“Top 12 Nuggets of Advice for High School Freshmen”


By: Eric Zorn of the Chicago Tribune

1. Leave nothing for the morning.

Before you go to bed, gather your books and assignments, pack your lunch, charge your cellphone and lay out your clothes. Drama and anxiety are no way to start the school day  and are likely to cause you to violate pointer No. 2 …

2. Never be late. 

Tardiness is a sign of disrespect to teachers and fellow students. When circumstances beyond your control make you late, always approach the teacher after class, apologize and offer a brief, honest explanation.

3. “To be interesting, be interested.”

That quote from Dale Carnegie’s 1936 best-seller “How to Win Friends and Influence People” crisply sums up the best way to get to know new classmates and acquire the reputation as a friendly person. Asking a question — not too nosy or personal, please — is a great way to start a conversation. And listening carefully to the answer allows you to follow up and keep the conversation going.

4. Remember names.

I don’t advise inserting them gratuitously into conversations — sales people repeatedly intoning first names is Dale Carnegie’s most unfortunate legacy — but “Hey, Mike” as you pass in the hall is much friendlier than just “Hey.”

5. Never gloss over unfamiliar words.

When some smarty-pants drops a word such as “gratuitously” on you, look it up (dictionary.com is a terrific resource) even if you can kind of guess the meaning in context. Having a broad and ready vocabulary will not only help you on the standardized tests and college admissions exams, but it will also help you think and allow you to express yourself better.

6. Don’t sweat the “relevance” question.

A lot of what you’ll have to learn won’t seem important or directly related to your goals. And, honestly, a lot of it won’t be. Within a few years you’ll forget most of the facts you’ll stick into term papers and memorize as you cram for finals. What you won’t forget, though, is how to attack an assignment — how to research, analyze, criticize and refine; how to tell good ideas from bad ones. Also, some of those facts will turn out to be extremely relevant, the building blocks that will form the foundation of your career.

7. Dive into extracurriculars.

School sports and clubs are an excellent way to meet new friends, deepen or discover your interests and, down the line, add gloss to your college applications.

8. Get organized.

If you manage your time well, school will not make you nuts. Create and keep to a study schedule, a to-do list and an assignment calendar. Staying caught up in your classwork is the most important and for some the hardest aspect of school, as it requires limiting the time you spend socializing and entertaining yourself by staring at screens.

9. Be kind.

You don’t build yourself up by knocking others down. When you’re older, you’ll regret all the times you were careless with the feelings of others, and you’ll remember fondly those who accepted and included you when they didn’t have to. You can’t be admired if you’re either hated or feared.

10. Shrug off your insecurities.

Even the most popular kids have them, as I learned in frank conversations at reunions. No one thinks about or notices your particular imperfections nearly as much as you imagine.

11. Avoid drugs and alcohol.

Yes, this sounds like a pro forma wag of my adult finger. But substance abuse has derailed the lives of many smart, promising teens, all of whom thought they could handle a little dabbling. A clue: If you start “partying” on weekdays, you’re not handling it.

12. Solicit advice.

Believe it or not, the teachers and parents and other relatives who, if you’re lucky, will ride you hard these next four years, really want you to succeed. And despite their advanced age and cultural cluelessness, they can and want to help you through just about any academic or personal problem you’ll encounter. Ask them questions. Trust their answers. They’re on your side.

Additional Comments From Readers:

“I don’t like educators who preach, that’s the parent’s job, but I always remind students of the following…

The next four years will go by faster than you can imagine. Meet every challenge, do not waste any opportunity. The excitement of achieving long sought goals is rewarding beyond measure. The friendships established can often last a lifetime. This is your entrance into adulthood, with its own challenges, rewards, and, sometimes, disappointments. Take advantage of the best education has to offer, the benefits will be lifelong.”

“Read. I know you have homework and extracurricular activities but read. If you only read for 1/2 an hour before turning out the light you will establish the habit. With reading you will never be bored and your vocabulary will magically increase. You will also develop a sense of how to write without even tryingl. You will also learn much about life the easy way. Make going to the library as important as going to the grocery store.”

“Get enough sleep! Current brain research suggests that sleeping helps students retain information they studied far more efficiently than simply studying longer.
(Teens should not take their cell phones to bed with them either). Every day some of my adolescent students can barely keep their eyes open. Obviously, you can’t learn when you’re nodding off due to lack of sleep.”

Suggestions from a 17-year-teacher….

“1. Find what you love and do it. A corollary: be open to surprises. I get a couple of upperclassmen each year who only realized they really loved math in high school. Others find a passion for Latin dance, or working with people with autism, or rock climbing, or poetry. Yes, it’s important to get a general education in high school, but don’t be afraid to specialize. Invest deeply in doing things that bring you joy.

2. Expand #12 to: a sign of maturity is knowing when to ask for help. Successful people advocate for themselves, know when they need assistance, and ask for it. Ask the teacher who just assigned your third test for Friday if you can take it another time–or to help you understand why the paper you sweated over for weeks only got a B-. Ask a counselor to walk you through the steps to apply to college (or help figuring out what you could do that would be more meaningful than college….). Ask a trusted adult to help you strategize about better ways to get you to school on time. The adults in your school have chosen to work with adolescents because they want to be helpful; giving us the opportunity brings *us* joy.

3. It’s only high school–not your entire life. Your classmates won’t even remember your freshman year embarassments two or three years down the road–and even if they do, you’ll find that you can laugh about it. Take high school seriously, but remember: it too shall pass, and faster than you know.”


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About waukegan2college13

Waukegan to College (W2C) is a college readiness program that was founded by Lake County United (LCU), a broad-based citizen's organization composed of roughly 35 churches, synagogues, mosques, and nonprofit organizations that work to improve the quality of life of the residents in Lake County. In July 2012, W2C launched as an independent organization and now a member institution of LCU!

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