By Purvi S. Mody
With a new school year comes another year of homework, extracurricular activities, and tests. I spend so much time focusing on high school seniors and what lies in store for them for the next year that I wanted to take a moment to focus on high school freshman. This year, high school freshmen are making the most significant transition in your academic career to date.
Many of you will be in schools larger and more populous than your middle school. You will be meeting new teachers, new administrators, and new friends. You will have infinite extracurricular opportunities at your fingertips. You will likely have more freedom than before. At the same time, you will also have more responsibility and suddenly your future is in your hands.
So whether you have already started school or the first day is coming up, here are a few tips to survive your first year of high school and put you on the right track for college!
Do not take your classes lightly.
You may have already heard that the first year of high school is the easiest year. Relatively speaking and in hindsight, that may be true, however, it should be the most challenging year that you have had thus far. Your courses will challenge you and your teachers are less likely to remind you about simple tasks and deadlines. It is very easy to fall behind if you don’t do your work. So do the assigned work and go above and beyond the minimum requirements by reading ahead or doing extra problems when concepts seem a little confusing.
Plan ahead for projects, papers and tests so that you can avoid last minute cramming. Seek help from your teachers if you need it – that is what they are there for. If you are really struggling in a class, don’t wait until the last minute to ask for assistance. No one expects you to master high school on your own!
This is the year that you will have the most free time, so use it to figure out which activities are most interesting to you. Go to Club Day and sign up for multiple clubs, and go to the first few meetings to really get a sense of what appeals to you. Don’t just join the clubs your friends are joining, either. This is an opportunity for you to meet more people, especially people with similar interests to you. Try as much as you can this year so that next year you can really focus on the activities that really appealed to you.
Start your community service.
Whether or not your school has a community service requirement, you should think about getting involved in your community now. Community service does not have to be mind-numbing, and it can include things beyond the norm. If you love to play the piano, think about how you can play at community events. If you are an athlete, think about teaching your sport to disabled or disadvantaged kids. If you are an environmentalist, come up with ways to make your school more environmentally efficient. And rather than show a few hours across multiple activities, find a couple of organizations where you can truly commit.
Design your four-year plan.
Sit down with your counselor and parents and come up with a preliminary four year academic plan. Think about which courses you must take and which courses you want to take. If you absolutely want to take AP Calculus by senior year, make sure that you are on the right math track now. If English is your forte and you want to take as many courses as possible, talk to your counselor to find out if you will be able to take additional English electives. It is really important to make sure that your courses are increasingly challenging, but also realistic.
Enjoy being a teenager.
Enjoy being in an environment where you get to see your friends every day. Enjoy meeting and learning from teachers that are passionate about their subjects. Enjoy learning about things you never knew existed. Yes, high school will be tough. You will likely have at least one teacher you don’t connect with. Friendships will evolve. But these four years will leave an indelible impression on you for the rest of your life. Good luck!
Purvi S. Mody is co-owner of Insight Education, an educational consulting firm that helps students throughout the country and internationally to achieve their educational goals. Get in touch with her via email at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @InsightEduc.
Photo: Adam Pan