Starting high school can be exciting, stressful, and at times, overwhelming. It’s also a time you should be exploring, trying out new opportunities, and making the most of your experiences. Here are five tips for starting off high school on the right foot.


Find Your Niche

Now that you’re older, you have more flexibility as to how you spend your time. Search for groups and activities that align with your interests. Not sure where to start? Try out different clubs at your school. Check out How to Determine Which Clubs to Join: A Guide for Freshmen for ideas.


Joining different clubs and trying out activities will allow you to meet new, like-minded people. It will also help you hone your area of specialization, or area that aligns with your interests and talents and path you want to pursue. This can guide your academic and career focus.


Try New Opportunities

In a similar vein, freshman year is a great time to try out new things. While every year matters, this year is lower stakes than the other high school years. Even if you’re not sure if you’ll like something, try it out and see. You can always cull your list of activities later. Read A Guide to Extracurricular Activities for Grade 9 for more advice.


If you have choices in what courses to take, explore your options in this area as well. For instance, there might be an elective that interests you. Think about getting a job or internship as well; that will give you real-world experience early on.


Get Organized

You may have heard that your grades don’t matter this year, but that’s not really true. While it is true that colleges won’t pay as much attention to this year as other years, you should get into the habit of studying and being productive now. That way, you’ll be in good shape later on. For advice on developing good studying and organization habits, read Eight Tips to Use Your Time Efficiently and Stay Organized in High School.


Being organized will also help you manage your stress. Consider using planners and calendars to make sure you’re on top of everything you need to do.

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Think About the Future

It’s not too early to think about college. You don’t need to start filling out applications, of course, but you should be setting goals. Think about the path you need to take to achieve these goals. Set incremental “sub” checkpoints to help you achieve your larger aspirations. For instance, if you’re hoping to become the editor of your school newspaper, consider the steps you need to take to get there, such as attending meetings, writing killer articles, and bonding with and learning from the current editor and the newspaper’s advisor.


Use Your Support System

Don’t be afraid to ask for advice from parents, teachers, guidance counselor, older students, and even peers. If you feel like you’re getting overwhelmed, it can be helpful to talk to someone for support and guidance.


Take some time to get to know your teachers. You’ll probably have more than you did in middle school, and your teachers, in turn, probably have many students. Developing connections with your teachers can be a substantial addition to your support system, since it will give you another resource for academic help. Additionally, when it comes to ask teachers for college recommendations, your teachers will be able to speak to your character, not just the papers you’ve written.


It’s also important to develop a relationship with your guidance counselor. Make sure you introduce yourself and check in occasionally, so your guidance counselor really gets to know you. Like your teachers, she can be an excellent source of support and will be able to write about you as a person in your recommendation letter.


To Sum It Up…

High school won’t be easy, but try to get the most out of the challenges it brings. Take your time seriously, and create a plan for success. While you’ll face challenges along the way, having a plan, trying out new opportunities, and using your support system will help you manage your time well and prepare yourself for the future.


For more advice, check out:

What to Expect Your Freshman Year of High School

6 Ways for a High School Freshman to Get on Track in the New Year

5 Habits of the Successful High School Student


Looking for help navigating the road to college as a high school student? Check out the CollegeVine Mentorship Program. Our mentors drive significant personal and professional development for their high school mentees.


Combining mentorship with engaging content, insider strategies, and personalized analyses, our program provides students with the tools to succeed. As students learn from successful older peers, they develop confidence, autonomy, and critical thinking skills to help maximize their chances of success in college, business, and life.

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Laura Berlinsky-Schine

Laura Berlinsky-Schine

Senior Blogger at CollegeVine
Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University, where she majored in Creative Writing and minored in History. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, and works in publishing. She also writes, dreams of owning a dog, and routinely brags about the health of her orchid.
Laura Berlinsky-Schine