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What to Expect the First Weeks of High School
Every year of high school is slightly different from the last. With each school year, the classes get a little bit harder, you take on new responsibilities such as driving and having a job, and, of course, preparing for college applications become more prevalent.
While you will eventually acclimate to the changes that each new school year brings as the weeks go by, the differences can seem overwhelming at first. To help you get over the hump that is the beginning of each high school year, we’ve compiled a brief description of what to expect during the first few weeks of school. Read through it so that you can walk into the school year ready for anything.
These are probably the most jarring first weeks of school that you are going to experience. Despite the fact that high school is structured almost exactly like middle school (bell schedules, lockers, the same number of classes, etc), you’re going to quickly notice that everything feels completely different.
After all, you’re going from being the big fish in the small middle school pond to being the small fish in a pond full of almost-adults.
Therefore, you should be prepared to feel a little bit out of place during your first few weeks of freshman year until you get the hang of things. You may feel like everyone is more mature and that you are expected to have more responsibility than you did in middle school. For example, teachers are going to stop giving you instructions on what school supplies you need to class, and they will assume that you have come prepared.
A great way to find some comfort in spite of all these changes is to reassure yourself of the things in high school that you are familiar with, like bell schedules, multiple classes, and cafeteria-like settings. Also, remember that everything you are going to learn in high school is just a continuation of what you already learned in middle school, so nothing in your classes should be that surprising.
As long as you try not to get overwhelmed by the new environment and try to acclimate to this new school as best you can, you’ll get through the first weeks of freshman year without a hitch.
When you enter sophomore year, it may not feel that different from freshman year. You’re still an underclassman, you’re still going to school with the same people, and a lot of your extracurriculars and after-school activities have probably stayed the same.
However, you’ll start to notice as the weeks go by that sophomore year is all about branching out of your comfort zone and trying new things. For many students, that means taking their first AP class and starting to prepare for college entrance exams like the PSAT and PLAN test. For other students, it means that they’re joining new extracurriculars in order to explore new interests and find out what they’re passionate about.
We at CollegeVine recommend that you do the same thing. Feel free to use the first few weeks of sophomore year to step out of your comfort zone and try things that you’ve never tried before. You’re in a unique position where you already know the basics of high school, so experimenting with your schedule and your extracurricular load wouldn’t hurt. You may be surprised how much you’ll learn about your own capabilities and interests as a result.
Once you enter Junior year, things start to get intense. This is the most important year for college admissions, and it will probably be one of the toughest academic years you’ve had. You’ll notice in the first few weeks that you’re in more advanced classes than you’ve ever taken, and the classes are starting to be more fast-paced and cover harder material.
You may also notice that your fellow students are starting to take their grades and extracurriculars more seriously. After all, your transcript, GPA, and class rank from this year will be the one that colleges see when they first evaluate your application. Bottom line: It’s time to get serious about your academics.
While we at CollegeVine don’t recommend that you worry about your grades so much that you stress yourself out, we definitely recommend taking the first few weeks of junior year to feel out how busy you’re going to be this year and prioritize accordingly.
The things you need to prioritize are keeping your academics strong, making some strides in your extracurriculars, studying for and taking the SAT/ACT, and perhaps doing something to save money for college like getting a job or tutoring other students.
The beginning of Senior Year may feel like a mixed bag. On the one hand, you made it! You’re almost done with high school! This is a time to celebrate, enjoy your last days of high school, and hopefully not get too bogged down by Senioritis.
On the other hand, you have a rough year ahead of you from a college admissions standpoint. Even before the school year starts, college application season has begun, and it is going to be a long journey to get all of your essays written, your transcripts and test scores sent, and your recommendation letters in place.
On top of that, you may also be worrying about taking those last chance SAT, ACT, or SAT Subject Tests in time to send them to college. So while this is a year to celebrate, it’s also a very busy year.
During the first few weeks of this year, college applications ought to be your focus. Start approaching past teachers who you would want to write your letters of recommendation. Ask teachers sooner rather than later if they’d be willing to proofread your college essays. Lastly, set up any necessary meetings with guidance counselors or other school officials to get everything set up for college applications season.
You may notice that if you’re focusing on a goal like college applications, you’ll be less inclined to slack off and let Senioritis get the best of you. Plus, you’ll be minimizing your college applications stress later on in the semester. It’s a win-win!
For More Information
Want to learn more about how to succeed in high school? Check out these previous blog posts from CollegeVine:
Feeling like you need a little boost in high school? Check out CollegeVine’s Near Peer Mentorship Program, where you will be matched with a successful college student who is on the same path 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.