You might feel a mix of emotions at the beginning of your high school career. There is some uneasiness based on the increased academic rigor, the high-stakes of college admissions, and, of course, new social interactions. However, these same three factors should also be cause for excitement. The following are seven simple hints for easing the tension and having a fun and successful high school career.
1. Dream BIG (and do the research)!
Is there a profession that you would like to pursue? Is there a particular type of college you want to attend? Either way, dream big and keep those dreams in the forefront of your mind. Dreams are powerful, especially if they are backed by personal research. If it is a particular profession, chart the pathway to reach that dream. Tell your parents. Tell your high school counselor. Write that information down and stick it where you can see it every day. Those dreams can guide and motivate you all through your high school career.
For some students, choosing a college can be both complex and intimidating. Read Mr. Chilman's post about navigating the process.
2. Set high, yet reasonable, academic goals
Simply put, stretch yourself academically but don’t set impossible goals. If you have achieved below average grades in the past, you might not want to choose to set a goal of earning straight A grades. Instead, commit to moving all your subject grades up one letter grade. If you are able to achieve that goal each semester, you will have straight A grades soon enough. If you are already a strong student, stretch yourself to get straight A grades or increase the number of honors courses in your academic schedule. The key is to show colleges that you have the ability to take on challenges and be successful doing so.
3. Discipline your study habits
In the past twenty years in education, I have learned that the top students discipline their homework time. To clarify, those study habits look different for the wide array of learners in this world. Some students hit the books the minute they get home. Others take 30 minutes to have a snack and decompress before starting. The key ingredient is consistency. The time they commit to starting their work is the same. Simply put, get in a rhythm after school.
Students report that the most common disruptors of strong habits are video games and social interactions (texting, social media) on their personal devices. Since many video games are difficult to put down once you start, consider waiting until your homework is done before starting. When it comes to friends, do the same thing. The most important goal should be getting your homework and studying done completely and correctly. Refer back to your dreams and your goals. What actions do you take to get there?
4. Use a digital calendar
You are busier than ever, often participating in a variety of athletic teams, fine art productions, extracurricular clubs, and community service. This busyness leads to completing your homework or studying on the run, squeezing it in between activities. It becomes important to be both organized and have quick access to the work that needs to be done. A digital calendar is a helpful place to both organize your schedules and remind you of the homework that needs to be completed that day. This gives you a chance to knock off some of the easier tasks with the little chunks of time within the school day or between extracurricular activities.
5. Communicate with your teachers
Great students ask questions when they are confused and communicate with their teachers when they are not performing to their own expectations. Those students often arrive to school early or stay after school to get the necessary help to understand difficult concepts or to correctly complete academic tasks (like writing an essay). You need to put in the extra-time to meet your academic goals and dreams.
6. Get involved after school
There are two main reasons to be active in extracurricular activities. The first is simple. High school is boring unless you participate in something after school. These four years of your life should be fun! Getting involved in sports, arts, clubs, or community service after school is a great way to make memories and meet new friends. Go to dances! Support your friends in the stands! Be a part of the story of your school each year. Your high school years are the perfect time to explore new things.
Secondly, colleges and universities accept many, many students based on their extracurricular involvement. With numerous candidates at similar grade point averages and standardized test scores, colleges look for ways to differentiate their applicants. Since colleges have clubs, activities, arts, and sports, it is important that they choose students that fill those needs. By playing a major role in extracurricular activities in high school, you actually give yourself a leg up in the college admissions game.
If you believe you have the passion to lead your activity, you should pursue leadership positions. The depth of your involvement in a few activities is more important than the breadth of activities you participate in. Some people try to be a member in a long list of teams and/or activities. My advice is to get involved in a few at a very high level.
7. Be Yourself
The biggest mistake you can make in high school is to pretend to be someone you are not. Why? Aspiring to be someone different results in two outcomes:
First, you are unhappy. Changing yourself to fit some sort of perceived role doesn’t work, causes internal confusion, and isn’t fun. Secondly, people who aspire to be someone different often attempt to belittle others to make themselves feel better. They are mean! Studies show that bullies often lack self-confidence. They might not love how God made them.
When you can, “be yourself” pursuing a passion using your own gifts and personality is both fun and rewarding. You might not know them yet, but God gave you personality traits and gifts that make you unique and special. Using those traits and gifts will bring you joy.
If you are beginning your freshman year, try to enjoy the next four years of your life. Pursue your interests, try new things, and enjoy all the differences in the people you meet. I have found, that positive, active students love their high school years and make the school better for everyone!