Top Tips to Make the Most of High School

While high school can be overwhelming at times, it is also the start of an exciting new chapter in your life. The earlier you start planning ahead and getting into the mindset to succeed, the more enjoyable and stress-free your high school experience can be.
Freshman year, you don’t have to worry about admissions tests, look at colleges, or apply for financial aid. Thus, it’s the perfect time to start taking the first steps on the path that will take you to your dream school. Here’s a list of what you can start doing freshman year to prepare you for the next four years of high school…and, ultimately, college.

  • Get yourself a daily planner

    High school is a busy time between classes, friends, extracurricular activities, studying, family, college prep, and the rest. A daily planner will help keep everything in your life in order. Every assignment due date, test, deadline, or appointment will all be in one place.

  • Challenge yourself in school

    Select classes that will stretch your knowledge and skills…and impress colleges down the road. Don’t just stick to easy, boring classes to keep your GPA up. Your lack of enthusiasm will backfire both in the classroom and beyond. This is also a great time to map out the classes you’ll take over the next few years.

  • Get the best grades you can

    Remember your freshman year grades do count. They will affect your GPA and will be viewed by colleges. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you’ll have plenty of time to bring your grades up later. Every year will affect your overall chances of getting into the college of your dreams.

  • Form relationships with teachers

    Make an effort outside class to connect with your teachers, whether it’s school related or not. Not only will they be able to help you throughout your high school career, you’ll feel much more comfortable asking them to write the recommendations for your college applications.

  • Find extracurricular activities

    These can be activities organized by your school or activities that you do outside of school. While this is a great time to figure out what your skills and interests are, also be willing to try activities that are new to you whether it’s volunteering, a new sport, or a club.

  • Learn about the PSAT and SAT

    Even though you don’t have to worry about prepping for the PSAT or SAT at this point, you can get a head start by learning more about the tests. Keep in mind, many students underestimate the PSAT. In addition to helping you score higher on the SAT, this test can actually help you win scholarship money for college!

Choosing the Right Classes

Depending on how your high school allows you to schedule your classes (if they do at all), you may have a good bit of leniency when it comes to choosing electives. If you’re able to choose a few of your electives, this new-found freedom, although exciting, can be a bit overwhelming.
Here are some ideas to help you get started as you prepare for the next semester of high school:

Make your class schedule based on last semester

Use your past experiences to help you decide develop your class schedule for the upcoming semester. Did you take a class that really piqued your interest? If you took chemistry and really enjoyed it, maybe you can look into science-based electives. If you had to take an arts class and really loved that, perhaps look into dance or choir to ease some of the stress of the day.
Additionally, were there any teachers you really enjoyed and had a special connection with? It’s never too early or late to begin building relationships with those who might write your letters of recommendation one day. Sometimes guidance counselors or staff in the front office need assistance, so you can look into seeing if any teachers or faculty need some extra help for a class period.

Consider classes that will help your application

If you are planning on applying to a college’s premedical, pre-dental, or otherwise pre-professional program, you might want to think about using this opportunity to pick classes according to what will help your college application. For example, if your school offers an EMT course and certification (true story, mine did), think of how fantastic that credential will look on your application to the science honor society! If you’re considering going pre-medical, take a biology or anatomy course to make the assimilation into college science classes easier.
You can also consider picking up an AP elective—once you pass an AP exam, that class counts as a course credit in college. This means you come into college with more credit hours (that you didn’t even have to pay for!), and could potentially mean you graduate early! Talk to your teachers and counselors about AP classes and how they count towards college prerequisites: the more AP exams you pass, the more you increase your chances of admission to your dream college.

Choose classes that develop your hobbies

Don’t be afraid to make a class schedule that mixes business with pleasure. If you are a singer, you could choose Choir and Jazz Choir as two electives. Some schools offer “tech” classes, where you learn a new trade (cosmetology, mechanics, web design, etc.) in place of a traditional class period. This can be a great opportunity to discover a new love for something, or give yourself a chance to relax during the day in a subject you are comfortable with (if you’re a great artist, take a drawing elective!).
While it is important to keep college in the back of your mind in everything you do, it is also equally important to find a balance in your class schedule and do things that bring you joy. Don’t load yourself up with difficult classes and end up burning out before you even start university. Try to counter each difficult class with something that you have a genuine interest in, but more importantly, choose classes that you want to take, not ones you think you should.