5 Tips for Making the Most of Your Freshman Year of High School


So you’ve just begun high school. You’ve been told the clock starts ticking if you want to go to a highly selective college, and that’s definitely true in many ways. But at this point, it’s not only about thriving academically—it’s also about surviving socially, emotionally, and in and outside of class. It can be an overwhelming experience. So how can high-achieving students make the most out of their freshman year of high school? Here are a few tips:

1.    Manage your time and stay organized.

This is a key skill throughout life, and yet even many adults struggle with it. Get yourself a planner to keep track of all your assignments, meetings, and events. Stay ahead on your homework; it will likely be much more than before, so falling behind can be very detrimental.  You may also want to coordinate with friends and form study groups so you can hold each other accountable. Finally, make sure you have folders to keep everything organized so you don’t spend half of your day trying to find lost items.

2.    Get to know new people.  

This is a time to try out new social groups and make connections. You don’t need to abandon your old friends, but getting to know at least one new person in each of your classes will help you feel more in tune with the coursework and have more fun. Make sure to make friends who are similarly focused on academics and not engaging in risky behaviors.
Getting to know a few upperclassmen can be very helpful for understanding the ins and outs of everyday life in high school—trust us, they won’t all stuff you into a locker.
And don’t forget about your school’s social events, like pep rallies, plays, and dances. These events attract people from a number of different groups, giving you a chance to meet even more people.
Finally, realize you can’t be friends with everyone. Some people will just have a bad attitude, and you have to remember that’s not your fault. It will take time to cultivate the most helpful and meaningful friendships.

3.    Join an extracurricular activity (or two).

Activities like the school newspaper, academic groups, clubs, student activity committees, and so on are another opportunity to branch out socially and keep yourself well rounded. Perhaps you excel in math; that’s wonderful, but you’ll get burned out sooner or later if you don’t balance it with other things.
And by joining a few activities now, you’ll position yourself for leadership positions your junior and senior year, which many college admissions offices value highly. Most extracurriculars meet within the first month of school, so be sure to listen carefully to your school’s announcements.
However, be sure to stay balanced. Pick one or two things to join; too many more than that and you may end up biting off more than you can chew, possibly causing your academics to suffer.

4.    Maintain a supportive network of adults in and outside of school and be sure to ask for help.

A student body is its own ecosystem, and sometimes you’ll need to step out of it to keep things in perspective. You’re probably feeling older and more independent now, but this is the precise time to rely on your family from time to time, because things will almost certainly get overwhelming. Make sure you also seek support from adults at your school—not only your teachers but guidance counselors, tutors, coaches, administrators, cafeteria staff, and so on.

5.    Focus on your wellness.

It takes so much energy to survive high school, you don’t want to be falling asleep or having an empty stomach when you’re trying to learn. Stress and a new environment can cause physical and mental illness and missed school days, so eat healthy, go to bed at the same time every night, get some exercise, stay away from drugs and other risky behaviors, and see a doctor regularly.