Nervous about your first day of high school? You don’t need to be. But just to help calm your nerves, I’ve shared my story of a pretty horrible first day of school. I’ve also got 14 tips for all of you freshmen who are scared to start high school. So fear not, and read on.
It was the summer of 1995. TLC warned us strictly not to go chasing any waterfalls. And Blues Traveler was rocking his harmonica on the Run-Around. I had just finished the best baseball season of my life, a perfect 13-0 championship record with my knothole team. And, I was golfing pretty much every day in preparation to try out for the high school golf team. (Shane Rogers, the golf coach at Boone County High School, was also the JV baseball coach. So, I figured I’d get my foot in the door for baseball tryouts if I could make the golf team. Spoiler alert: The plan worked to perfection.)
Overall, life was good. In that humid and sticky Ohio river valley in Northern Kentucky, I was king of my little world. I had safely navigated the waters of middle school, and now it was time to step up to the big boy table. The first day of high school was drawing ever nearer, and the fear and trepidation felt by even the bravest amongst us graduated 8th graders worked its way into the hearts of us all.
Will I be popular? Will the classes be too hard? Will I get picked on? Will I make the team? Will I get bullied? Will I make new friends? Will my old friends be in my classes?
These are the questions that dominate the mind in the final weeks leading up to the first day. I don’t blame anyone for being scared of high school. I’ve been there. And I live to tell my story.
So, what’s it like? Well, let me tell you about my first day. It definitely was not all sunshine and roses.
The good news for me was that I was the youngest of 3 boys. Both of my older brothers had successfully walked the halls at BCHS and came out the other side with their diplomas. So, when you have a few siblings in front of you, at least you are not a total stranger to the school. In the previous 4 years, I had watched every single football game played by our Rebels and Boone County’s own future hall-of-famer Shaun Alexander. So, I had some familiarity with the school grounds. And, several of the teachers had a favorable impression of my family thanks to my brother’s hard work. Plus, when you have a unique last name like mine, you tend to stand out. That’s S-Z-T-A-N-Y-O.
With the brothers before me, I had a few tips in my belt. I semi-understood the layout of the hallways. And I had a vague concept of what to expect.
Needless to say, I still had some things stacked against me, and I had a horrible first day of school.
Here is where things went bad for me. First of all, my parents decided to start me a year
early in school. So, when all of my friends soared through puberty, I was a year behind. Not coming from a family that was particularly blessed with height, this was another issue. Was I the smallest kid in the class? No. But, I was a year behind everyone else in growth all of the fun stuff that comes with puberty. 9th grade is probably the peak of suffering for this decision from my parents. Their logic? “I would be a year up on everyone else when I graduated.” I never felt the benefits of that. And when it came to sports and girls, the year behind put me behind the 8 ball.
The first day of school comes. We all get to school, no problem. And, we’re sitting in our homeroom – which is kind of like base for you. Homeroom is where all of the tedious details and announcements get made. On the first day of school, that also meant locker assignment. My bad luck comes first with getting a bottom locker. Ok, I’m a freshman. I get that. So, I’m putting some books and stuff in my locker for the first time, trying to figure it all out and then all of a sudden … WHACK! What the??? A just got hit by a lock! Someone hit me with their lock on my head!!! It turned out to be an accident. The girl above me, Mary, a sophomore, dropped her lock on my head. It wasn’t pleasant, but it felt like a bad omen.
I work my way through the rest of the day. It seemed like I just beat the bell by seconds trying to find each new class. The first day is pretty much just getting to know your schedule, your teachers, and what to expect from a class load standpoint. Finally, the end of the day comes, and it’s time to go home. This is where it goes bad for me again.
First of all, I’m taking the bus. Not a good thing. It means one a few things. You don’t have an older sibling in school who can drive. You can’t drive. And you don’t have any friends who will drive you. Not cool.
So, I’m making my way to where the buses are parked. I get out there just in time to see my bus number driving away. Just driving away. Perfect. Jussssst great. The perfect end to a bad first day of high school. So, what’s the plan? Just pick up the cell and call mom? Oh, no no no. You forget, this is 1995. It’s over to wait in line for the pay phone. Pop in the quarter, and then sit in the school lobby and wait for the mini-van to show. It’s basically like the walk of shame heading down from an amusement park line when you are too afraid to ride.
That’s my story. Pretty rotten day. But you know what, it could only get better from there. I know, I’m an old man to any freshman reading this now, but some things in high school are timeless. And some ways to deal with people are timeless. So, let me share just a few tips if you are worried about your first day of high school to help you get through it all. It may seem like a big scary world, but you’ll soon get the hang of it. And hey, at least someone probably won’t drop a lock on your head.
14 Tips to Help You Through Your First Day of High School
1. Smile – Even if you are nervous, put a smile on your face. You’ll have a much better chance of getting people to like you if you have a warm and friendly smile on.
2. Be Yourself – Don’t try to be somebody you aren’t. Maybe that means you don’t smile, :). In high school, it’s easy to get tricked into thinking you need to be something different in order to fit in. You don’t. Be yourself and you’ll find others just like you.
