11 Ways to get the most out of freshman year

Summer has wound down

It’s time to get back to being a student, to start off the school year on a good foot. But this year is different than others, a completely new experience awaits. A new school, new friends, new teachers, new classes, and new opportunities are here.

It may seem far off, but in only four short years, public schooling will be over and the decision will come to either further prepare through college, or head straight into the workforce. Regardless of the final decision, preparation is key.

High school prepares you for the boundless life ahead, and it starts with being a freshman. Follow the advice below to make your first year less stressful, and more meaningful.

1. Every year counts

Some freshmen start high school with the same attitude and work ethic that they applied in junior high or elementary school; most of the time, this just won’t be good enough. High school brings a big boost in workload and requires much more time and energy. Without a boost in effort, grades dip.

Every day of high school counts, students that tank their freshmen year will be kicking themselves when senior year rolls around and they can do nothing to fix their GPA. Get started right!

2. Make good first impressions

Teachers quickly take notice of students who care, and who do not. Actively participate, finish everything by the time it’s due, and keep a positive attitude in class every day. Walking in late and slouching tells teachers you don’t care, which will make them less inclined to help you when you need it later on.

3. Join School Groups

Whether it’s sports, clubs, or musical ensembles, finding groups to participate in is extremely important. It rounds out future college applications–yes–but it also helps you find new friends, keeps you occupied, and makes school a lot more fun.

4. Find friends

Having buddies in high school is crucial. Seek them out in class (i.e. the person sitting next to you), in the aforementioned groups, or at the lunch table.
Not only will they give you someone new to talk to, they can help you get better grades too: when you’re struggling, friends give you a non-judgemental, unintimidating place to go to for advice. And since they’re learning the same thing at the same time, it’s very likely they’ll either be able to help or make it easier to confront a teacher for help.
Friends also allow for group study sessions before big tests.

5. Know what resources are available to you

High schools are bustling with resources for help and support. Many schools have counselors appointed to each student who can help with anything from scheduling issues to problems at home. Teachers can give one on one help with class content, librarians are apt to help with research or any technological problems, and career center staff can help you take steps towards college or elsewhere.

Your school should tell you about most of what it offers but remember any other resources you hear about…they may be helpful later on.

6. Start the year organized

For those who don’t do it naturally, the beginning of high school is a great time to start organizing school life. There will be much more to keep track of so keeping a planner is a great idea. Keep a separate notebook and folder for each class and clean them out regularly so you don’t have to dig around for a minute every time homework is due.

7. Take every class seriously

Freshmen year, there are going to be many required classes (probably more than any other year). Some may seem boring to you. Don’t take these classes less seriously or put any less work into them.

Why are the classes necessary? They may not require as much time, but their content–although basic–is important and includes information that all people need for the future. You can’t just build a space shuttle, first you have to learn basic algebra, then calculus, then physical science, then…

The point is, to get to the advanced fun stuff, less interesting learning is essential.

8. Get to know the school

This one will come in time. Just going to class every day is good practice. Knowing where everything is keeps you on time to class and less stressed because you’ll never be lost or worried about being tardy. Try to find different, quicker ways to classes and pay attention to the tour on orientation day (if there is one).

9. Ask questions and come in before and after class

With each step in schooling, the amount of participation required from students jumps. Part of a teacher’s job is to answer questions, so if you don’t know something or are struggling, ask for help. It can be intimidating at first, but which is more intimidating: asking a simple question, or getting an F on the next test?

10. Participate

In class discussion is extremely prevalent in high school, a big difference from middle school, and it increases in intensity as classes become more advanced. Sharing ideas is helpful to other students, helps you understand course content better, and contributes to class discussion, but it also prepares you for the workforce. Communication is an important part of any job and it is a great skill to learn early.

11. Get in a study routine

Building habits is extremely difficult, and can take months. However, they (the good ones at least) are very important. Just as high school ramps up participation requirements, so it does for study time. Many students choose to procrastinate, which leads to sloppy work and bad grades.

Set a study block for every day during the week to complete homework. Split it up with breaks but keep to it. If there is a day without homework due tomorrow, that doesn’t mean it’s time to slack. It does not have to be long–even looking over notes regularly is important–but commit to finding something to study every day. Keeping the mind engaged in academics as frequently as possible will make you a more efficient learner and will expedite the learning process, making life less stressful.

The effort’s worth it

It’s easy to become careless as a freshman but the reality is that there are only four short years before college, independence, and adulthood. The first year of high school already counts and this time is important to your future. Make it the best year you can. Start high school seriously, subsequent years will be easier, and you’ll have no regrets when–before you know it–colleges come a knockin’.

Image: Girl Reading