This post is going to be a compiled list of the main things I wish I had known before embarking on my high school adventures. These tips will be from the more general advice to the trivial things and more direct suggestions, but also keep in mind this is based off of my school/experience. It’s definitely an adjustment from middle school and it can seem intimidating at first, but I promise you will be fine and once you’re settled in you will most likely enjoy at least some aspects of it! I know it’s a little early in the summer to start with back to school content, but I also know that I was already a little stressed about starting high school at this time last year; if there are any of you in that situation out there, this is for you! I was in your shoes not too long ago (I’m a rising sophomore) and I promise everything will be fine- you’re already ahead by doing your research and landing here!
- Get involved as soon (and as much) as possible. Technically I did this since I was involved in a school sport, but I wish I tried more activities besides that. Freshman year is the best time to try a bunch of new things since you’re already out of your comfort zone anyways, and it will introduce you to tons of new people. Also, it’s great because if you find the clubs/groups/etc. that you enjoy being a part of in your first year, you can stay committed for the rest of your high school experience and move up into leadership positions in future years. Try at least one type of activity, but more than one is even better since you can always drop them and this is most likely the year that you will have the most free time anyways. Don’t be scared like I was!
- Don’t worry about the upperclassmen. Seriously, don’t. I know there’s always scary stories or scenes in cheesy movies about seniors shoving the lowly freshmen into trash cans or lockers, but the reality is they just don’t care. In fact, unless you’re a) on a sports team or in a club with them, b) really smart and therefore in higher level classes that they would be in, or c) have older siblings/friends/acquaintances, you will probably barely come into contact with juniors or seniors. At my school, juniors and seniors both can leave campus for lunch and seniors can completely finish their day of classes before lunch if they were on time with credits. This means you will barely ever see them, except for in passing and maybe before school/after school, but barely even then because they will usually be in the student parking lot area. Most of them probably find the freshmen annoying, but they’re not going to do anything about it and a good amount of them would even be somewhat friendly if you encountered them since they have to be role models for the school and keep themselves in check for college.
- Utilize your counselor/other resources your school offers. At first I was scared to talk to my counselor, and I was unaware of a lot of the programs my school had. Once situations with schedules came up where I actually had to go in and see my counselor, I realized what a great resource she was and how much she could help with improving my school experience. That’s exactly why they are there, and they can help guide you down the right path with choosing classes and getting involved in different things at school that you may not have thought of before. It can be intimidating especially if you’re at a huge school like me (each counselor has about 400-500 of us to counsel, and sometimes it’s hard to get an appointment), but it’s so worth it and if you’re feeling really nervous just jot some notes down of questions so you’re prepared. It’s also great to get to know your counselor just so you have someone in your corner for all four years- teachers may switch around every year, but you’ll most likely have the same counselor, and they can eventually write you a (hopefully stellar!) recommendation letter for college.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help!! This is an extension of the previous tip, but seriously reach out and take advantage of the knowledge that your teachers have. Especially when it comes to higher-level courses like APs, your teachers (should) know the content front to back, and they will be happy to talk about it if you come to them for further questions. It will leave a good impression on them if you stay after class to ask for help and work towards getting a better understanding, and they’ll probably keep that in mind when it comes time for grading. In a lot of my classes, participation was either a small portion of your grade or something that could get your grade rounded up at the end of the semester. Participate and show your teachers that you care ESPECIALLY if you’re struggling, and they will like you ten times more, regardless if you’re not a perfect student.
- Keep your books at home unless you know you need them on an almost daily basis. Carrying around a bunch of stuff all the time will be very hard on your back throughout the year, and even taking multiple trips to your locker each day to switch out books can be a tedious task. I started out the year always bringing my books to each class and stopping at my locker to switch everything out a couple periods just because I had so much stuff, but I soon realized this wasn’t necessary. A lot of teachers will provide some form of online text or just simply won’t use the actual book that much; therefore you can either keep it at home or in your locker, but not actually bring it to class. I would actually streamline how many notebooks/binders you have too if possible, only having separate ones for teachers that absolutely require it.
- Reach out to others- you may have to put more effort into friendships and meeting people. This really depends on how outgoing you are, but for me as a somewhat introverted person it was definitely a little difficult to adjust to the high school social scene. There will be tons of new people and potential friends for you to meet, but it may not just fall into place where you immediately make a bunch of new best friends just because you’re meeting new people. From my experience, most people stayed rooted in their groups from middle school for a while; they mingled a little bit and then started to change around, but there was only a little initial change and then other changes were much more gradual over the year. If people are sticking in cliques and you were looking forward to forming new connections, you totally still can- you’ll just have to put yourself out there more. It’s much easier if you just bond with people from whatever sport/activities you’re involved in, but I know that not everyone meshes well with their team/group members so if that doesn’t work, do your best to start conversations with people in your classes. Be friendly, ask questions, and listen to whatever people have to say- sooner or later they’ll realize what a great friend you would be!
- It’s never as big or scary as you think it is. I go to a school with around 2,400 kids, a big jump from my middle school with barely 1,000. I was beyond scared to walk onto campus; I assumed people would be mean, the campus would be huge and extremely crowded (I mean it is large and crowded, but nothing as bad as I imagined), and I would easily get lost. Once I finally found my way around, the once enormous school seemed insignificant and small to me. Of course it’s definitely still large, but as soon as you settle in it won’t feel that way. Everyone’s going through the same thing or in the older students’ cases, has already been through it. If they can do it, so can you! Soon it will seem like no big deal, and the first days of school will be a speck in your memory.
