A Checklist for Freshman Year of High School

Thinking about the road to college in your first year of high school seems intimidating and somewhat unnecessary. However, having an early start on the college application process will immensely reduce stress in your junior year of high school. Colleges look at all four years, so you can slowly and steadily begin laying the foundation of your resume now.

To help you stay on track throughout your freshman year, I’ve created a checklist to guide you through it:

  1. Challenge yourself academically. One of my greatest regrets thus far in high school is refraining from taking more advanced courses. Choose the most difficult classes you can handle in your first year —this will prepare you for more challenging classes down the line.
  2. Get to know your guidance counselor. Aside from meeting with your counselor to discuss class schedules, be sure to open up to them about your interests and concerns. Counselors often have connections to resources outside of school, such as internships, summer programs, and opportunities to involve yourself in the community. If your counselor has a deeper understanding of who you are, they can more effectively assist you and provide quality recommendations tailored uniquely to you.
  3. Explore extracurricular activities. Freshman year is a chance to discover your areas of interest. Uncovering one of your passions and pursuing it for the remainder of high school not only allows you to have an outlet to relieve stress but also demonstrates dedication to admissions officers. Whether it’s sports, clubs, school government, or volunteering, involving yourself in school organizations early on can enable you to obtain a leadership position in the future.
  4. Get to know your teachers. Fostering relationships with your teachers early on in your high school career gives them all the more reason to write letters of recommendation on your behalf. Although it may be intimidating to approach your teacher outside of class, this is probably the best way to not only improve your grade but also to show your eagerness to constantly improve yourself—an admirable quality to show admissions officers.
  5. Improve your vocabulary. Having a few advanced words to choose from can do wonders for essay grades. You don’t need to read a behemoth of a book every day to do so. Instead, try occasionally reading a well-written article or magazine article to expand your vocabulary repertoire.
  6. Keep track of your achievements. Creating a file to store any awards, certificates, or extracurricular activities that may bolster your college resume will ensure that you don’t leave anything relevant out of your application and provides easy access if you’re ever asked for a brag sheet.
  7. Keep your grades up. Freshman year DOES matter. Colleges place more of an emphasis on your sophomore, junior, and senior years; however, your freshman year GPA is still included in their transcript review.
  8. Create a professional email address. While having an appropriate email address may seem irrelevant in the grand scheme of things, professionally presenting yourself to your teachers, counselors, and colleges is essential to forming sound relationships. The best way to do create your new email address is by selecting basic, straightforward variations of your first, middle, and last name. Here are some acceptable examples:
    • johnny.appleseed@domain.com
    • johnny_appleseed@domain.com
    • jappleseed@domain.com
    • j.j.appleseed@domain.com
    • johnny.james.appleseed@domain.com
    • appleseedjohnny@domain.com
  9. Look at colleges’ websites. From there, you can usually schedule a campus tour (some offer virtual tours) or visit the course catalogs of any majors you’re considering. Additionally, registering for their mailing list will show you have an interest in their school.
  10. Enjoy your first year. The transition from the comfortable bubble of middle school to the lion’s den of high school is frightening for a few reasons: new environments, new academic expectations, and fewer years until adulthood. On the other hand, high school provides you with infinitely more opportunities to independently grow, mature, and appreciate school. Enjoy being young and your freedom by immersing yourself in the classes you choose, sporting events, school dances, and friendships.

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