What High Schoolers Need to Know…

...Offered by those who know best—college students. Here are 10 tips for your new ninth grader.
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A sign that your teen is utterly freaked about starting high school? That could be a shrug, a smirk or a curt “Leave me alone!” muttered under headphones in a slouch on the couch. Yet the anxiety’s real. You can talk yourself blue about how it was in your day, but the credible folks are the ones who’ve just gone through those four years—and survived. So BERGEN offered 10 of them an advice-giving soap box. Is your kid listening?

1. Get organized.

“Keep a planner to stay organized and minimize procrastination. Make sure you’re always looking ahead. Teachers love to give assignments all due the same day. It’s very easy to get behind in classes and almost impossible to catch back up. I usually color- code my classes in my planner, and make sure that I start assignments at least two days before they’re due. Never wait till the last moment to study; it causes more stress and never works out in the end.”

—Julia Rabbia, 19, Oradell, Fordham University

2. Apply yourself freshman year.

“When I began high school, I was told by multiple classmates that I didn’t have to worry; freshman year doesn’t matter. But that’s a lie. Colleges look at all your grades, your high school ranking and your GPA. Doing poorly your first year can create a domino effect that ruins your chances of getting into your dream school. Having low grades your freshman year can keep you from honors or AP courses, deflate your GPA, set you behind in your school ranking and make it harder for you to excel in the future. You don’t want your freshman year grades holding you back.”

—Kristin Frengul, 18, Paramus, Quinnipiac University

3. Get a tutor.

“High school is hard, and sometimes you’re going to be extremely confused. Teachers have hundreds of kids to focus on, and you do not want to fall through the cracks. Some schools offer student tutors who have taken the course to help; if yours does, take advantage of it. These kids usually have old study guides you can borrow that help you learn what the teacher expects. If your school doesn’t have this opportunity, hire your own tutor, especially when it comes to standardized tests like the SAT or ACT. High school does not prepare you for these tests adequately. Take advantage of any SAT or ACT prep courses you can find. Not getting into your dream school because of a low standardized test score would be heartbreaking.”

—Kyle Affrunti, 20, River Vale, Ramapo College of New Jersey

4. Find your niche.

“It’s important to be involved in extracurriculars and go beyond the classroom. I found my home with the marching band because it felt like an extended family where I gained leadership and learned responsibility while we were achieving a common goal.”

—Kyle Lordi, 18, Bergenfield, Gettysburg College

5. Be too cool to cheat.

“I heard multiple times that ‘everyone’ cheats. But this is false. The point of high school is to learn. Much of the information I need to succeed in college as a nursing major was taught in high school. If I had cheated my way through exams and assignments, I would never have been able to pass the entrance exams for my major and would have struggled in college. When you cheat you don’t get any benefits from your classes. Cheating can also ruin your chances of getting into the college of your dreams. Schools are extremely hard on students who are caught cheating, placing marks on their record that scare away most colleges. As a student, I can tell you that everyone does not cheat; most students understand that cheating is never worth it. Honestly, most of the time cheating is harder than studying in the first place.”

—Kaitlyn Wilhelm, 18, River Edge, University of Rhode Island

6. Don’t get too caught up in friend drama.

“Friends are important in high school. They’re the people you spend time with, have lunch with every day and hang out with. But whenever there’s drama or an argument with a friend, it can take up your time and energy, and sometimes it doesn’t end well. Just remember that high school friends aren’t the end of the world and that’s OK. Everyone goes in different directions, so don’t stress out over the little things—and enjoy your four years of high school.”

—Matthew Sileo, 19, Allendale, Ithaca College

7. Try something new.

“Push yourself, take part in things outside of your comfort zone. Personally, I’ve always loved film, which I am studying in college, but I also have made sure to take part in other activities. Throughout high school I was on my school’s baseball team and participated in a local rock band. These things had nothing to do with my college career, nor did they go with what I hope to do in the future. But being part of these extracurriculars not only made me stand out for colleges, which was a bonus, but also helped me become a more rounded person in general. I was able to try new things and see what I enjoy. I’m a drummer who plays Led Zeppelin, loves baseball and enjoys film. Without trying these activities, I would have never learned these things about myself.”

—Matthew Youngs, 18, New Milford, Montclair State University

8. Join a team.

“A quote that I kept in the back of my head throughout high school was ‘Personal talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.’ I never believed in the true meaning of this quote until I started reminiscing about my four years playing high school sports. I never wanted to play sports in college, nor did I ever want to play them professionally. Sports for me was always an outlet for my energy and a way to have fun and unwind after school. But being part of a team became something much larger; it truly taught me things that school never did. I had to learn how to work with others, whether I liked them or not, and how to depend on others. In life and on the field one cannot do everything— sometimes you’re forced to pass the ball to a teammate and put the game in his hands. I used to hate this, but being part of a sports team taught me how to put my trust in others.”

—Quinn Scherer, 20, Harrington Park, University of Maryland

9. Get a job.

“I got a job my junior year in high school, and it was the best decision I ever made. High school is important, but it doesn’t teach you everything. My job taught me life skills such as public speaking, problem solving and how to truly work with others. I was forced to advocate for myself and became a better person when working. It also allowed me to focus on something other than schoolwork 24/7. I never really knew how many life skills I was missing until I started working.”

—Olivia Gropler, 19, Emerson, University at Albany

10. Enjoy it while it lasts.

“During my four years of high school, I was looking ahead toward one thing: college. I was focused on getting good grades for college, on being part of clubs for college. I never stopped to smell the roses. My advice would be to enjoy those four years, because they go by fast. If you’re always looking to the future, you might miss out on what’s in front of you. Plan for what’s next, but also take part in the events available right now. Go to prom, cheer at the pep rally, watch a soccer game. Enjoy as much of the high school experience as you can.”

—Steven Murno, 20, Hillsdale, Ramapo College of New Jersey

By Sophia Doyle
Categories: Bergen Health & Life, Homepage Features