Freshman year

Entering high school is one of the biggest rites of passage in anyone’s life. Freshman year is a time of new friends and new possibilities, but it’s also a time of increased pressure because what you do now will have a big impact on where you end up in the future.

Want to put your best foot forward? Here are 10 of the biggest mistakes you should avoid during your freshman year of high school.

  1. Thinking Grades Don’t Matter
    Think colleges don’t pay attention to your grades freshman year? Think again! According to a study of CPS high school students, if you end freshman year with a GPA of 3.0 or higher, then you have an 80 percent chance of graduating with a 3.0 or higher. That means if you’re below a 3.0 at the end of freshman year, you only have a 20 percent chance of bringing it above a 3.0 by graduation. In short, freshman year matters!
  2. Not Joining Any Clubs
    Many graduating seniors look back at their freshman and sophomore years and say they wish they would have gotten involved in more clubs and other extracurricular activities. By joining activities, you can build strong, meaningful relationships with teachers, mentors and peers — all people you can turn to later on when you need support or something more formal like a letter of recommendation.
  3. Making a Bad First Impression on Teachers
    It may not be fair, but it is human nature for people to size others up when they first meet them and then hold onto those assumptions. That’s true of teachers as well. If you’re a troublemaker or slacker during the first month of school, it will be hard to change that reputation with teachers. Put your best foot forward and teachers will have high expectations of you, which will help push you to your fullest potential.
  4. Thinking Homework Doesn’t Really Matter
    It does! In some classes, homework is a huge percentage of your grade. And it’s silly to get Bs or Cs because of missing homework when you could really be an A student. Plus, homework isn’t just busy work — it’s practice. And practice is essential if you want to develop long-term knowledge or master a skill.
  5. Asking “When Will I Ever Need to Know This?”
    OK, maybe you’re not going to be a chemist or literary critic when you grow up, but the critical thinking that you learn to do in high school classes — chemistry, English and others — is an essential skill to have in your adult life. (And if you ask, “Why do we need to know this?” out loud, it will definitely make a bad impression on your teacher!) Instead, try being genuinely curious about whatever subject you’re studying and ask lots of questions to keep the class conversation interesting.
  6. Sitting in the Back Row
    If you want to succeed, sit up front. Sitting in the front row makes it easier to stay focused and engaged, and it makes a good impression on the teacher as well.
  7. Taking on an Overwhelming Workload
    This one’s for all you overachievers out there. You have four years to take all of the interesting and exciting classes your school has to offer. Don’t try taking them all your freshman year. Giving up your lunch period to add an eighth class to your schedule might seem like a good idea now, but you will probably realize mid-year that it wasn’t worth it. Success comes from balancing work and rest. Make sure you have appropriate time for both.
  8. Procrastinating on Purpose
    You might think that you’re someone who works better under pressure, but the truth is we all do better work when we give ourselves time to go through a process of planning, implementation, and revision for any project. Plus, who needs the added stress? So strive for the self-discipline needed to practice good time management and get work done in advance.
  9. Missing a Lot of School
    Do your best to minimize absences; even though you can make up the work, you miss the nuances of a class when you aren’t there for it in person. If you absolutely have to be absent, make sure to talk to your teacher before and after to find out what you missed and make up missing work in a timely matter.
  10. Trying Too Hard to Fit In
    It’s tempting when you start freshman year to want to change your entire image to fit in with a new group of friends, but don’t do this. Remember, being yourself is the best way to be comfortable in your own skin and find the friends and opportunities that are the best match for you.

Are you entering freshman year this fall? Sign up for our Freshman Bootcamp, taking place Aug. 14-18 in Chicago, where you’ll develop your own learning methods and discover strategies to make studying more effective and efficient. Sign up today!