Freshman year is full of new opportunities! High school courses, homework, new ways of doing school, and your calendar are all central to your day. This year, you are busy learning how high school works and what your freshmen year will look like in virtual or hybrid form.
Sports, clubs, and activities in general are a bit sketchy now and will probably come back to us as in-person real world events at different times and places: some sports have already gone back to practice, but a full production in musical theatre may not be a go this fall. Close-contact activities may take even longer to resume. At the end of the day, though, and even during a global pandemic, a successful freshman year depends on a safe plan and a thoughtful way forward.
As you continue to write the first pages of this new chapter in your academic life, we pulled together some pointers to help you get through this first year of high school a little bit more easily.
My first bit of advice to you is to master your school’s chosen remote learning platform, now. Know your technology, because staying informed about school will help you stay on time, on task, and in sync with your teacher and classmates. Know what to expect.
Make sure you have completed your summer readings and keep on top of your work by opening and reading the emails in your inbox. You need to be alert to any changes that may occur, especially those that happen unexpectedly. Just think, school will reopen with face-to-face classes at some point in the future, and you’ll want to know when you need to show up!
The Year Counts
Remember that freshman year is the first year on your official high school transcript. The courses you took and the grades you earned will be recorded as an official academic record. This transcript is the document that will accompany your college applications, so it’s important to start investing in your future by earning grades that reflect your best work now and throughout the rest of your time in high school.
Build a Solid Routine
Clear your Zoom and study area and create your personal classroom. Make sure you are free from the distractions of your phone or pet so that you can avoid disruption. Once you have a physical space designated for remote learning, craft a study schedule that will work for you. Use your calendar to identify class time, homework time, and time off for a social life and dinner.
You’ll also need to sketch in these words: Go To Bed! Remember to get at least eight hours sleep, every night. But, since life takes extra attention these days, getting even more, like nine hours of sleep, might just be what you need to keep you more alert during the day. So, try nine. It couldn’t hurt.
Yes, sometimes procrastination can be the magic you need in order to keep your work far away.
We’re thinking of your term paper. We can see the outline of your paper’s argument taking shape within your mind’s eye. Suddenly, *snap* you have it! You rush to your computer to immediately deliver the eight pages your teacher requires!
Unfortunately, strong term papers aren’t written this way. Most of us need to rely on notes and an outline to effectively engage the writing process.
The good thing, though, is that we all have people in our lives — teachers, parents, siblings, friends — to help us avoid procrastination and develop better study skills and work habits. Ask questions of your teachers and talk to your parents about your classes. If you keep these kinds of conversation going, you will keep your energy for school high and approach your work with more interest. Ultimately, this is the best way for you to make sure you ace your assignments and turn in your homework.
Building Team You
So, your school day is full of people who play many different roles in your life. So, how do you go about beginning high school and meeting all these fantastic new folks …during a pandemic?
Freshmen year is the year to choose the winning team: Team You. Putting together your personal team is important because it is our connections to others that help us to become successful and happy. Teachers, counselors, friends, parents, siblings, coaches, and others all have gifts and expertise to offer that can help you be you. Freshman year is the perfect time to create your team — a network of people that will help you shape a great first year and potentially your entire high school experience.
True, we have been at home more than six months, but there are always ways for you to get involved with others. You just have to open up your lines of communication. Ask friends if they are doing any volunteer work around town, stay tuned to hybrid or remote school activities, and make time to see your friends — jump on Zoom and introduce each other to your pets or meet up in masks and take a walk.
Here are a few ways additional ways to help you build Team You:
Put yourself out there. Find people who share your interests and challenge yourself to go outside your comfort zone. Your peer group is important, so choose yours wisely. If you can, stay alert to the folks in your classes. Who is new? Do you see friends you haven’t seen all summer? Reach out!
You may be successful working by yourself, but great success usually involves the support of others. Coaches and counselors are there for you. Ask them for help when you run into trouble. Carefully read or listen to your teachers’ comments. Meet upper-class students and ask them for their advice since they’ve already lived through the first year. Talking, reaching out, and asking for assistance is really important right now.
Identify the teachers who seem to be a good match for you. It might be that you mesh with their teaching style, or perhaps you simply relate better to teachers who lead the activities that you like most, like the school newspaper or film club. Getting to know your teachers will help you stay focused in their classes as well as be engaged with those around you. Finally, pay attention. You can learn a lot simply from listening.
Sometimes, we are so accustomed to our family dynamics that we forget to see what help our families can offer us when we find ourselves in new and challenging situations. Especially now, during this time at home, siblings can be great companions for us. We’re all in this together, and they might be experiencing the same kind of frustrations that you are in adjusting to this school year. Additionally, be prepared to invite your family’s comments and listen to their observations as you continue to work your way through freshman year. After all, they know you better than anyone else, don’t they? Your first year of high school is always exciting and often nerve-wracking. Plan wisely and use the people and resources in your life to your best advantage. We wish you good luck and hope you’ll let us know if we can help!