The freshman year of high school is the transition between middle school and high school, and to many students, this year is exciting yet scary.
I, of course, was also a high school freshman once, and I went through some struggles I’m sure many others have gone through as well. The first year of high school is important, and knowing some insider tips will work in your favor.
In this post, I’ll reveal 8 things I wish I knew in my freshman year of high school. If you’re a parent of a rising high school freshman, be sure to save it and show it to them before their first day! Let’s get started.
Tour your campus beforehand
As you enter your first year, you’ll notice that the high school campus is larger than the middle school campus. (University campuses will be even larger, but you don’t need to worry about that for a few years!)
It’s a bad idea to get to know your school campus on the first day of school. Though it’s completely expected and okay for freshmen to get lost and run a little late for a few classes, the whole experience will be much easier for you if you tour the campus before school starts.
Most high schools offer “freshman orientation” a week or so before the first day of school; attend these and take this time to get to know the campus! If you already know your class schedule, visit each classroom in order so you have an idea of where to go on your first day.
Here’s a pro tip: make sure you know where the bathrooms are! You don’t want to get lost when you really need to use the bathroom during the school day.
In addition, don’t be scared to ask questions to your orientation guide! This is usually an upperclassman who willingly signed up to help freshmen during orientation, so they’re there to help! You can ask about specific classes, teachers, etc.
Find a few dependable friends
As you advance through high school, you may realize that your “friend group” is shrinking. That is perfectly okay!
Especially in later years, it’s more important to find a few dependable friends who’ll stick with you through thick and thin rather than a large group of friendly acquaintances. Having a few people who you can depend on for honest advice and help is very helpful in your high school and future career.
However, don’t intentionally cut people off or be mean; it doesn’t hurt to treat everyone nicely. Over time, you’ll find that a few friends are more close and more dependable than others, while others may turn out to be “toxic” or unreliable.
Pro tip: make friends with people in your classes or those who take similar classes as you! You don’t have to become best friends with them, but keeping in contact with them will be helpful for future studying or homework support.
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Participate in class actively
This may be super easy for some students, and it might be difficult for others. In each of your classes (especially in harder ones, but in all classes in general), participate actively by doing the following:
- Taking good notes
- Asking questions
- Participate in discussions
- Going to office hours if needed
For classes you find easy, you may not need to ask questions or go to office hours. However, it’s a good habit to be respectful to your teachers and pay attention and participate in discussions when necessary.
For classes you find more difficult, don’t give up! Your attention and participation in class is even more crucial when the topic is hard for you. In addition, you can put in extra effort outside of class, such as hosting study sessions with a few friends and using online resources (YouTube is great!) to learn more about certain concepts.
Build good study habits
Study habits will make or break your academic career. The right habits will make you a more productive and effective student, while bad habits will waste your time and energy. Building habits is not difficult (consistency is key!), but it can change your life.
Here are some study habits you should be building into your routine:
- Take it one thing at a time
- Batch and prioritize tasks
- Limit social media use
- Take breaks
- Review what you’ve learned
- Don’t procrastinate
On the other hand, here are some bad habits you must avoid:
- Looking and not seeing or understanding
- Studying from your bed
- Relying completely on the textbook
- Working with your phone nearby
If you’d like to learn more about what terrible study habits will make you a worse student (and what to do instead), check out this post. And if you need some help getting started with effective habit-building, check out this Complete Habit-Building Workbook!
Join clubs that interest you
One of the mistakes many high school freshmen make is that they indulge completely in academics and their social lives outside of school (or worse, one or the other). Many students overlook the importance of school clubs, and you shouldn’t be one of them!
School clubs are one of the most effective ways to find and follow your passions. In addition, some clubs are great ways to get your community service hours (you may need these to graduate!)
Although each school is different, there are many clubs that are common to many high schools in the United States. There are different types of clubs, and I’ve organized them into 3 main categories:
- Fun and casual. These are clubs that are purely interest-based, such as Ukulele Club and Kpop Club; these clubs are great ways to make new friends!
- Volunteering. These clubs emphasize community service and find local volunteering opportunities for their members. Some nationwide clubs with school branches include Interact and Key Club.
- “Professional.” These clubs focus on gaining experience in a certain field, such as medical or business. Some examples include DECA and HOSA.
If your school doesn’t offer a club that you want to be a part of, start one yourself! It’s a great way to show your passion for something and make an impact in your community.
RELATED POST: College Prep Checklist For High School Underclassmen
Make friends with upperclassmen
Upperclassmen can seem intimidating to high school freshmen (I know how you feel). But all the seniors in your school were freshmen once, and they know what it’s like to transition to a new environment so different from middle school.
Especially if you’re active in a few clubs and school organizations (like a sports team or band), reach out to the upperclassmen in your circle and make friends with them!
You can start by simply asking a few questions about something relevant to your organization or club. Then, once you get to know each other more, you can start being more friendly (and less “professional”) with them, perhaps reaching out on social media. Don’t be stalkerish, though!
Pro tip: don’t be rude to upperclassmen. If they offer you advice on something, don’t reject them directly. If you want to correct them in any way, suggest it in a friendly and non-condescending way.
Stay organized and on top of it
High school can bring a lot more invisible burdens than middle school. In middle school, teachers hold your hand through every step of the way and make sure that you know what you’re doing.
In high school, you’re expected to be much more independent than before. You must use your own resources to track homework, remember test dates, etc. This is why it’s crucial to build habits related to organization.
One student essential that you should be using daily in high school is a planner– physical or digital. Each day (and each class), write down the homework you’re assigned as well as important notes you should remember.
If it helps, use your digital calendar to set a reminder for important due dates and test dates. I’ve found that my digital calendar is my #1 tool in online school, but physical planners work perfectly fine for offline classes.
Luckily for you, I’ve created an Ultimate 3-in-1 Student Planner that you can use both digitally and physically as a printout. This 45-page planner includes tons of templates, checklists, trackers, and more to help you organize your student life. Check it out!
Find your interests and passions
In your freshman year of high school, focus on exploring and finding your interests and passions. Later in your career, you’ll be forced to find “spikes” and do things for your college applications; do not stress about college applications yet.
Instead, explore different things and figure out which ones you like best. You can do this in a variety of ways:
- Join a bunch of clubs at the start of the year and decide which are the most fun to you.
- Take a variety of electives then pursue the ones that interest you.
- Talk to your friends and get to know what they’re doing that you’re not.
- Take classes outside of class to try out different things.
It’s very important not to overlook this essential step because your passions and what you did because of them will play a large part in your college applications. So find out what interests you now and start building a resumé around it in the years to follow!
I hope this post was helpful for you! Freshman year of high school can be intimidating, but if you follow the steps outlined in this guide, you’ll easily survive and thrive this stressful year. If you’re starting school soon, leave a comment with what you’re looking forward to!
And if you’re looking for more posts like this, make sure to check these out:
- 10 Mistakes All High School Freshmen Make
- 7 Terrible Study Habits To Quit Immediately
- 11 Summer Activities For High School Students That Impress Colleges
- 7 Better Monthly Habits Of The Smartest Students