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A survival guide for high school freshmen

Freshmen.

Dwelling at the bottom of the ferocious high school food chain, they’re subject to the same, well-worn clichés as the frosh of yesteryear. However, with a little (OK … maybe a lot) of work, success is attainable. Here are 10 things to implement in order to survive freshman year.

1. Use your agenda.

You know, that nice little booklet the school hands out every year. Use it! Unlike middle school (and in some cases even elementary school), agendas are not just an additional book to tote to classes. Rather, they are a necessary organizational tool. Sure, no teacher actually mandates you write things in your agenda, but it is a good habit to begin doing in freshman year. Though students may think they can remember all the work various teachers assign throughout the day, this can lead to homework assignments accidentally left incomplete and big tests left unstudied for.

2. Study.

This one word can probably send shivers down the spines of most high school students. And though it’s certainly dreadful (along with boring, dull and a host of other noncomplimentary words), studying is no doubt a necessary evil. Another tip to remember when studying is to share the love: Study for the small quizzes as well as the big tests. One big test is obviously more important than a mere quiz, but there are many more quizzes and at the end of the year, quizzes are just as important. Study for everything, no matter how little it may seem.

3. Do your homework.

Just because the teacher does not check it isn’t an excuse to skip the night’s assignment. Though you may think not doing the homework is no big deal, homework is assigned for a reason. Homework reinforces the material covered in class and helps to lock it into your long-term memory. Not doing assignments will add up, and ultimately culminate in lower quiz and test scores (especially when paired with not studying).

4. Respect your elders.

This includes teachers, principals, upperclassmen and (unfortunately) sophomores. To put it bluntly, showing respect earns you respect. Showing respect to certain people (especially sophomores) can at times be tough, but it will pay off in one way or another.

5. Find a junior or senior role model.

This doesn’t mean you have to follow their every step (literally or figuratively), but find a student in the upper two classes that you think best represents what you would like to be like. Consider specific characteristics, including their average, their extracurricular activity, and their involvement in the school and/or the community in general. Aim to be similar to them, but remember that you are your own person and should develop your unique personality at the same time.

6. Take a class just for fun.

Grades are (or at least should be) among the highest priorities of every high school student. However, sometimes it’s just as important to forget about the stress of academia (we’re looking at you standardized testing). Sure math and English are important, but so too is doing something you love. Many schools offer electives – classes you choose to take – that can include everything from engine repair to music theory. Find a class that doesn’t feel like it’s work. Not only will this allow you to explore what you like and dislike, it could potentially turn into a lifelong hobby, or even a career.

7. Challenge yourself.

Don’t attempt to breeze through high school, even if it is tempting. Sure, a 100 looks great on a report card, but in the long run, challenging yourself and getting a 90 is the better choice. Not only will a challenging course teach you critical-thinking skills, but colleges may even question your work ethic and drive if you don’t challenge yourself. If you are offered honors or advanced classes, take them. Your grade may dip as a result, but in this case, it is the effort that counts.

8. Find your true friends.

Emphasis being on “true.” It is great to have many friends, but there is perhaps no better time to discover who is actually your friend than high school. A true friend doesn’t judge you, even if you do something foolish. A true friend is open, and is truthful when it matters most. A true friend won’t ditch you if given the chance to hang out with somebody classified as “popular.” High school is the perfect storm of young, naïve minds confined to a single building, and it is important to discover who is truly there for you.

9. Do what you want.

Peer pressure has been well-documented in adolescence, but that doesn’t diminish its prevalence in high school society today. Do not do something your heart is not truly behind. Do not have regrets. This principle of doing what you want to do can be applied to everything, from what classes you apply for to summertime parties. If you ever question what it is you want to do, ask yourself the Granny question: “Would I be proud to tell my grandmother about this?”

10. Enjoy it.

You only get to be a high school freshman once. Take your studies seriously, but not too seriously. Find a new friend, but don’t be disappointed if you don’t. Be outgoing, and always accept a challenge. Find something (and possibly someone) you love, and dedicate yourself to that. And finally, in the words of one wise teacher: “Try not to get arrested.”

Jack Watson is a sophomore at Orchard Park High School.