Tips to Help Freshmen Start High School Strong

Happy student with arms raised on air

Whether students attend a brick-and-mortar or online school, making the transition from middle school to high school is important for several reasons: students are becoming more independent, exploring new extracurricular activities, making new friends, and taking on new responsibilities.

With so many exciting possibilities, the freshman year of high school can present both academic and emotional challenges. Although it can be a struggle to make a strong start, a student’s (and parents’!) efforts to have a successful freshman year are worth it!

The Importance of Ninth Grade

Starting high school can be intimidating, and with the new environment, peer pressure, and adolescent hormones, teens find it hard to stay focused on academics. With these challenges, it should come as no surprise that research has shown that ninth grade students tend to have lower academic performance, more absences, and more behavior problems compared to other high school grade levels.

But while it could be tempting to dismiss these issues as short-term “growing pains” during the transition to high school, consider that the freshman year is also a make-or-break year in setting the stage for graduating and getting a high -school diploma. Numerous studies have shown that students who complete freshman year with the required number of credits are twice as likely to graduate within four years than students who are off track.

If you are a student starting high school this fall or there is a freshman in your family, use these suggestions to start out strong:

For Students Transitioning to High School

  1. Get organized
    Students should have a designated learning space at home, free from clutter and stocked with school supplies. Since time management is so important, put all class times, school assignments, and study group times into your phone or tablet. This way, you’ll get alerts when you need to be in class or turn in an assignment. You can also add to-do’s to a large wall calendar or white board to have a prominent visual reminder.
  2. Keep up with assignments
    If teachers say “do your homework,” then do it! It can’t hurt to reinforce what you’re learning in class, and maybe it will even improve your grades. If there’s some legitimate reason you can’t turn in homework on time, ask the teacher for more time for partial credit. Or request extra credit to make up for lost points.
  3. Be more involved
    Getting involved and making friends can make the high school experience great! A good way to start is by joining a club or trying out for an activity. Maybe you’re interested in a sports team, the choir, or a robotics club? Give it a try! Not only will you meet students who share the same interests, but also you will improve your skills.
  4. Talk it out
    If you’re struggling with something at school, maybe a bully or a tough class assignment, and you want to talk privately, your teachers and school counselors are ready to listen. Establishing relationships with teachers and counselors will help you develop good communication skills and learn to advocate for yourself. Those people are good contacts to have when it comes time for college and job applications.

Parents Can Help Smooth the Transition

For parents of freshmen, this ninth-grade transition can be a learning curve on your part, too. While your “baby” is growing up and acquiring more independence, he or she will still need help in a couple of areas.

  1. Plan to balance activities
    Freshman year can be quite a juggling act! Students can become overwhelmed by the new class schedule, sports, after-school activities, and other responsibilities. Check in with your high school students frequently to make sure they’re getting enough rest, eating right, and taking care of themselves.
  2. Communicate regularly
    Parents should ask their freshmen how they’re doing on a frequent basis. You might get short answers, but your student will probably appreciate having your support. (Hint: Sometimes teens find it easier to talk with parents in the car, or while you’re both engaged in an activity, like raking leaves.) Monitor your student’s academic progress and watch for any changes in behavior or problems like substance abuse. Reach out to a school counselor for assistance if need be.

Moving up to high school is entering a new stage of life, and while it can get overwhelming for students and parents alike, it can also be a positive journey with new experiences and new friends. So keep your eyes on the endgame of getting a high school diploma! Getting a strong start during the freshman year is the first big step toward graduating four years down the road—and achieving success in “real life.”

To learn how you can be more involved in your child’s education through online public school, visit the Connections Academy website. Or to learn about online private school, visit Pearson Online Academy ’s website.

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