6 Ways for a HS Freshman to Get on Track in the New Year
Even though many people heralded in the new year with the popular mantra, “New Year, New Me”, many high school students may find that their lives have remained essentially the same after the new year, especially when it comes to school and the upcoming spring semester. After all, even though it’s a new year, high school students are in the same school with the same people, most of the same classes, and most of the same teachers.
For some freshman, the idea of another semester of the same old same old can be downright terrifying. Many freshmen have almost everything figured out by the time their spring semester starts. They have good grades, a good GPA, a healthy social life, extracurriculars, etc. On the other hand, some students find that freshman year is a tough adjustment, and they may be struggling on into the spring semester.
It makes sense. When you enter 9th grade, you’re bombarded with more rigorous academic requirements and pressure and a completely different social scene than middle school. If you’re a high school freshman who finds themselves still struggling with and getting used to high school, the new year provides a unique opportunity for you to get yourself back on track. Here are some ways for you to make a positive change for yourself this semester.
Know What Your Resources Are
Yes, classes in high school are harder than they were in middle school, and they usually require a different approach to studying and learning the material. However, as a result of the increased level of difficulty, there are usually more ways for you to get academic help if you are struggling. Take some time during this semester to figure out what your academic resources are.
Here are some resources to look out for:
- Tutoring/office hours with your teacher either after school or before school
- A tutoring club at your school where you can get help from your peers in a judgment-free zone
- You can always form study groups with your friends and classmates so that you all can tackle the material together.
- Many high school classes don’t utilize the textbook unless they are AP or advanced courses. It may be worth reading over the textbook chapters for the concepts you don’t understand in order to have the concepts explained to you again.
These are great academic resources, but we at CollegeVine understand that students sometimes struggle with social or mental health issues as well. Well, there are plenty of resources in high school for those too.
If you feel overwhelmed, discouraged, or depressed as a result of your freshman year experience, we at CollegeVine highly suggest that you talk to somebody you trust and work out a plan with them to get you back on track. This can be a guidance counselor, a teacher you trust, a parent/guardian, a friend, a member of your community, or anyone that you think will listen and be able to help. There are more people looking out for you than you probably think.
Understand High School Academic Culture
Unlike in middle school, you are now expected to come to a teacher yourself or figure things out for yourself if you don’t understand an academic concept or find yourself struggling in class. While teachers will be more than willing to help you if you approach them, they won’t slow down their class for you or go out of their way to see if you need help like they may have in middle school. The sooner you realize that the sooner you can take action and help get your academics back on track.
Also unlike middle school, the grading system in high school is sometimes stricter, so it’s worth taking the time to understand how it works sooner rather than later. Some of your classes may have completely different grading systems, which means that you need to prioritize assignments for each class completely differently. You also may notice stricter policies like “late work gets a 0” and “If you are absent, you have X days to make up an assignment”.
It’s not impossible to understand and follow these new academic standards once you know them. Sure, it’s an adjustment, but if you set high expectations for yourself this year, you’ll find that you can get all of your academic work done, perhaps even with time to spare.
Understand High School Social Culture
When you are stuck in a building with the same people for 8 hours a day and 5 days a week, social groups and cliques naturally form, and sometimes a hierarchy develops. While you may have been used to the social scene in middle school, high school is a whole different beast.
When you enter high school, you’ve gone from being a big fish in a small pond in middle school to a small fish in a huge pond in high school. You’re the youngest students, and the students in other grade levels aren’t just older than you anymore. They’re adults: they drive, they have jobs, they’re dealing with real-world problems like applying to college. It can be different and perhaps a little intimidating to be in such a new atmosphere.
Every high school has a different social scene, and you’ll get used to yours soon enough. The key to feeling comfortable in this new environment, however, is to find a group of friends to experience it with. Odds are, your friends are thinking the same things you are about your school and your classmates. Talk to them about it. It could be a bonding experience, and it could make you all feel a little bit better about your current situation.
You may also consider immersing yourself in the social culture at your high school. If the big activity at your school is football games, find a friend and go see what it’s like. If it’s the Homecoming Dance, find a group and go! The more you participate, the more people you are likely to meet, and the more comfortable you might feel in your school.
Don’t Overload Yourself
Many freshmen make the mistake of thinking that they can take on the world when they enter high school by taking AP classes right away, joining a bunch of extracurriculars, etc. While taking on a bunch of responsibilities may have been possible in middle school when extracurriculars required less commitment and classes were easier, the same number of commitments can seem overwhelming in high school.
Take a beat during the remainder of your freshman year and make sure that you’re not putting too much on your plate. If you find that you’re not able to get 7-8 hours of sleep, you don’t have time to take breaks during a school day, you’re not finishing all of your work, or overall you’re not maintaining healthy habits, you’ve definitely got too much on your plate.
Not sure why overloading yourself could hurt you in the long run? Check out The Dangers of Overcommitting: How Taking On Too Much Can Hurt Your Applications.
Make sure that starting this year you make a conscious effort to maintain healthy habits. Every day, you should spend at least a couple of minutes to relax, destress, and do a mental health check. You’d be amazed how much happier you are when you are living right.
Get Involved With The People/Things That Interest You
The easiest way to feel like you are a part of the school community is to join clubs and organizations at your school. There, you will probably make friends and expand your social circle. You will also be doing something positive on behalf of your school, which may give you a sense of identity or attachment to the school.
Freshman year is the time to explore the different clubs and organizations at your school so that you can explore your options, make a lot of friends, and narrow down the extracurriculars that you want to continue throughout high school and gain leadership positions in. Try to join things that you have a passion for, but also try to get involved in activities that you may not have picked for yourself before this year just to try something new. Who knows? You may love it.
If you find that one of your passions or interests is not represented at your school, don’t be afraid to take a bold move and start a club of your own! If you need help doing that, check out How To Start a Club in High School.
Work on Your Communication and Organization Skills
High school is a time when many students find their voice and build up the confidence to speak up for themselves. If you haven’t been verbally advocating for yourself, whether it be through communicating with your teachers when you need help on an assignment or communicating with your friends when you need to talk about something, now would be a good time to start.
Don’t forget that you are almost an adult. Now is the time to build that confidence to speak up for yourself. You’d be amazed how much you are going to need that in college and beyond.
In the long run, organization skills are also important to have. As classes get harder and your responsibilities build, you’re going to need to make sure that you have all of your materials, papers, assignments, and study resources neatly organized so that you don’t have to waste time trying to figure out where you put everything. You should seriously consider investing in organizational materials like binders, notebooks, file folders, and a planner/calendar to keep a mental check on all of your tasks and assignments.
For More Information
For more help navigating your freshman year of high school, read through these previous CollegeVine blog posts:
Still feel like you need a little boost? Check out CollegeVine’s Neer Peer Mentorship Program, where you will be matched with a successful college student who is on the same path as you are when it comes to your academic, career, and college goals. This mentor will meet with you and your parents to provide helpful advice on all topics from college admissions to career goals, and they’ll make sure that you are poised to succeed throughout high school.
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