Starting High School? Here are 4 Tips to Get You Going on the Right Foot


We’re not saying you have to start stressing about applying to college one day. (Please don’t stress! There will be plenty of time for that later). But, it’s much easier to maintain your GPA  than it is to bring your grades up. Just like it’s much easier to gradually add responsibilities and activities to your plate, instead of signing up for anything and everything and risking complete burnout. 

Don’t aim for burn out or overachieving. Your first year in high school is for focusing on keeping your grades up, exploring your interests, and building relationships. Here are our tips for starting 9th grade on the right foot. 

Tip #1: Challenge yourself, but be realistic. 

You’ve heard about the importance of quality over quantity. What they say is true for your transcript, too. A laundry list of Honors courses with nothing above a C+ tells a different story than one or two Honors courses at B or above. 

Try to take AP, IB, and Honors classes if you can. However, at this point, it might be too late to enroll in the upper level classes for the coming semester, so use 9th grade as a chance to figure out where your skills and interests are. Sometimes, you’ll surprise yourself. 

In middle school, maybe you excelled in math,  but in 9th grade you could discover Algebra is not your strong point. Or, maybe you hated your English class, but as you make your way through 9th grade, you realize you have strong writing skills.

Pay attention to the courses that come more natural to you or the reading materials you find most exciting and interesting. These might be a good indication of which Honors or AP course to enroll in during your sophomore years. 


Tip #2: Explore a lot of extracurricular activities, but only commit to a couple.

Your parents or older siblings aren’t going to be in high school to sign you up for extracurriculars. It’s going to be your responsibility to take initiative and discover what you want to do. Especially in the first month, look at flyers that catch your eye. Listen to the announcements in your homeroom. Ask around to find out what your friends are doing. 

Before the school year starts, think about how you want to be involved. Ask yourself:

  • Do I want to volunteer to help the community?

  • Do I want to be in the French club to improve my language skills? 

  • Do I want to play soccer to stay active and be a part of a team? 

Depending on what you’re interested in, you extracurricular might start before school even begins. If you’re wanting to try a sport, check out your school’s website or call to find out if and when tryouts take place. 

If you start the school year and you’re still stuck on what you’re interested in trying, ask your neighborhood friends, find out what your fellow classmates are doing and see if you can go to the first club meeting together. Attend as many intro meetings as you can, so you can follow your instincts on what you want to pursue or commit to. 

Tip #3: Build relationships with classmates and teachers.

  • Guidance Counselors

Early on, try to set up a meeting with your guidance counselor -- a low stakes, no pressure meeting, just as a quick meet and greet. The earlier they get to know who you are, the more information they’ll have about who you are as they’re writing college recommendation letters for you in the future. 

  • Teachers

Go to your teacher’s office hours. Even just to say hello or introduce yourself, Visit with the intent to learn and approach your teachers with a hope to understand who they are as people. Sure, it will be nice to one day have options for asking for teacher recommendations. But, if you approach it with the goal of connecting and understanding your teachers or exploring your curiosity in their subject or course, you’ll feel less pressure. 

  • Peers 

Remember, everyone is usually just as nervous as you are to meet someone new. Form study groups, ask questions, go out of your comfort zone. Learning to listen to others and understand their personal stories is an essential skill that will get you far in your life and your future career. Now is the perfect time to make friends. 


Tip #4: Refine your time management abilities. 

At the beginning of the semester, write down important dates, tests, presentations, group projects in your phone or in a hard copy planner. Instead of letting yourself feel overwhelmed by the work that is to come, write everything down so you can plan ahead and stay on top of things.

Within the first couple of weeks of class, time yourself as your completing your homework assignments -- “keeping track of how long these common tracks generally take will allow you to better budget your time for them in the future.” 

Set yourself up for future success 

As you enter a new school with new classrooms and new teachers, it’s easy to get caught up in the bustle of a new year without giving yourself space to get involved or be present. Use these tips to help you stay grounded and keep focused on the simple ways to set yourself on a path to success.