3. Don’t Believe all the Movies – The movies dramatize high school because the movies are trying to make money. Some of what they show is true. Most of it is blown way out of proportion. Don’t get to high school and act only off of what you’ve seen in the movies. You live in real life. Experience real life and act accordingly.
4. Be Humble – You’re a freshman. You’re going to have to deal with a certain amount of ribbing, trash talk, bullying or whatever from upper class men. Sorry, that’s just a part of it. But the ones the upper class men want to go after the most are those freshman who have a chip on their shoulder and think they are all that. Just know that going in. If you have to take your lumps, take them. But if you fight back, that gives them all the more to want to bring you down again. Act like it doesn’t bother you. Be respectful. Be humble, and they’ll think your no fun to pick on.
5. Map the School – This may seem silly, but it really helps. Whenever you get a chance to register for your classes, take the time to walk the halls a bit. Understand what subjects are in what parts of the school. If you know where your classes are before the first day of school, you won’t be freaking out in the hallways as you try to wade through the masses. Know your course ahead of time, and you’ll make it on time to all your classes.
6. Do Your Homework – Did you have summer reading? I advise the entire book and not just the cliffs notes. High school may be a little more challenging than middle school in terms of class load. Now, you throw in more honors and AP classes and it can get difficult. Learn how to manage your time. Schedule time for your studies a bit each day. When you get it all done, then you are free to do other things you want to. It’s procrastinating and not getting it done that takes more of a burden on you.
7. Plan the Night Before – One way to be sure to get off to a good start in your day is to plan the night before. If you are running around in the morning, when you are groggy, trying to get your stuff together, it’s not going to work out. Plan ahead, so it’s easy to walk out the door in the morning. Honestly, you should’ve learned this by 2nd grade.
8. Stay Clean – So, I’m a child of the 80’s, and I still have McGruff the Crime Dog floating around in my head. I’m not naive to think you won’t try some stuff in high school, but my advice is that it’s not worth the trouble. When I went through school, I had a group of about 15 guy friends who stayed clean – no drugs, no drinking. And because we were good enough friends and had a good time, people would come to our parties over other people’s parties. Leave the drama, the peer pressure, the addictions and the illegal activities behind. I promise you that you do NOT have to get into drugs and alcohol to have a good time in high school.
9. Try Something New – Not drugs. See number 8. But seriously, get outside of your comfort zone. One of my biggest fears throughout high school was trying to do something that I would fail at. Now that I own 5 different businesses and have experienced more in life, I know that failure is not a bad thing. It’s a catalyst to a lot of good things happening in your life. It took me forcing my hyper-introverted self out of its safe comfort zone and self pity parties to get over it, but I got over it. Now, I love experiencing different activities, people groups, food, cultures, art – anything! High school is an AWESOME time to begin trying new things because you are exposed to more new and different opportunities.
10. Make Some Money – Ok, shameless plug time. But one way to enjoy high school is to make some money while doing it. Check out our Ring Rep Challenge, you can earn a free class ring for yourself, unlimited $100 gift cards, and a chance to win $10,000! You can turn your friends class ring into cash in your pocket.
10. Learn Who You Are – Some people would say that self discovery is the purpose of life. I certainly would not. But, learning who you are – your gifts, talents, strengths and weaknesses is super important in terms of fulfilling the role you are supposed to fill in the grand story. And during this time in life, there are tons and tons of changes happening, so it can be difficult to hone in on it. But, it’s a great time to learn more and more about who you are and what direction you will be heading in your future.
11. Have a Big Picture Mindset – Want to know one of the best ways to alleviate fear? Think big picture. I know you’re worried about starting school – what’s the first day going to be like? All of that. I get it. But step back and realize your whole life does not revolve around high school. Well, maybe it does now, but it won’t! You know what I’m trying to say. You’re going to graduate, go to college, get a job, get married, have kids, work a career, raise your kids, give back to the world, retire, die. I mean, high school is a small blip. It’s a fun blip, an important blip, but a blip. Just take the pressure off yourself and realize it’s a time to shape who you are becoming.
12. Ask Those Who Have Gone Before – So, I know there are 100 Youtube videos from actual high school students with advice for Freshmen, instead of a 31 year old man telling you what to do. Hey, take it or leave it. I love my life. I love my wife, my kids, my church, my city. I’ve learned a few things along the way. And so have countless other people in your life. Yeah, we may be older and not as in touch with pop culture. We are not as cool as you. I readily admit that. But, there are more important things than the latest celebrity breakup. Don’t kid yourself. Seek wisdom. Identify the people in your life that you want to be like, and go and ask for their advice.
13. Enjoy It – Have fun. You probably have the most freedom and the least responsibility
in your life as you’ll ever have. Enjoy it! Yeah, that AP class seems hard, and maybe it’s harder than Algebra I, but you don’t have 3 kids to feed with pending layoffs coming at your company. Grow in responsibility. Shoulder your new work load. But enjoy this time in your life.
I know it seems scary, but once you dip your toe in, I think you’ll find the water is just fine.
Eric Sztanyo is the owner of WearMyStory.com. He has been involved in Young Life in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky for 17 years. He is a husband and father of 2 boys, owns multiple businesses and enjoys helping high school students get their class ring for free.