Dear incoming high school freshmans:
Have you ever wished for someone to advise you on your first highschool year? Are you seeking for advice/help from someone who's been in your shoes to guide you and help you prepare yourself for high school? No worries, I've got your back.
I once heard someone say: “Some people spend the rest of their life trying to relive their high school years, while some try to recover from it.” As an international student who just landed in the US and only learned about this country’s education system through the media, I was rather nervous, clueless, and… new to it all!
There are so many things that I could not thank myself enough for daring to try, but there are also some specific things that I still wish someone had told or warned me about before I messed up. I honestly don’t regret that “glamorous” year, but I definitely know it could have been better.
I wanted to share here some 5 things that I’ve done right and 5 things I have not done the best on. This is not the ultimate list of advice for you, and probably won't be true for everyone. Regardless, you might find a few of my tips helpful in making your first high school year a success!
Alright freshie, let’s go!
Things I’ve done right
Below are some things I highly recommend you to do:
Tip #1: Prioritize school work and GPA
Someone told me that my high school GPA did not count until junior year, and I'm here to say this: that is not true. To understand more about why 9th grade GPA matters, check out this helpful article here to better understand.
Tip #2: Value friendships (and other precious relationships)
I can’t stress the importance of relationships enough: THEY ARE IMPORTANT!
I'm not saying you must do everything to preserve a bond, or even change who you are to impress others. My point here is that if you're in a relationship with someone who truly understands and cares about you, please, do make an effort to keep them around and value their presence in your life. After some time, you will look back and be thankful that you have them in your life.
Tip #3: Develop time management skills- or, a better routine.
"The key is not in spending time, but in investing it."
There are many time-managing methods that you can discover online; in regards to that, as it differs for everyone with a unique approach, I will instead list out some benefits of having good time-managing skills:
- You won't miss "life" and academic deadlines
- You will have time to eat, sleep, rest- really, whatever else for your break time
- You can succeed without exerting yourself too hard
- Less stress and anxiety
...and much more! Time management won't take too much effort, but the benefits are countless!
Tip #4: Try out various things to discover your true interest
Okay, maybe you've perhaps uttered something along these lines:
"I don't know what I want to study in college."
"I don't know what I'm truly passionate about."
"What am I going to do with my life?!"
The last one might be a little dramatic, but it was actually, in fact, one of my most frequent self-talk sentences during my freshman year crisis (which I will discuss later). If you are trying to find yourself and discover what suits you best, figuring out your passion and interest could possibly give you a major headache.
My solution to this dilemma is to try, try, and try. Try everything you can, see how fascinated you get when you are in the process of it, and see how long you can commit to that hobby. Don't think of those "experiments" as a waste of time, but rather a journey for you to discover and take part in creating who you are.
You don't have to be passionate about just one thing, or something that everyone in your school is interested in. Remember, you are discovering yourself, your own thing, your jam- not what anyone tells you to like or what everyone else likes. Have fun with it, and remember every lesson the experience taught you
Tip #5: Control the usage time on social media/digital entertainments
According to CNN, an average teenager nowadays spends 7 hours per day on their phone for entertainment, especially social media. Can you believe it? That's 1/3 of your day! Phone addiction is real- and you wouldn't want to have it at such a young age and develop it all the way to adulthood. I understand it could be hard to cut down the time on your phone, but you will thank yourself in the future, I promise!
Below is how I controlled my usage of time on social media:
- Downloaded a screen-time tracker app
- Checked how much time I spent on my phone every day, and what portion of it was "dedicated" on social media
- Set a limit for myself. I set a 1-hour limit for myself, not including schoolwork/productivity purposes
- Deleted every social media app on my phone and only checked them on my computer ONCE a day
- Kept this habit until I could mindfully restraint myself from mindlessly scrolling social media, even when I have all the apps on my phone.
It took me about more than a year to train myself, and it was difficult indeed. But, is the result worth it? I would say most certainly so.
Things I’ve done not right
Some mistakes I've made may have shaped me into who I am today, but I do want to advise you on things I wish could have taken a better turn.
Avoid #1: Too afraid to step out of the comfort zone
Let's be honest here: it wouldn't be called "the comfort zone" if stepping out of it doesn't make you uncomfortable.
I forgave and sympathized with my freshman self for not being brave enough, but there are so many opportunities that I have missed just because of one tiny, little problem: I was too scared to step out of my comfort zone. I realized that, at first, it will be indeed extremely difficult.
But, after time, what seemed so hard before would just feel like a warm-up in the future. All it took was a little courage, sacrifice, effort, and time, in exchange for significant growth and self-improvement.
Avoid #2: Too self-conscious and insecure
We have all or eventually will experience this once in our life. Insecurity is quite common in teenagers, the age where kids are often told or shown that they're not enough in several aspects, such as in appearance and academic achievements.
Although self-confidence and self-love cannot be achieved in a day or two, there are many small, consistent steps that you could take. I believe there're countless influencers and bloggers talk about that on the internet, so go check them out!
My first step was to make and remember this affirmation: "Most people fail in life because they copy others' work and forget that everyone's given a different paper."
Avoid #3: Forget to have fun
Okay, this seems a little wrong for a freshman, but it did indeed apply to me. I couldn't thank myself enough for focusing and prioritizing schoolwork and GPA, but neglecting my desire to have fun was something I regretted.
Remember, GPA is important; however, in a year or two, you won't remember the A you got in the Math test, but the memory of you and your friends doing something crazy together will remain precious and unforgettable. Remember to have fun, too!
Avoid #4: Not speaking up or seeking help when needed
This is the one that I regretted the most, and I still was not able to improve it all the way to Sophomore year.
Speak up! Don't be afraid, just speak up!
Do you have an idea you'd like to share during class? You want to report that you've been bullied or harassed? People don't know the truth about something? JUST DO IT, DON'T BE AFRAID OF ANYTHING OR ANYONE!
Remember- sometimes, you're the only person who can save yourself from troubles. If all it takes is a little courage and your empowering voice, please, do me a favor, speak up!
Avoid #5: Stress out about college, majors, career plan
"I don't know what I want to major in college"
"What if I won't even get accepted by any college?"
"What will I do with my life?!"
Okay, another irrational thing for a freshman to be worried about- but I was that irrational Freshman. Don't worry too much about colleges and career plans just yet, for you will have plenty of time to do that in the future.
Your goal right now is to do what a responsible and self-directed freshman would do: schoolwork, homework, extracurriculars, hobbies, family, friends, and fun (and anything that matters to you). You just have to believe that it will work out, and you'll be fine.
Or, instead of stressing out about it, write down all your worries on a piece of paper. Then, for each reason, try to come up with a solution, or a plan. For example, I was worried that I wouldn't be able to afford colleges; thus, my solution is to research financial aid, scholarships, etc, and start finding ways to make and save money. If I couldn't find any reasonable solution for the dilemma, I'd know that I was being unreasonable, thus crossed it out from my "stressed-about list." I know, funny, but it works like magic!
Alright freshies, that's all I've got to give tips on. I hope you found it helpful.
High school will be a fun time if you know how to enjoy it and avoid what's not necessary to worry about. Freshman year will be indeed difficult for some, but I know you will all get through it and learn some valuable lessons. You got this- good luck!