From a Teen’s Perspective: Freshman year advice

by Dylan Lanier on June 5, 2023

Next year, a whole new batch of wide-eyed freshmen will fill the halls of each and every high school. While my 9th grade was the dreaded COVID year, I can still relate to that bittersweet feeling of leaving middle school and the jittery anticipation of swimming into a bigger pond. I distinctly remember wishing there was a “guide” to my first year in high school, and so while it’s impossible to make a robust set of one-size-fits-all instructions, I thought I’d share some tips on how to make the most of freshman year.

1. Set Good Habits: While 9th grade is undeniably going to be a big adjustment, faculty generally understand the stress that comes with entering high school and are much more lenient on students than in subsequent years. Use the initial adjustment-period to set constructive habits that will encourage later success even as school gets tougher.

Practices like maintaining a healthy sleep schedule and getting homework done before using your phone are easier to start right off the bat than develop after you’ve already slipped into poor habits. While your workload will increase, you will have already ingrained the necessary skills to stay on top of work and preserve your well-being while doing it.

2. Get Involved: With high school, you get out what you put into it. It can certainly feel scary to put yourself out there, but all of my favorite high school memories — like joining the track team and starting a service club — were only possible because I overcame the fear of failure and rejection. High school is the perfect blank canvas to make your mark upon. It’s a place where you’re uniquely free to pursue your interests, meet new people, and have fun.

In freshman year, getting involved in your school is the best way to explore your new environment and make friends quickly. It’s up to you to take advantage of the numerous opportunities that high school offers to flourish and grow.

3. Advocate for yourself: High school should never feel like a solitary experience, especially not 9th grade. Everyone needs some support when they enter freshman year, be it extra help in a hard subject or simply someone to talk to. It’s important to let the people you trust know about issues you face and formulate with them a plan to ensure your success.

While sticking around after class to ask that intimidating teacher a question about the lesson may seem like a Herculean task, remember that people are rooting for you and are willing to help, and that it’s better to face your fears than to regret it later.

4. Trust the Process: For some lucky students, the first year of high school feels like a breeze. But for many — including myself — it can feel overwhelming at first. The most important tip on this list is to avoid immediately judging anything about high school. Trust me, in this case, first impressions don’t last. My least favorite subjects in freshman year are now the ones I look forward to every day. The campus I originally found way too huge now feels like the perfect size.

Many of us are afraid of change, and dislike new things. However, it’s important to recognize that those feelings can (and probably will) change for the better. Instead of prognosticating a self-fulfiling prophecy, choose to have faith in your high school experience. As a student finishing his junior year, I can definitively give high school a great review so far!

To all the incoming freshmen, I hope you have an exciting summer and take comfort in having these tips in your back pocket! Never forget that high school is meant to be more than just an academic education; it’s a place to discover and dive into your passions, build meaningful relationships, and gain the skills and confidence you need to succeed in adulthood — whatever that success looks like to you. I have complete faith in all of you and wish you the best of luck!

Got any topics you want me to cover? Email with your request!

Dylan Lanier is finishing up is junior year at Menlo Atherton High School

InMenlo file photo of teen entering high school

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