- Always doing your homework and engaging in class can usually get you to at least a B, even if you bomb some tests. This depends on the teacher and the grading scale, but in most classes homework will at least account for some of your grade. It just doesn’t make sense not to do it, since it’s a small chunk of your time for basically free points that will help your grade. I know some types of assignments are much more challenging than others, but if you consistently do your homework there’s almost no way you can do super badly in a class. Sometimes you can even get some of it done in your class time- this often happened in my math class. If you’re still worried about doing well in a class, remember that homework is supposed to prepare you for tests and such- if you’re doing it, it will hopefully help you in doing better on tests and other assessments! Plus, your teacher will see you as reliable and a good student, so you’ll be on their good side.
- Appealing to your teachers and adapt to their individual teaching styles/personalities goes a long way. This can apply to any form of school, not just high school. What I mean by this is as you get to know your teachers better and spend more time in their class, figure out what you should be doing specifically to succeed in their class based on their teaching style. Find the best ways to study for their tests, the ways they grade assignments and the main things they care about in your work. Observe the things that may impress them or bother them in class (for example, some teachers love when you ask a lot of questions during lectures, some get annoyed). Besides just working hard and doing your homework, this is the key to securing the best grade possible and forming a strong relationship with your teacher.
- In most situations, a good night’s sleep is much more important than staying up late to study for that one test or quiz. A lot of people may disagree with me on this, especially since high-school students are some of the most sleep-deprived people anyways. However, sleep is one of my top priorities, especially since I started high school and realized how draining it can be; I realized quickly that I could not handle an 8 hour school day, a few hours of cheer, a few hours of homework with time left for eating and getting ready for bed if I didn’t get substantial sleep. You’re probably thinking, if I had all that stuff to do in the first place, then how did I end up going to sleep early? It’s simple: I would set a time I wanted to be in bed (not necessarily asleep, just everything done/put away for the day and me being able to lay in bed) and I would make sure I was in bed by that time. This made me work more productively, and if I didn’t finish everything I needed to do I would just do it in the morning before school. Though most of the time, I found this strategy just made me more efficient and I would end up completing everything in time for bed anyways- I highly recommend doing this, especially if you need your sleep like me!
- Bring lots of (healthy and filling) snacks with you for lunch, not necessarily a normal meal. This might just be because we don’t have a designated lunch area or many lunch tables at my school (there’s about 12 tables and a few benches), but no one really sits down and eats a normal lunch. In fact, lots of my friends don’t eat during lunchtime at all; we hang around a certain spot where most people stand, there’s a little ledge to sit but usually people only do so if they’re studying or doing last minute homework. They just eat inbetween classes or during the classes where it’s allowed. Personally, I can’t go that long without eating even if I do have a snack in one of my classes, so I just pack a bunch of snack foods so I can eat them whenever I get hungry (in class or at actual lunch) and they’ll be good for on-the-go. I can do another post on healthy snack ideas, but some of my favorites are apple slices or really any fruit, whole-grain crackers and peanut butter, and Skinny Pop popcorn.
- As soon as you find out your schedule, map it out and figure out the best way to get from class to class before actually getting there. This is obviously just for the first day of school, but it helped me on my first day so much!! If your school gives out schedule details before you actually get there on the first day, look on a map where all your classes are and figure out your path. You probably won’t find the best path until you’re actually there because once you get into the rhythm of things you’ll take into account the most trafficked areas or which ways your friends are going, but it will still give you peace of mind. Also, set your schedule as your phone lock screen and make sure you either have a picture of a map on your phone or a printed map in your bag- and highlight/circle/star your classes on it!
- Go to all the events you can and participate in spirit events like spirit week! This is kind of a personal preference; if you and your friends just aren’t into this by no means do you have to participate, but it’s supposed to be fun and make you feel involved in the school. Freshmen tend to be a little lame with school spirit because no one really knows what the deal is yet and the “culture” of this depends on your school, but since I was on the cheer team I had to be spirited either way. Rallies are super fun and there’s lots of performances to watch, plus there’s just such a special energy in the air when you have basically the whole school out of class and enjoying the event together. Also, go to football games!!! They are definitely the most fun out of any sports games (maybe I’m a little biased, but seriously- and I’m not even a football fan) just because everyone shows up and cheers like crazy and there’s always stuff going on after the game as well. The homecoming game and homecoming dance were probably my favorite memories of the year since I had the best time with my friends and there were so many exciting things going on at once.
- Try to enjoy it and remember even if things go wrong or you’re just not loving the experience, it’s only four years of your life. Last year went by insanely fast for me, and I regret not getting out and enjoying it more. Even though I was stressed and not the happiest with my situation sometimes, I should have made the best of it a little more because you’re only in high school once and there are a lot of experiences unique to this time in your life. Some weekends after a long, tough week, I would isolate myself and just lay around at home rather than hang out with friends- it’s totally okay if you need to recharge and sometimes I just did, but I definitely did it a little too much and missed out on some things. Go have fun and don’t stress too much like I did if possible, it’s only freshman year.
I hope these pieces of advice helped! For any of you incoming freshmen- feel free to message me or leave any questions that you may have, I am rooting for all of you to have the best year 🙂 Enjoy your last summer before the craziness of high school begins! I will be posting lots more school related content towards the end of summer, but this will most likely be the last post in that genre for now. Stay tuned for that, and for all my other posts coming soon!