07/09/2013 01:39 pm ET Updated Sep 08, 2013

July-to-January To Dos for Rising High School Freshmen


When I posted last week's blog on July-to-January To Dos for Rising High School Juniors, I promised to do a follow-up for rising sophomores and freshmen. As I looked around for information and advice for high school freshmen, I found very little. Hopefully this blog will help to fill in that gap a bit.

Going to college may seem like a long time from now, but it's not too early to make good choices that will ease the way from high school to college. What classes you take and how you perform in them, as well as what you do with your time when you're not in class, are all decisions that can affect your future college admissions. It's just as easy to make good decisions now as it is to make poor ones. Here are some suggestions for how to choose well.

This is the last summer for you to be just a kid, so savor every moment! The summer before high school can be a confusing time: You're probably too old to do what you used to do and too young to do other things, such as getting a job (except maybe baby-, dog-, or house-sitting). My advice: Use this time to have fun and do what you love to do.

• Extracurricular Activities
Depending on what your interests are, stay with what you know you like. If you're an athlete, get involved with a club or recreational sport; if you're into the arts, do it on your own or take classes or join a group; if you like volunteering, find activities that make sense for you and where you feel like you're making a difference. If your family is planning a vacation, get involved in the planning to make sure that the experience is fun and interesting for you.

Clearly, one of the best things you can do with a summer is to read books. It doesn't have to be a classic or some literary piece. Find what you like. Not only does reading -- any reading, for that matter -- help you develop your vocabulary, it can also open up all kinds of real and fantasy worlds to you.

• Getting Ready for High School
To make sure you're ready:

  1. Read everything that is sent or emailed to you by your high school and complete and return any forms.
  2. Make sure that you take care of any medical exams and vaccinations the school requires.
  3. Attend pre-orientation meetings, social events and/or orientations. From the start, get involved in clubs, sports, or activities that interest you.
  4. Take every opportunity to meet students at the high school, whether freshman like you or older students, particularly those who have similar interests as you.
  5. Before school begins, get the general layout of the school so you have some idea about what is where on campus.
  6. Have a great summer, so that you are relaxed and ready to begin your new high school life.


What you do the first weeks of high school is going to set the stage for the rest of the year. Here are some things to consider:

• Courses and Grades
Freshman year is the perfect time to establish yourself as a good student. Choose college prep courses and get good grades, but also maintain a balance between work and play. Remember, the courses you take as a freshman set the stage for courses you will take for the rest of high school. Stay on top of your classes, including all homework, tests and papers. Good academics are the foundation of an effective college admissions plan.

• Extracurricular Activities
Freshman year is when extracurricular activities usually get started. Talk with your high school counselor about what your interests and talents are and how they fit different activities in and outside of school. Ask upper classmen for ideas about what to do. Freshman year is the time to taste and explore a number of old and new activities.

• Student Advice
As I have spoken with high school students, they have offered some great advice about how to get your freshman year off to a smooth start. Here is what they have said:

  1. Be yourself, whoever that is; don't try to be cool. Keep yourself from trying to be someone you are not. Relax, smile, be friendly, and stay positive.
  2. Immediately get to know as many people as you can; say hi and be nice to the kids you sit next to in class and when you go to activities. If you meet someone you like, ask him/her to join you for lunch. The easiest way of getting to know people is by sharing sports, events or activities with them. Sooner or later this is how you will find your friends.
  3. From the first day you get to school, be organized and pay attention to what is going on. Use your smart phone or hard copy calendar to keep track of things. Listen to the PA announcements. Write everything down, especially homework assignments and don't procrastinate about doing it and/or studying for quizzes and tests. REALLY IMPORTANT: Do your homework before you go onto your computer to play games.
  4. Don't even think about drinking alcohol or doing drugs. Follow the advice of Natural High, a very cool online anti-drug organization that encourages students to get high on what they love to do, not on booze or illegal substances.
  5. When you first start school, dress very casually. You'll soon see what other students are wearing and what they bring to school. Rather than a big, heavy backpack, bring a small backpack or messenger bag with a notebook, pen and pencil.

You'll quickly figure it all out; it's just a matter of time.


• Academics
No matter if you are a very good, a decent or a poor student, if any class seems to give you trouble, immediately ask for help from the teacher and consider getting a tutor when you need it. Tutors are like coaches for academics. If you're worried about getting a tutor, just think... if an athlete was having trouble, wouldn't he/she ask their coach for advice?

• Extracurricular Activities
Attend pep rallies, go to class meetings, join activities, cheer at football games and do everything you can to become a part of the campus community.


• Teachers and Counselors
Be nice to and get to know your teachers and counselor. Not only will this help you with college admissions, but it will make your high school experience more enjoyable.


• Courses and Grades
Some schools have finals before Christmas. If your school does, try to ace your first finals. Nothing will do more to set you up with the reputation as a good student at your school (and with teachers) than a first semester of good grades.

• Extracurricular Activities
Take stock of how you are spending your time in and out of school. Is there anything you want to add or eliminate from your schedule? Make sure that everything you do is either something you enjoy.

If you want more details about what to do and how to do it, you can go to my free website, or purchase my book, adMISSION POSSIBLE: The Dare to Be Yourself Guide for Getting into the Best Colleges for You.