By: NobleHour Special Contributor Dolly Duplantier
High school always seemed years away. Then, you blinked and now standing before you is an eager young teenager who can’t wait for independence and the next stage in her education. On the surface your child may exude a surly confidence and adamantly swear they are ready for high school. However, it’s still a big transition – not just academically, but socially and psychologically as well. Whether it’s a large public high school or a small private one, there will be new expectations, new challenges, and new friends. Don’t worry! (Easier said than done. After all, it’s part of our parental DNA!) With a little preparation and advice from teachers and upperclassmen, your freshman will not only survive high school, but also thrive! And, guess what? You will too! Check out our 8 tips to ensure a great start to high school.
1. Reflect & Ponder. Laurie Rosato, a Chemistry teacher at Kingwood Park High School in Kingwood, Texas, advises students to take time to ponder the big step they are about to take and reflect on how far they’ve already come. “You’ve come so far and you are about to start a phase of tremendous growth and change that will transform you into an adult,” says Rosato, a mother of three children, ages 21, 18, and 17.
2. Set some goals. Academically, Rosato recommends students take at least one class a year that will really challenge them, or an elective that will provide a completely new experience. Students should set social goals as well. “Learn the names of everyone in your graduating class, or challenge yourself to speak to the person in front of you, behind you, and to either side of you in every class - even if it’s just to say hello or have a nice weekend."
3. Attend orientation, a summer sports or academic camp, or take a summer school class. These activities allow freshmen a chance to get a feel for the campus, meet fellow classmates, and get to know teachers, coaches, and staff before school begins. "When you attend orientation, have your schedule with you and do a dry run-through so you can familiarize yourself with class locations and get comfortable in the building," advises Jaclin Szafraniec McGuire, a high school English teacher in Glenview, Illinois.
4. READ just for fun! “Summer is a time for relaxation, but just reading a little each day will keep your brain thinking,” says Szafraniec McGuire. “If there is a summer reading program, read the assigned book so you are ready to get involved in the discussion in the fall.”
5. Get organized and take control of your life! “Freshman year is a critical transition year,” says Dr. Cissy Cerise LaForge Ph.D., president of St. Scholastica Academy in Covington, Louisiana. “It’s the time when kids figure out how they learn best and what interests them.” She sees kids struggle with organization and managing time (executive functioning) and not getting involved in school. The result? Kids are unorganized and lonely.
Students should use the summer to work on organizing their life and taking responsibility. Cerise LaForge suggests students get a small job or volunteer. She also advises them to start waking up to an alarm clock! In addition, students should create a space to do homework, get a good planner, and think about how to organize class subjects. “If you’re using electronic folders, make sure you keep those organized on a daily basis. Keep on top of your classes and don’t wait until the last minute to get things done. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from teachers and friends.”
6. Get involved in your school. Joining a club can provide a smaller environment for students to feel connected and get to know each other. “You don’t have to be Student Council president, but set a goal to participate in at least one extracurricular activity per school year,” recommends Rosato who believes absolutely everyone should be involved in his or her school.
7. Be mindful of small simple acts of kindness. “Many students around you will be struggling, depressed, or stressed out,” adds Rosato. “Having a goal of reaching out in some small way can have a tremendous impact on you and others.”
“Don’t judge people by who they hang out with,” says Rosato’s daughter, Julia, a high school senior. “Everyone has their differences, and “cliques” are a myth. You might hang out with the “jocks” or the “band,” but every person in any group is different and you don’t know them until you “KNOW” them. Give everyone a chance.”
8. Remain true to yourself, but don’t be afraid to broaden your views. Rosato says it’s not uncommon for high school students to question the beliefs they’ve grown up with. She advises to not shy away from asking questions, but stay close to those who love you and have gotten you to this point.
“Television and movies portray a very stereotypical view of high school that doesn’t really exist,” said Rosato’s oldest daughter, Molly, a recent high school graduate. She encourages high school freshmen to not conform to the stereotype. “Just be YOU!”
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Dolly Duplantier is a freelance writer, editor, and social media specialist. She is the mother of three children, one college graduate, one in college, and one in high school. She is constantly learning from them and loves volunteering for their schools and sports teams. Writing about people and organizations who make a difference, including amazing teachers, is one the best aspects of her job!