What are your chances of acceptance?

Your chance of acceptance
Duke University
Duke University
Your chancing factors
Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)

What To Expect Your Freshman Year of High School

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Freshman year of high school is a big transition for any student. Whether you’re moving to a big regional school, starting at a new private school, or continuing at your same school, the beginning of ninth grade signals change on a number of different levels.


You’re probably starting new clubs and exploring new extracurriculars. You are selecting classes with an eye for your future and beginning to think about college. All this is on top of making new friends and maintaining old friendships, too. There’s a lot to juggle.


Luckily, you’re not the only person going through this, and plenty of others have made the transition before you too. Here at CollegeVine, we’ve worked with hundreds of high school students as they grow into young adults. In this post, we compile some of the top advice we’ve learned about starting high school.

Anticipate Higher Expectations


One of the ways in which high school differs from middle school or junior high the most is the higher expectations. You’ll find that you’re expected to keep closer track of your own schedule and responsibilities with fewer people checking up on you. At the same time, your classes are likely to become more challenging, and you might be learning the ropes of new extracurriculars, too.


Some students find it hard to keep up with everything at first, which is totally normal. One way to prepare in advance for these higher expectations across the board is to ensure that you have a solid organization system in place before you start high school. Get familiar with using a planner and a calendar to keep track of your own assignments and commitments. Build time management skills and learn to prioritize. Check out these posts to learn more about the skills you’ll need to stay organized in high school:


Time Management Tips To Make the Most of Your Test Prep Time

How Using a Planner or Calendar Can Make Your Life Easier

Eight Tips to Use Your Time Efficiently and Stay Organized in High School


Learn Self Advocacy  


Another critical skill for meeting these higher expectations is building a strong support network. No matter how strong a student you are, at some point you’re bound to need some help. Maintaining healthy relationships with your peers, mentors, and teachers is a great way to make sure that you have people who are willing to help when you need them.


Try to get to know at least some of your teachers beyond your classroom interactions. Be an engaged learner during class and stay after class to ask questions. Utilize email or class messaging systems. The better your teachers know you, the better prepared they’ll be to help when you need them.


Finally, always ask for help when you need it. Don’t wait until you’re drowning in work and commitments to admit that you need a hand. Instead, lean on your support system to help keep you afloat while you’re getting it all figured out.

Don’t Aim for Perfection


Another important thing to keep in mind as you start high school is that no one is perfect. If you expect yourself to be, you’ll nearly always fall short. Transitions are hard for everyone, and starting high school is a big transition. You might not select an appropriate course load right off the bat. You might overcommit to clubs or find yourself bored without enough extracurriculars.  You may even get lost on your way to class on your first day. Like we said, no one is perfect.   


Instead, expect to give your best effort and accept its results. Even Ivy-bound graduates can remember times that they failed. If you want to succeed, don’t let failure hold you back it. Embrace it, use it as a learning opportunity, and grow stronger and smarter because of it. You might even be able to laugh at it someday, too.


Reinvent Yourself


This is your chance! Remember that creepy nickname you thought was so cool in fifth grade? Or that role you took on in yearbook that you didn’t really like but it somehow followed you for three full years? We have some great news for you.


High school is a great opportunity to reinvent yourself.


Odds are, you’re probably starting school with a lot of new faces, and even if you aren’t, it’s reasonable to expect that most of the familiar ones have done some maturing over the years.


Before you start ninth grade, think about who you really want to be and what you really want to be known for. We don’t just mean things like the varsity football captain or student council president, though those are great goals too. We mean things like the guy who holds the door for people or the girl who always says hi even if you don’t know her name. Will you be a student who goes to study sessions and stays late to meet with teachers when he or she needs extra help? Will you volunteer to help when no one else does?


Think about it—who do you really want to be? This is your shot.


Start Thinking About College


Yup, we said it. While it seems early, and in a lot of ways, it is early, freshman year is a great time to start wrapping your head around your education after high school.


You can start by keeping a casual college list and researching what kinds of grades and other attributes are necessary to get into the kinds of schools you’re interested in attending. To learn more about making a college list, check our post Seven Tips for Creating Your College List.


Now is also the time to crack down on academics so that your grades will be up to snuff. Remember that colleges can and do review your grades from all four years of high school. While some stumbling points during freshman or sophomore year can be overcome, your best bet is to maintain strong grades throughout all four years of high school.


To learn more about class choices and extracurriculars during freshman year of high school, check out these posts:


A Guide to Extracurricular Activities for Grade 9

How Important Is Freshman Year of High School?

How to Pick Your High School Courses Freshman and Sophomore Years


Want access to expert college guidance — for free? When you create your free CollegeVine account, you will find out your real admissions chances, build a best-fit school list, learn how to improve your profile, and get your questions answered by experts and peers—all for free. Sign up for your CollegeVine account today to get a boost on your college journey.

Kate Sundquist
Senior Blogger

Short Bio
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.