Tips for Freshmen: The Honest Version

Charlotte Mandy, Editor

High school can, initially at least, seem overwhelming from the vantage point of freshman year.


Although most students starting here will have experienced some kind of rotating schedule and, of course, any number of extracurricular activities and sports, the sheer quantity of choices and effort required over the next four years can be daunting.


For freshmen, as well as sophomores and upperclassmen that are already ready for summer in the first week of school, we have compiled a list of tips that may keep you on track. And awake. And of a sound mind. Of course, you’ll no doubt have heard advice from siblings and older friends, but we hope this supplemental dose of upperclassmen knowledge will help you on your way, freshmen.



  • For the love of sanity, get some sleep. You can function on a few hours of sleep, yes, but not as a human being. Ask yourself, as you morph into a prickly coffee-fueled monster, do you really want to nap on the unforgiving plateau of your desk? Your pillow is much kinder, trust me. Get at least seven hours, eight or nine if you can.
  • Eat breakfast. It does not have to be a sit-down breakfast, particularly large, or even breakfast food. Food in general, good food in the morning, will help you in the long run. Your concentration will improve and you might eat healthier because you aren’t as hungry after school. Or you might not. What matters is, you’ll have energy.  
  • If you’re thinking about putting it off another day…for the third time…you should do it now. As I’m sure you know after years of homework, procrastination seems friendly at first, but in high school, it will get you nowhere but deeper into stress and long hours working the night before an assignment is due. Once again, I’ll admit personally it is possible to get by as a notorious procrastinator. However, your grades won’t thank you, and as the year goes on more and more projects will pile up until, in April or May, you’d rather learn a new language than deal with any of it.
  • The odds are, your teachers won’t bite. Get the extra help if your teacher offers it. There was extra help in middle school, and there is extra help in high school. There is no shame in going after class or after school to clarify or strengthen your understanding of something. Especially before tests. Using your resources and common sense will get you far.
  • Use Quizlet. Unless you really need to hand-write text to memorize it, Quizlet is a lifesaver. Repetition is all you need to get some information to stick in your brain, and Quizlet applies the adhesive with flashcards. Plus it’s free, and at your fingertips in the app. Speaking of apps and websites, having Cliffnotes and Sparknotes as supplements will help you more than relying on them completely. 
  • Manage your stress. As someone who has seen more than one person break down half way through the year, whether it was from overloading on classes or just not having an organizational system in place, I recommend finding an outlet for stress. For many students it is sports, which are also a route to becoming more focused and dedicated. Reading, hunting cryptids, taking up a new hobby, watching Netflix…whatever it is that you might dismiss as too time consuming, make time for it! Don’t sacrifice your mental health for good grades. Find a balance.
  • Challenge yourself. If there comes a point when you have an opportunity to try a harder level class or a new area of study, make the leap. Take the AP class. Sign up for something that makes you a little nervous. You only get one shot at high school. While, as mentioned above, overloading and burning out isn’t a great plan, setting new challenges for yourself is expected of mature students and adults. Playing it safe when it comes to classes may seem like a good option, but you will be more satisfied with your accomplishments if they took a measure of courage.   
  • Start volunteering early. Volunteering is a fantastic way to get out of the house and give back to the community. If you haven’t already, start now, especially if you’re thinking of joining National Honor Society. A lot of diligent students can get good grades, and kudos to them, but it takes someone with initiative to put aside time, get out there, and help someone else.
  • Do what you love, not just what you think looks good. Of course it matters what colleges will think of your transcript, and that’s always something to keep in mind. But, as many top schools have admitted, there’s not much appealing about a student who dabbles in everything fleetingly and doesn’t stick with at least something over the years. Find an activity, sport, or academic pursuit that makes you happy. There are a lot of options.



To all students in the year ahead, the absolute best of luck! (Although, in my experience, there’s no such thing.)