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Tips for First-Year Students: How to Have a Successful High School Career

WMA Students looking at school year book
Starting high school is an exciting experience. This chapter of life is full of opportunities to make new friends, find new passions and prepare for college. Whether you're feeling eager, overwhelmed or a little bit of both, here are some tips for first-year high school students to keep in mind throughout the next four years.

1. Set Short-Term and Long-Term Goals

Setting goals for yourself is a useful skill that will help you throughout your life. Both short-term and long-term goals can help you focus on the present and the future. Creating challenging but realistic goals will prepare you to handle whatever obstacles come your way. A short-term goal might involve trying out a new club or sport, while your long-term goals might include passing a certain class or getting into a specific college.

If your long-term goals feel overwhelming or you just don't know where to start, break them down into manageable components. For example, you can make a list of what you'll need to do to pass that class and tackle each assignment one at a time. It's easier to motivate yourself and stay on track when you have a clear, achievable plan in mind.

Speaking to your advisor is a great way to figure out what you want to accomplish and how to set your personal goals.

2. Use a Planner and Practice Time Management

Time management is a skill that will serve you throughout the rest of your life. Successfully managing your time includes things like creating schedules for yourself, staying organized and learning to prioritize tasks. When you're organized, you'll feel more prepared when it comes to tests and extracurricular activities alike. 

Using a planner is a simple, effective way to practice time management, especially if you're a visual learner. Write down your classes, practices and other events or assignments each day. Schedule times for studying as well as breaks. When you can picture your day, it's easier to set your priorities and accomplish what you need to. Other strategies like setting timers or creating to-do-lists will keep you organized and benefit you in the long run.

3. Create Strong Study Habits

If you start developing useful studying habits now, they'll serve you for years to come. Study habits are the strategies you use to prepare for classes, assignments and tests. As you advance through high school and into college, you'll face more demanding courses. You'll be glad you took the time to create strong study habits early on.

Everyone learns differently. Are you more of a visual learner, or do you prefer a hands-on approach to understand a concept? Explore various learning styles and studying strategies to find what works best for you. Set aside time dedicated to studying and eliminate distractions during that period. If you work well around others, form a study group or find a study buddy. You can hold each other accountable, have fun and achieve success.

4. Join Extracurricular Activities

While classes are at the center of any high school experience, high school is about more than just academics. Extracurricular activities can be just as impactful on your daily routine and your future. Extracurriculars include almost anything outside of classes, including sports, arts, clubs or hobbies. 

Joining extracurricular activities is a great way to find new friends and passions. If you've been thinking about trying out for a team or auditioning for the school play, go for it! You never know who you'll meet or how much you'll enjoy something until you give it a try. High school is the perfect time to take advantage of the opportunities around you. 

When you're involved with extracurriculars, remember to use your time management skills to keep up with your busy schedule.

5. Make a Friend in Every Class

High school is full of new possibilities and new people. As you learn more about yourself and your interests, find peers who share your passions. Learning to work with all kinds of people will prepare you to work with different colleagues in the future, too.

Making a friend in every class is a great way to build your social skills and expand your circle. Talk to students who sit near you or reach out after class. A friendly face makes any class better. You can become study buddies and have fun while you both succeed academically. Bonding with your classmates encourages a positive environment that benefits everyone.

6. Stretch Beyond Your Comfort Zone

One of the best pieces of first-year student advice is to explore your interests by getting out of your comfort zone. Whether it's an extracurricular or a class you never thought you'd take, now is the time to take advantage of the opportunities you only have in high school. Exploring potential passions will keep you engaged and motivated throughout the next four years and beyond.

Even if you're nervous, push yourself outside of your comfort zone to join that club or pick up that hobby. You never know what you're going to truly love. You might find your college major or future career! You might also learn that a particular path might not be right for you, and that's just as important.

7. Enjoy the Experience

Want to know the real secret for how to succeed in high school? Enjoy it! High school is a great time to find yourself, new friends and explore your passions. Between classes and preparing for college, don't forget to have fun. Embrace every opportunity and its potential to shape your future.

Remember to take care of yourself, too. Getting enough sleep, staying healthy and taking breaks are equally important to your success as are good grades. Find a balance between studying, friends and downtime to make the most of your high school experience.

Succeed at Wilbraham & Monson Academy

At Wilbraham & Monson Academy, we offer top programs in an engaging environment. Our students are part of a global community dedicated to innovation and a love of learning. Learn more about the WMA experience today.

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