Weighing in on Freshman Year

It’s finally here: your freshman year of high school. You’re excited yet apprehensive at the same time. While it’s a fresh start and the beginning of your real academic career, it’s also easy to get overwhelmed by the weight of it all. 

Keep reading to learn about some common academic pitfalls freshman fall prey to and some suggestions on how to avoid them.

Waiting to get organized.

You're all decked out with new binders, dividers, paper, pens, pencils, highlighters, and hopefully, an agenda. You have great intentions to keep everything neat and easily accessible. But, before you know it, you're digging into the bottomless pit of your backpack, smoothing out crumpled papers, trying to find the assignment you worked hard on the night before as your teacher sighs impatiently. 

Getting organized does require some work upfront, but it saves you valuable time and energy for the rest of the year.  If you carry one big binder, make sure each class has a section with a clearly marked divider. Consider adding a folder with two pockets: the front pocket is where you will place homework you need to complete, and the back pocket will hold completed homework you need to turn in. If you carry a smaller binder for each class, make sections for things like notes, vocabulary, and homework. Your teacher may even have requirements for sections; if this is the case, follow those guidelines.  And as far as that agenda goes, use it to record any test dates, homework assignments and the due dates, and long-term project due dates.  Break up those big ticket items into smaller chunks so you will stay on task and won't get blindsided when it’s time to turn them in. 

Underestimating the importance of a study plan. 

You may have breezed through middle school without studying or, on the opposite end of the spectrum, gave up because of repeated failures.  One of the biggest errors you can make as freshmen in high school is not understanding the importance of planning for success through a deliberate study plan.  At a time in your academic career when every grade counts, failing to plan is planning to fail. 

Overcoming this obstacle is pretty straightforward: Create a study calendar and stick to it!  Keep in mind that this plan shouldn’t be a series of last-minute cram sessions before tests.  Reviewing the textbook, lecture notes, and any supplementary materials nightly is the key. You will absorb the material more effectively this way and won’t have to panic every time an exam approaches. Some ideas include marking your notes for important terms and key concepts, outlining the chapter you are currently working on in class, making flashcards for definitions you need to memorize, and re-reading notes and texts. Just 15-20 minutes per subject per night will go a long way in helping you learn and retain the material. 

Settling for so so grades. 

Your Grade Point Average (GPA) starts the first day of high school and follows you the entire four years.  Don’t make the mistake of letting your grades slip or settling for barely passing marks. While it’s possible to recover from one bad semester, accumulating too many iffy grades will hurt your GPA and limit your postsecondary opportunities.  

The first step is to nail “A’s” in classes that are easy for you by making sure you are turning in every single assignment, prepping for tests even if you think you don’t need to, and participating fully. Think PE:  if you attend class, dress out, and play along, your grade will reflect it.  If you skip class, don’t dress out when you do show up, and refuse to participate, your grade will reflect it. Although this seems like common sense, too many kids take “F’s” or “D’s” in easy classes just because they don’t feel that they are valuable.  Don't be that kid. 

Next, make sure you complete all your assignments in your academic classes. All of them. If you're struggling with a particular assignment or class, ask your teacher for help.  If that doesn’t work, seek out a tutor who can help you leap over the hurdles you face.  There is no shame in asking for help! It’s better than having to repeat a class or having a permanent black mark on your academic history. If you didn’t like a class the first time around, what makes you think you'll like it any better the second time? Do what it takes, and get it done right the first time. And, yes, that will involve a lot of time and hard work on your part. 

So, please make the most of freshman year by putting your best foot forward. It’s hard to imagine being a senior when you're still acclimating to high school life, but one thing is certain: What you do or don't do in 9th grade can make or break your last year of high school. 

If you need help, reach out. We can help.