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Posted: July 21, 2012 5:56 p.m.

My guide to freshman year

For rising freshmen, the thought of the first day of high school may seem to be one of the most nerve wrecking moments of their young lives.

Moving from New Jersey in the summer before ninth grade, I worried immensely about high school.

However, as a senior, I assure you that by the end of the first month, you will ask yourself why you were so apprehensive about entering high school. Here are some tips that can help boost the start of your four year journey.

One of the biggest concerns freshmen have is whether they will be able to find their classes and get to them on time. On my first day, I depended on the school map and had to ask an upperclassman how to get to the music room.

However, after the first week or two, I had no problem getting to classes. If you don't have a school map, don't be afraid to ask teachers or upperclassmen for help. Although some upperclassmen may try to lead you the wrong way, approach someone who seems to be friendly, and he or she will most likely help you. Even if you get lost and are late to class, teachers are lenient the first two weeks because they know you are unfamiliar with the place.

Without trying to sugar coat things, I will admit: high school is more challenging than middle school. Since you are one step closer to going to college, teachers demand more responsibilities.

Use an agenda or notebook to write all your assignments down. On days when you are overloaded with homework, an agenda will help you remember what you need to do. Writing down when the next test or project is due will prevent panic attacks from the sudden realization that you have something due the next day.

Some teachers do not accept late work, so it is best to keep track of your work efficiently as possible. When you are absent, teachers will not tell you what assignments you have missed. It is your responsibility to find out what needs to be made up.

Start your summer reading assignments if you haven't started yet. Summer reading assignments can help your grade as long as you complete them.
Your freshman grades do make a difference.

Although colleges emphasize your junior grades the most, your freshman grades weigh into your grade point average. For example, one of my close friends had slacked off in freshman year. Although she worked hard to bring her sophomore and junior grades up, her low freshman grades brought down her overall GPA. She regrets neglecting her freshmen classes to this day. And if you didn't try as hard in middle school, don't think that you cannot change your study habits. Forget about your old habits. High school can be the start of a new you.

In contrast with middle school, you will have many class options from AP classes to electives.
Especially for students who don't have older siblings, talking to counselors about whether to take a certain course or opt out of one is very helpful. If you are stressed or have a concern, don't hesitate to talk to your counselor as well.

You'll be surprised to find that many upperclassmen go visit the counselor to get advice when they feel overwhelmed with work. During senior year when you are applying for college, you will often have to visit the counselor's office, so get to know your counselor beforehand.

I admit in middle school, I liked to work and hang out with a certain group of friends. However, moving to a new state and coming to high school, I realized I needed to get out of my comfort zone.

Your high school life may consist of some changes. You will most likely have different classmates for every class, and may not be in the same lunch periods as your friends. Don't be afraid to talk to someone you don't know, and don't limit yourself to a certain group of people.

On the first day, try to bring your lunch, so you can sit with people you know. Because there are more students in high school, it may be hard to find people who you recognize in the lunchroom. Rather than standing in line to get lunch, worried that you will not have anyone to sit with, bring a packed lunch so you can quickly find a place to sit. Often, there is a "senior section" in the lunchrooms, so do not sit in that area.

In addition, get involved with clubs and sports. Especially if you are a new student, joining clubs or sports teams is one of the best ways to meet new people and spend worthwhile time helping out the school or community.

If you want to know more about lawyers and prosecutors, join the mock trial team. If you want to bring out your leadership skills, join the student council. There's a variety of clubs available for all interests. Even if you've never played a certain sport, try out for the team. The number one pole vaulter of my school's track team had no track experience prior to ninth grade, but tried out for the team and found her potential in pole vaulting.

Now for a more serious topic: peer pressure. I know I may be beating the dead horse, but peer pressure is rampant in high school. Fitting in with some people may be hard, but don't risk your future by trying to fit in. Think about the consequences of your actions. Will a certain action lead to suspension from school? Will you lose respect from your family and your peers? Will you be kicked off the sports team and clubs you were involved in?

If your friends pressure you to do something you know is not right, they are not the right people to hang out with. They don't respect you enough to value your opinions.

Walt Disney once said, "If you can dream it, you can do it." High school is a time where you can chase your dreams and accomplish whatever you put your mind to. Good luck to all upcoming freshmen, and I hope you guys have a memorable high school experience.


Elizabeth Park in an intern for The Covington News. She will complete her senior year of high school this fall.

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