some goals, change up your image or even discover a new passion. Read on for three different areas where a little enthusiasm can breathe some excitement back into those fall and winter months.

>Change it up

An easy way to liven up your back-to-school mind-set is to revamp your hairstyle. It doesn't have to be anything crazy -- a small change like getting bangs, adding highlights or learning a new way to style your tresses can make you feel more confident and excited to show off your new 'do. Obviously check with your parents before you come home with bubblegum-pink hair, but don't be afraid of trying something new.

Fashion is another area where a few simple changes can bring about major results. Waverly Colville, 15, and Caroline Duszynski, 14, have been best friends since they met in dance class in sixth grade. They're very interested in fashion and shopping, but that's where their style similarities end. Duszynski describes her style as "boho prep," and Colville has an edgier, "rocker chic" flair. They gave some advice to those looking to redesign their wardrobes on a budget.

Clean out your closet. Go through your clothes and rotate your go-to items to the back. Chances are, you'll find a couple new outfits without spending a dollar. But Duszynski said sometimes, it's just time to let go. "If you haven't worn something within a year, I think you should just toss it." Pass on your gently worn clothing to younger siblings or cousins or Goodwill, or sell it to a secondhand store like Plato's Closet (www.platoscloset.com).

Work with the basics. Invest in a few well-made, timeless items you can incorporate every day, and then build around them. "If I could only get a couple [items] ... that would be OK, because I would get stuff that never goes out of style so you can use them with things that go in and out of style," said Colville. Combine those basics with something people wouldn't expect -- for example, pair a black skirt with a band T-shirt, blazer and funky necklace.

It's all in the details. Duszynski, who attends Nardin Academy, has a dress code to deal with during the school year. Not only that, it got stricter this year -- skirts now must be below the knee. However, she said she can make her other option, khaki pants with a collared shirt, more feminine and unique with cardigans and scarves. Colville, who goes to Orchard Park High School, said an easy way to refresh your look without going on a shopping spree is to buy some new accessories instead -- changing up your jewelry can give old outfits an entirely new spin.

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>Savor the memories

Sometimes one of the best things about the summer is looking back on all the fun times you had. A great way to do just that is by creating a scrapbook -- you'll be a lot more likely to stroll down memory lane if your pictures, postcards and ticket stubs are displayed with pride instead of shoved in a shoe box under your bed.

Attica resident Sara Bartz, 16, has been scrapbooking for about six years. She said it's an easy way to express creativity and easy to do while watching a movie or TV, which makes it a perfect hobby for inclement nonsummer seasons. Not only are you staying busy and productive, you're reliving summertime fun.

"Scrapbooks are a good way to show what you did that summer," she said. "And then you don't have to be so sad that it went, because you still have it with you."

Scrapbooking can be as expensive or inexpensive as you want -- Bartz said plan on spending around $30 to start for basics. You can use construction paper or standard white printer paper for your background, or buy sheets of patterned scrapbook-specific paper. There are tons of ways to make each page unique, like stickers, stamps, quotes and accents you can buy at places like Walmart, Jo-Ann Fabrics or Michaels.

Another option, if you're feeling intimidated by the scrapbooking idea, is a photo journal, where you organize all your summer pictures into albums and write a little blurb for each so you remember what made it so special. Even just updating the framed pictures in your room can help keep summer fresh in your mind all year.

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>Get involved

The best way to majorly spice up your school year is by being proactive about what you want and how you're going to get there. Not only will these sorts of goals look stellar on a college resume, they also provide a serious dose of self-confidence. Explore activities you've never considered before -- a brand-new year means a brand-new beginning, and anything is possible.

*Engage your brain.

Give yourself something to reach for in the classroom. Start with aiming to increase your grade by three or four points this quarter in a subject you typically struggle in. Enroll in a class you know will challenge you, or try to make the honor roll. But it doesn't stop there -- instead of heading home after school and logging onto Facebook or playing video games, occupy yourself in some more positive ways.

Get in shape and dare yourself to race in a marathon or 5K -- you can find ones in your area by visiting www.runnersworld.com and clicking on "race finder" under the tools tab.

Another great way to stay focused and creative this upcoming year, not to mention improve your writing, is to start a blog about something you love. It can be poetry, music, writing, sports, anything -- the only requirement is that you have fun with it and use it to express yourself. Good places to start are www.livejournal.com or www.wordpress.com.

Miranda Lefebvre, 12, started a blog this summer about fashion, design and other creative projects. Her blog is closed to the public but open to family and friends, which makes it more exciting than just keeping a diary or private journal.

"I've shared it with my friends and they've commented on it, so I know it's not just me seeing it," Lefebvre said. "A lot of people can see it, and it's a lot of fun knowing people are seeing what you're writing. You kind of feel published."

*Reach out. A great way to expand your horizons and help those who really need it is to volunteer. Whether it's at a soup kitchen, an animal shelter or a museum, giving your time to make the world around you a better place will make you a better person as well. It's also a great way to meet new people who share similar interests. Some volunteer jobs have age limits, but many don't -- to find ones that interest you, ask teachers at school or leaders at your local church or community center. Sites like www.ugive.org and www.volunteerbuffalo.com provide lists of options, as well.

*Speak up. If you don't like something about your school or its policies, don't sit there and complain -- change it. Getting involved in student government or the leadership of a club allows you to create the type of environment you spend your days in. Join a club or organization and try something new -- you never know where you can find new friends or interests. No clubs strike your fancy? Start your own! Being hands-on about your school and its extracurriculars could make the upcoming months some of the most interesting you've ever had.