DEAR HIGH SCHOOL FRESHMEN: You're off to high school soon and about to enter a whole new world. You are no longer the little kids of junior high – you are an official teenager getting ready to emerge as a young adult. While most of you will be excited on the first day, some of you are feeling unsure and concerned about what lies ahead.
Rest assured, surviving high school is possible. A few small steps will help move you in the right direction. Here are some tips to help you succeed and thrive:
Set your mind up before school starts to join at least one activity, if only for your freshman year, whether it be sports-related, band, drama, math club, 4-H, student government or a service club.
Don't limit yourself to just the friends you already have. High school is about meeting new people and trying different things. Multiplying your friendships means expanding your options and giving yourself so many more opportunities to have fun.
Repeat after me, "The key to my success in high school is to stay organized." Get in a habit of organizing your backpack every Sunday so you remove all the excess paperwork, wrappers, broken pencils and empty water bottles. Have folders for every class neatly in order and take the time to hole-punch whatever you need in your binder. A few minutes of time to organize can make a difference in your grade.
Don't be afraid to ask for help, whether it be counseling, tutoring or any other support service. Asking for help is a sign of strength and shows that you care about yourself.
Stay ahead of the game. Pace yourself when it comes to assignments. Waiting until the last minute to do an assignment means it will be rushed and probably not your best effort. Get a big calendar in your room and write when any big assignments are due. Make it your goal to have everything done at least three or four days ahead of schedule so you have time to make any needed changes. Remember, you may fall behind but the rest of the class doesn't. It takes four years to create a grade-point average and it takes only one bad semester to damage it.
As hard as this may seem, turn off your cellphone or put it on silent while you are in school. You don't need your phone to vibrate every time you get a new tweet. Perhaps you just check messages during lunch and after school.
Get to know your school principal or vice principal. This one may have elicited an an eye roll, but it's the smart thing to do. If you see them on campus, walk up and introduce yourself. Be genuine and just say hello. Be respectful and friendly, and they will be the same in return.
Set yourself up with some older students at school who can be mentors. If you play in the band, find someone who has been in it for a while and can show you the ropes. If you like student government, find someone older who can share what role you should play in school spirit and how you can help with activities. If your goal is to go to Stanford, get to know an older student who takes hard classes and knows what it takes to get in to a top college.
Surround yourself with people of good character. High school will pose many opportunities to do things that can change your life in a negative way. Find other teenagers who have the same values, goals and principles, and will help you to stay the course. Be prepared to say "no" when things come up that you aren't comfortable doing. Have confidence in your decisions and don't let others sway you into doing things you really don't want to.
Get familiar with the school library, which may have resources such as tutoring or special help.
Your heart will be broken and you will break hearts. Expect it. Don't sink your whole high school experience into one relationship.
Remember, you are never alone. Yes, we may get mad at you and you may be in trouble for what feels like an eternity, but that doesn't mean we don't love you and we aren't here for you if you need us.
We know you will make mistakes. Our job is to be your parents, not your best friends. We are here to support and guide you. We don't expect you to be perfect but we do expect you to try your hardest.
High school is a great example of "what you put into it is what you will get out of it." You only get one chance to be in high school, so go to the dances, football games, school plays, rallies and be a part of your school. Beginnings are scary and endings are usually sad. It's what you do in between that counts the most.