Saturday, August 16, 2014

Back to School: Freshman Advice

Image Credit: Gioia Dean Toniis via PhotoPin CC
Hi there! The other day, I asked my friend for ideas on what posts to write for my back to school series and an advice post was included on that list. Since I’m only going to be a sophomore (by the way, isn’t that word so pretty?), I didn’t think it’d be appropriate to title this a general high school advice post because I’ve only been through one year of school. While I’ve only survived through one year of high school, I’ve still learned a lot and to any upcoming freshmen, I hope that this will help you out before you start this new and exciting chapter of your life.

Of course, even if you aren’t a freshman, there are still little bits and bobs that pertain to anyone going into high school, so don’t discount (check definition) this post even if you aren’t a wide-eyed fourteen year old, most likely freaking out about the scary halls of high school – they really aren’t that scary, trust me.

Basically, in this relatively long post, I’ll be telling you about my personal freshman experience and sharing what I learned. Let’s get into this!

Dear Freshman,

I’ll start by telling you a little bit about how I felt the weeks leading up to my first day of school in September. All of my friends were going to the other schools and I was the only along with my one other friend going to different schools than the rest of the bunch. Essentially, I was completely alone.

I’ve been jumping around to different schools ever since I was young – my high school was my sixth school and my high school was one where most of the kids have been together for upwards of six to eight years, so they’ve known each other for quite a while and have their own support systems. I used to go to school from 2nd-4th grade with these kids and haven’t spoken to them since, so while I knew people, I didn’t really know them at all, you know what I mean?

Since I’ve already moved schools and changed groups of friends so much in the past, I wasn’t that nervous, I guess, about starting high school surprisingly enough. I knew I’d miss my group of friends from middle school like crazy, but I just kept telling myself that I had to trust that we’d stick together despite the fact that we weren’t going to be seeing each other everyday, nor did we live in the same parts of town. If you’re starting out with a completely different crowd, don’t be scared. Don’t worry about ending up a complete loner because wherever you go, you’ll find loving people that who will appreciate you for who you are, no matter how long they’ve known you for if you put in the effort to talk.

Yes, talk. If there’s one thing you take away from this, it’s that you should talk to people. I went from being a relatively shy and reserved person to one who actually started conversations with people whom she didn’t know. Take the effort to go a little (or a lot) out of your comfort zone, strike up some conversations with strangers and you never know where that might lead you.

If your school has an orientation or an event to welcome new students, go to it. They host such events for a reason and that’s for you to get comfortable with the school and meet your future classmates. Take this opportunity to talk to people and remember faces so you have some people to sit with on your first day.

Once school starts, try your best to do the following things:

a) stay organised
b) study hard
c) get involved

Yes, yes, I know, it’s all stuff you’ve heard before, but they are really, really good things to remember. Depending on your middle school, the high school workload can get overwhelming and to avoid a meltdown on your part, it’s a good idea to invest in good organisational tools such as a proper agenda. Also, make sure to keep your binders and notebooks, as well as all your other school work neat and organised. It’s going to help you so much when it comes time to study for exams and stuff like that.

In addition to staying organised, you should do your best to invest time in your studies. While you’ll be surrounded by your friends and all that, you’re going to school to learn and prepare for post-secondary education or whatever it is you plan to do after high school. Don’t procrastinate and do your assignments as soon as they’ve been assigned. Whatever you do, just don’t leave things to the last minute when you’ll feel so completely overwhelmed and it’s going to show.

If you know you’re struggling with something, don’t hesitate to ask for help. Ask a teacher, a friend, a parents, etc. just to make sure that you don’t fall behind in a class because you don’t understand a certain concept. Again, you’re going to school to learn, so do your job as a student by asking questions when you don’t know something because let’s face it – fourteen year olds don’t know as much as we might think we do.

Also, you should try to think about where you want to go after high school. Of course, no one’s asking you to have your whole life planned out, but it’s a good idea to have a general direction, albeit vague, of where you want to end up. Pick your courses wisely to set yourself up for success and to open doors in the future.

Then, there’s getting involved. I admit that I didn’t get as involved in the school community as I would’ve liked to, but I did pack my schedule with a ton of things outside of school including my blog, my mini card business that made December one of the most hectic months of my life, tutoring, Spanish class and three hours of volunteering every Saturday, as well as my regular workout regimen which actually takes up a good chunk of my time.

Getting good grades won’t be enough for colleges/universities, so try to make yourself stand out by participating a lot in clubs and/or sports as well as involving yourself in volunteer work. If you hear about an interesting club, don’t let the fact that you’re only a freshman stop you from going out there and seeing what it’s all about. You never know, you might just find your crew there.

While I’ve talked a lot about making that effort to make your high school experience as amazing as possible, don’t forget that it’s just your freshman year. You’re going to make mistakes, no doubt, from things like not studying enough for exams during the winter break or putting one too many activities on your plate, but it’s better to make them your first year of high school than later on.

Don’t forget to spread yourself too thin and just don’t stress yourself out too much. You’ll just get premature grays and wrinkles that just aren’t worth it at the tender age of fourteen. Most of all, even with all the studying that you have to do and all the social aspects of high school, try your best to enjoy it all instead of thinking of it as a chore.

The most important thing (besides making the effort to talk to others) that you should take from this post is that while high school might sound really scary and intimidating, it’s really not and you should jump into the whole thing with a smile on your face. A whole slew of my friends are relatively unhappy, or at least not as happy as they could be about their respective high schools, and while I don’t know all the reasons behind their unhappiness, I do know that that keeping your mind smiling (if that makes sense) and just keeping a positive attitude about everything really helps your happiness.

Try to twist negative situations into a more positive one. If you have too much work to do at once, take a short break, treat yourself to some food, then make a list to break down all your tasks with some kind of reward at the end to motivate you. If your friends happen to all be away on the same day, take it as an opportunity to try a new club or talk to some new people. If you get a bad grade, don’t mull over it for too long, ask your teacher about it, learn from your mistakes, and move on.

I find that always thinking happy thoughts really is key to being happy. If you always have a smile on your face and try your hardest not to let yourself mope about things or get depressed about the thought of having to school, you’ll be a hell of a lot happier than someone who wakes up dreading the day to come. However, if you are one of those people, talk to your friends, your parents, or your guidance counselor about it, and don’t forget that I’m always free to help you out. There’s always Twitter, Facebook, email, or my Tumblr where you can ask for advice and I’ll be more than willing to give you that advice.

No matter what way you look at it, high school will be a crazy four years, but it’s up to you if those hallways are the ones you’ll remember as the place where you made the memories you’ll cherish forever or the halls you can’t wait to get out of. Your high school has the potential to be great, so use that opportunity at more freedom wisely to make it great. Sometimes, it’s worse to regret something you didn’t do than something you did. Of course, that tidbit of advice applies itself only to a select few situations and you have to do so tentatively, but high school is a time to take chances with the comfort of a structured class schedule and plenty of people right there to support you.

So take those chances, dear freshman. Take those chances and just run with them and regret nothing.

Are you going into high school this year? Even if you aren’t, what’s the thing you’re most worried about? Which piece of advice did you find the most helpful and reassuring? Leave a comment and share your stories below! I’d really, really love to hear what you have to say and I’d be more than happy to give anyone more advice if they need it!

Thank you so much for reading!
- J


  1. Best advice: Thinking happy thoughts and living every day to its fullest. You never cease to impress me Juliana. You're so wise.

    1. Thank you so much!!! :) You're too kind. (but don't stop) - J