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Rising 9th graders often feel more than a little anxiety at the thought of starting high school. For some students, it means a transition to a bigger school with fewer familiar faces. For others it means the beginning of a more challenging line of study and higher academic stakes. For all students, starting high school is an important milestone.

 

The start of high school doesn’t have to be marked by anxiety or unease, though. In fact, this is an exciting time in your life and though any transition can be intimidating, this is one to embrace and celebrate. In this post, we outline our top tips for calming your nerves as you face 9th grade.

 

 

1. Attend Orientation Events

We never understand when students tell us that they’re nervous about starting high school yet don’t attend orientation days. We can understand that nerves might make the prospect of voluntarily showing up a few days early seem like an unlikely choice, but we promise that these extra days will do far more good than harm.

 

Many high schools offer incoming freshman or other new students an open house, orientation, or similar event sometime before the first official start of school. Usually this is an optional event, but sometimes attendance is required. If you’re given the choice of attending, you should absolutely go.

 

Orientation or open houses will allow you to peruse the high school halls without the excited crowds that you’re likely to encounter on the first day of school. If possible, bring your class schedule and find each classroom that you’ll need to get to on your first day. Don’t be embarrassed to take some notes or even draw yourself a little map. Even if you don’t use it, it will still help to reinforce the information as you’re writing it down.

 

In addition, these orientation events are a great time to forge new social connections. Make an effort to reach out to peers who seem to have the same classes as you. Reconnect with old friends or make new ones. You’ll be grateful to see a few friendly faces on the first day of classes.

 

 

2. Join Fall Activities

Making new friends is often one of the most intimidating parts of starting high school. It might feel difficult to break into existing social circles or intimidating to find people with common interests. School activities can provide you with the scaffolding you need to meet new like-minded friends.

 

Join a fall activity that’s genuinely interesting to you and you’re likely to find at least a few peers with that same interest in common. If you’re into sports, join a team. If art is your jam, join the art appreciation club or the photography club. Like theater? Try out for the fall production. These formal school activities can provide just the structure you need to make new friends easily while also pursuing activities you enjoy.

 

 

3. Nurture Friendships Before School Starts

For some students, 9th grade means an entirely new social circle. For others it is simply another transition with existing friends. Whatever the case is for you, try not to go into high school without knowing a single person.

 

If you already have friends starting at the same high school as you, keep in touch with them over the summer and make an effort to spend some time together before the school year begins. Don’t try to force a friendship if it doesn’t seem like a good fit, but make an effort to establish friendly terms. Even if you don’t end up being best friends, it’s amazing what a difference one friendly smile can make on a day when you’re feeling nervous or overwhelmed.

 

If you don’t know anyone starting at the same high school as you, try to meet a few people over the summer. Consider using school resources like the library or the gym, if they’re available for student use during summer months. Join social media platforms for students at your new school. Make an effort to attend local events where you might meet new friends. Extending yourself like this can often feel uncomfortable at first, but the more you do it, the better you’ll get at it and the return of knowing a few people before your first day of school can be a big relief.

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4. Meet With Your Guidance Counselor Early in the Year

Believe it or not, many students don’t meet with their guidance counselor at all until they’re required to. This could mean not being able to pick out his or her face in a crowd until junior or even senior year. Don’t make this mistake. Instead, be proactive and schedule a meeting early on in your freshman year.

 

This can be a very informal meeting. Articulate that you wanted to introduce yourself and talk about your plans for freshman year. Then, discuss your course schedule, intended extracurriculars, and any long term goals you might have already. Ask your guidance counselor if your plans seem reasonable and on track, and for his or her advice for 9th graders.

 

This meeting isn’t really as important in substance as it is in gesture. Getting to know your guidance counselor early on means that you can build a relationship over time so that when college applications roll around, you’re not just another name. In addition, it means that if you should have any trouble during your high school years, you already have someone to rely on for support.

 

 

5. Use Your Support Network

Whether you’re starting a new school or not, it’s important to recognize and maintain your existing support network through the transition. Keep in touch with friends, even if they aren’t starting at the same school as you. Stay involved in activities outside of school, like travel sports teams or youth groups.

 

These existing friendships will be an important sounding board for you as you forge your way through high school. Bouncing ideas and impressions off of one another will help you to process the changes in your life and reinforce that you’re not the only one experiencing them.

 

Starting 9th grade can seem intimidating, and we know that it’s the source of anxiety for many students. There’s no need to feel alone in this transition, though. For more help or support, consider the benefits of the CollegeVine Near Peer Mentorship Program, which provides access to practical advice on topics from course selection and extracurriculars to college applications and career aspirations, all from successful college students.

 

For more information about tackling 9th grade, check out these posts:

 

Starting 9th Grade: 6 Things You Need to Do To Own Your Freshman Year

8th Graders: Here’s How You Can Prepare for High School This Summer

Make the Right Moves: Your 2018 Freshman Year Action Plan

5 Tips for Incoming High School Freshmen

What To Expect Your Freshman Year of High School

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Kate Sundquist

Kate Sundquist

Senior Blogger at CollegeVine
Kate Koch-Sundquist is a graduate of Pomona College where she studied sociology, psychology, and writing before going on to receive an M.Ed. from Lesley University. After a few forays into living abroad and afloat (sometimes at the same time), she now makes her home north of Boston where she works as a content writer and, with her husband, raises two young sons who both inspire her and challenge her on a daily basis.
Kate Sundquist