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 Dec 31, 2021
5 Steps to Conquering Freshman Year of High School

When I asked eighth graders about their thoughts on soon leaving middle school behind, their answers were hardly in sync. Some were giddy to enter a new campus with an abundance of courses and clubs. Others were dreading the prospect of getting pages of reading homework or spending hours studying for exams. No matter where you lie on the spectrum, there are several ways in which you can turn an uncertain first year of high school into an enjoyable celebration of change. In following the five tips below, you’re sure to have a more-than-memorable freshman year – for reasons that are all but bad. 

1) Challenge yourself (but not too much!). 

The leap from middle school to freshman year is certainly a big one, so don’t overwhelm yourself with too many advanced classes without understanding the level of commitment they entail. You may, for instance, have several AP classes available to you during freshman year but choose to only take one. It may be beneficial to take one or two challenging courses rather than seven or eight so that you can get a taste of both the difficulty level of the material and the extent of the workload.

2) Explore new opportunities.  

Freshman year is the perfect time to explore the many clubs and organizations that your school offers so that you can figure out what you want to continue to pursue. Interested in online gaming? Find out how to join your school’s esports team. Want to help plant trees around your campus? Check out a meeting of your school’s Earth Club. Whether you’re singing in the choir or taking a stand in debate, you may find a second home in things that you otherwise wouldn’t expect to like. 

3) Reach out to upperclassmen.

Especially for those who don’t have older siblings, it can be beneficial to talk to upperclassmen who attend your school in order to gain insights about all that your school has to offer. Those who have already immersed themselves in the student body, taken certain classes, and engaged in campus organizations can provide incredibly valuable advice on what to do (and what not to do) as you proceed through high school. And the questions you could ask them are almost endless! Here are just a few:

  • How do you typically study for AP Chemistry exams? 
  • What are some activities that the Make-A-Wish Club has done in the past, and how can I join? 
  • What did you like and dislike about being on the cross country team? 
  • Which classes have you taken that you really enjoyed, and why did you enjoy them? 
  • Where is the best place on campus to eat lunch? 
  • …and so on!

4) Develop sustainable study skills.

There’s no time like freshman year to discover study skills that not only help you succeed in the present, but that can also carry over to your years as an upperclassman and college student. You might find that you perform the best when you create flashcards for each unit of a course. Or, maybe taking practice tests could be your trick to getting high scores on your exams. No matter what works for you, you’ll benefit from taking the skills you develop as a ninth grader and applying them to more advanced future courses. 

5) Don’t hesitate to ask questions.

Upon starting high school, it can be easy to feel intimidated by the pace of your classes and the workload that accompanies them. If you ever have any doubts over the material you’re learning or the way that your assignments should be completed, don’t hesitate to ask your teachers or classmates! There’s no harm in attending a tutorial session before or after school to ask questions about concepts that you don’t understand. In fact, another person’s perspective might just be the missing link you need to solve a problem or clear up a misunderstanding.

Whether you’re bouncing on your toes with excitement to start high school or biting your nails at the thought of a clean slate, you have the potential to maximize your enjoyment and minimize your stress during your freshman year. In keeping the suggestions above in mind, you’ll be able to take ownership of your transition to ninth grade, all without the sacrifice. So without further ado, cheers to new beginnings — and to being prepared for them!

Trisha Bhujle is a former Brilliant Prep student with the goal of answering your questions about high school, standardized tests, and everything in between. Having received a 36 on her ACT and a 1560 on her SAT, she now actively works to inform students and parents alike of how to prepare for not only these tests, but also other high school hurdles. In her spare time, she likes to experiment in her kitchen, conquer DIY projects, and most of all, write!