Contrary to what some sources claim, your freshman year of high school does matter. For tons of incoming freshmen, this year will mark the beginning of the long, arduous journey to college. And if you’re a freshman, though you certainly don’t have to stress over college this early, this is a great year to get yourself on the right path!
Here is a great bucket list of things to do your freshman year!
1) Get organized
In middle school, it’s easy to get away with disorganization. In high school, with six different classes all over the campus, strange new schedules, and a bunch of people you’ve never met before, organization is key to staying sane! Buy sticky notes, a few three-ring binders with dividers, notebooks, highlighters…whatever it takes to keep you on track! Also, those calendar organizers (or reminder binders, as my school calls them) that are given out at the beginning of the school year are more crucial than they appear. You can write down all your homework and assignments in them, and they’ll be a life-saver to you for the rest of high school…so make sure to use them!
2) Participate in the club community
Find a club that interests you, and join one. Clubs are awesome in that you can meet with people who enjoy similar things that you do, make a whole bunch of new friends, and participate in lots of cool activities. If you’re very involved with a certain club, this could also be great for college apps (in the very far-off future!).
Alternatively, you can also start a club! You can invite friends to join and meet new people through recruitment. It’s a great way to really get involved in your high school. Also, being a club president for all four years of high school is a great way to show colleges your commitment and drive.
3) Take challenging classes
This might seem intimidating, but seriously: take the leap! Taking challenging honors or AP classes is a great way to grow mentally and improve your GPA. Teachers definitely demand a lot more in high school, and this is going to sound cheesy…but if you believe you can do it, and you work hard at it, those classes are perfectly doable. If you’re trying your best and the classes are still too difficult for you, then you can always drop out; but, if you never try at all, you won’t be tapping your full potential!
4) Look into AP and SAT subject tests
I know it isn’t the most appealing item on this bucket list, but these tests really are important. I had no idea what an SAT Subject test was during my freshman year—the year I took Biology. Therefore, while I took the AP Biology test that year, I didn’t take the subject test until I learned about it sophomore year. By then, I’d already forgotten a lot of the material and had to re-study. Don’t make my mistake! If you’re already taking an honors class, you could easily buy a prep book and study for the corresponding AP and SAT Subject test, too.
You don’t have to even take the class to take its AP test. If you’re really into psychology, for example, you can buy an AP Psychology prep book and self-study. You shouldn’t overburden yourself with a whole bunch of these tests your freshman year, but it’s a good idea to get started on at least one or two.
5) Find your niche!
This is so integral to high school! Find what you like and what you’re good at, and find a community in your high school with fosters this. For example, if you’re really into acting, take drama classes, join the Drama Club, and maybe even try out for a few school productions. Try out for a sport if you’re athletic, or if you play an instrument, join the school band or orchestra. There are so many options out there. Just make sure not to seclude yourself from the rest of the high school community! This will also prove to be beneficial to you in the long run because colleges like seeing concentrated extracurriculars—that is, an applicant which is very strong in a certain niche. The earlier, the better. It’s a little too late to start looking your senior year.
6) Befriend upperclassmen
They really aren’t that scary in reality! When you first enter high school, everyone will look so intimidating—especially the juniors and seniors. I remember entering high school, seeing someone with a fully grown beard, and freaking out. Friendships with upperclassmen, however, are some of the most rewarding friendships high school has to offer. Upperclassmen are almost done with high school. They’ve taken the classes you’re going to take and have countless pieces of advice to offer. They’re also great tutors and can show you around campus if you’re lost—don’t miss out! Snag one while you can. Inside that hormonal, sleep-deprived shell is an actual human being.
7) Attend school events
It might seem daunting to go to high school events, but really—do it! Football games, dances, movie nights, fundraisers, etc. are great ways to meet new people, get to know your school better, and have a lot of fun. I know lots of people who dearly regret not getting involved during freshman year because they thought school activities were lame or because they were too scared to try them out. Freshman year is the year where you’ll have the most free time, so make use of it!
8) Meet new people
Don’t be afraid of meeting people from other middle schools—and don’t seclude yourself with the same group of people you’ve known since kindergarten! This doesn’t mean you should ditch them completely, but try and make new friends, too. Meet people from different friend groups–and be friendly! Even if your high school is very cliquey, don’t automatically reject people who may be very different from you. High school only lasts four years, and it’s a great place to meet a huge variety of people. Make the most of it. Don’t be a Carl Fredricksen.
9) Start volunteering
Depending on your high school, there might be a service learning requirement for all grades. Volunteering not only completes these hours, but it’s rewarding, too. Not to mention, it’s great for college apps. (Man, that’s becoming annoying.) It’s a little more difficult to find good volunteer jobs when you’re still thirteen or fourteen, but they certainly exist. Ask around locally or find a virtual job through places like VolunteerMatch. You can also ask your high school guidance counselor or teachers for upcoming volunteer opportunities. Find something that you’ll enjoy—and find something that you can stay committed to.
10) Try new things
This is a must. High school will be a lot more rewarding if you venture out of your comfort zone and try new things! (And no, I don’t mean illegal things. Unless you really want a mugshot, speaking of which…) This ties into almost everything on this list. In general, don’t be afraid to chase after opportunities or do things you’ve never done before. High school is a cesspool of change, and it only gets harder when you’re afraid of it.
Freshman year is what you make of it. Challenge yourself, expand your comfort zone, and make sure to have fun! (While staying safe, of course!) Freshman year is the foundation upon which your other three years will be built, so spend it wisely.
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About Maddi Lee
Maddi is currently a high school junior in southern California. She is an avid freelance writer and has been featured in multiple literary publications and anthologies. When she isn't writing, she loves traveling, doodling, and most of all, sleeping. Through her own experience and passion, she hopes to help guide fellow students through the roller coaster that is SAT and college admissions...that is, as long as she survives the journey herself!
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