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I survived freshman year. You can, too.

August 21, 2007|By DANIELLE HIGGINS

Freshman year of high school can be the beginning of a journey of self-exploration and educational fulfillment. Or it can be the start of a four-year prison sentence. You choose your perspective.

When it comes down to it, high school is all about choice. You choose your classes, your friends and your limits. High school is a microcosm of the real world, but in this model, the world is made up of teenagers, and a few adults who work to regulate that world. So it's up to you. What do you want your experience to be?

This will be my senior year of high school. During the past three years, I have experienced a lot of the highs and lows that high school has to offer. Take these tips and use them (or ignore them; it's your decision):

· Don't be afraid to ask an upperclassman for help. I have yet to see an upperclassman actually stuff a freshman into a locker. Maybe that's because lockers at my school are small. Maybe it's because the majority of upperclassmen are actually willing to help freshmen.

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· Map out your classes. Everyone has trouble finding their way during the first couple of days. There's no shame in using a map, and it can actually help you figure out the best route to take between classes. It's also helpful to figure out when you can stop at your locker. The fewer books you can carry, the better.

· Ask your teachers for help. This applies for the first day and throughout the year. If you're ever having a problem with the coursework, go to the teacher. If you're a college-bound student, your grades are important every single year because it all factors into your GPA.

· Don't procrastinate. This one I continue to struggle with. You can still get your work done, but it really is better to set deadlines for yourself and work on assignments gradually. In high school, missed assignments can have a snowball effect and you can easily find yourself days or even weeks behind. Trust me, you don't want to end up doing loads of makeup work at the end of the semester.

· Get involved. Sports, clubs and student government are all great ways to make friends, often with upperclassmen. Extracurricular activities give you a sense of belonging and colleges love students who are involved.

· Strike a balance between school and other areas. Take advantage of your free time, especially since you might not have too much of it for the next four years. But make sure you get your work done at some point, preferably before 3 a.m. the day it's due.

· Take some risks. It's easy to stick with your middle school friends, but you'll have a much better experience if you take a couple of steps out of your comfort zone. Take electives you actually like, not just ones your friends are taking. Maybe you'll meet other people who share some of your interests. Try to expand your circle a bit.

· Stick to your guns. If you haven't been confronted with it already, you're going to have to make major decisions about some big issues - sex, drugs, drinking and everything else. Know where you stand, and stick to your beliefs. It is possible to avoid all of that, depending on who you choose to spend your time with.

· Be yourself and have confidence. High school is a chance to find out who you are. Try new things, hang out with different groups of people, and plan your future. Never be afraid to act goofy or completely ridiculous (maybe not in class though.) Have fun and don't worry about gossip or what others might think.

· Know that it will get easier. Maybe not the second day, second week or second month, but eventually you'll make the transition from a middle school kid to a high school student.

Pretty soon, you'll be getting ready for your senior year and worrying about college. There will always be something new to feel overwhelmed about. That's almost comforting in a strange way.

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