How to Survive High School: Ultimate Guide

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High school can be one of the greatest experiences in your life! But, entering high school can be intimidating and scary since students may not feel prepared for changes. However, if you have the right strategies and tips, you’ll be able to make high school less scary and more exciting!

This article is the ultimate guide on how to survive high school. We are going to provide you with several tips on how to survive the first day of high school, how to do well in high school, and provide you with some advice for high school from high school seniors. By the end of this article, you will feel more prepared and have tools that show you how to enjoy your high school experience with our high school survival guide.

Is High School Scary? Your Question Answered

Is High School Scary? Your Question Answered

Is High School Scary? Your Question Answered

Haunted houses are scary. Halloween movies can be scary. But, high school is not scary. Well, it certainly doesn’t have to be.

High school is one the most critical developmental periods in every adolescent’s life! What does that mean? It means that this is an important time that you will explore who you are, find your strengths and weakness, find long-time friends, and learn life lessons that will inform your future self.

Given the value in high school experiences, we likely think that people are more scared of the changes rather than high school itself. We encourage you to embrace these changes; they will largely impact your future self, along with your ensuing life decisions.

Now, let’s provide you with several tips to make your high school experience one of the best times of your life!

How Do You Survive on the First Day of High School? 6 Tips

How Do You Survive on the First Day of High School? 6 Tips

Picture this—You’ve graduated from your former middle school to your local high school. Congratulations!

Now, you are a freshman entering a new space you’ve never entered before. The wild, wild west of high school.

How do you survive?

Well, if you are looking for answers to this question, you’ve come to the right place. Our ultimate high school survival guide will start with seven tips on how to survive your first day of high school.

1. Research your school on the web.

If you are new to the area, or just new to the school, do a little research beforehand to get yourself familiarized with the culture. School websites will usually have some basic information regarding the school schedule, school staff, and activities that might be happening that week. Use this to your advantage!

Some websites will also have a map of the school. You should have this printed so that you can locate your classes throughout the week. Always remember that getting lost on your first day is totally fine; but always note the proper instructions on getting to the right location for next class.

2. Take a DEEP breath.

We understand how the first day can be nerve-wrecking; but you need to just take a deep breath. Think about grounding yourself with your senses (e.g., what do you smell or feel); maybe even meditate to alleviate your anxiety. Take confidence that this is a learning process and that you will soon have all the tools to succeed throughout the four years of high school.

3. Be kind to everyone you meet today.

3. Be kind to everyone you meet today.

Making friends and connections will be important throughout your high school experience. Be kind to others, no matter what. This will likely be returned to you by other school mates and may blossom into a beautiful friendship!

4. Make sure you have all the school supplies that you need.

Sometimes, schools will provide families with a list of materials that will be needed for the academic year on their website or you can look up other lists for your grade level.

The most important items we want you to remember are the following:

We go over the best school supplies lists here.

We will talk more about how to use these in How Can You Do Well in High School? section.

5. Be open to new opportunities.

Remember when we mentioned how high school is a critical time for developing who you are? One main tip to surviving your first day in high school is to be open to new opportunities. This means that you should be open to making first moves, whether it be asking questions in a new classroom, starting projects, or making new friends. Essentially, we want you to take initiative of your endless opportunities!

6. Make sure you get good sleep the night before and have breakfast in the morning.

You don’t want to experience your first day in high school after an all-nighter. Try going to bed at the bedtime you plan for the school year at least two weeks before classes start. This will get you accustomed to a proper sleep schedule and have you feeling refreshed on your first day.

How Can You Do Well in High School? 5 Tips

How Can You Do Well in High School? 5 Tips

How Can You Do Well in High School? 5 Tips

Now, we just gave you tips on how to survive high school on your first day.

But, what about the rest of the four years? How can you actually do well in high school?

Here are five main tips that will help you succeed.

1. Get to know your teachers.

Remember, teachers are there to help you learn, adjust, and succeed in their classrooms. Think of them as informal mentors that you can refer to for school advice. Getting to know your teachers means openly communicating with them about ideas, personal challenges, developing interests for college, or other topics where you think a mentor would seem helpful.

If you establish a relationship with all your teachers, this will give you the opportunity for transparency in case something challenging happens. For example, maybe you had a family emergency where you had to spend the entire night in a hospital. You couldn’t focus so you didn’t complete your homework.

Having this relationship with your teachers gives you a chance to share these challenges comfortably and with credibility. Teachers will likely provide you with an opportunity to have homework extensions or extra credit opportunities. Make sure to communicate and to communicate often!

Getting to know your teachers also means that they are getting to know you, your skills, and your accomplishments. This can be a great way to develop other opportunities for letters of recommendation, which will be required for college applications, jobs, and internships. Having teachers speak on your behalf can only be fruitful for your future!

2. Be organized.

High school can include a lot of assignments that require you to stay organized in order to keep everything in place. We encourage you to keep school binders for each school subject, and maybe even use a day planner to help keep yourself accountable.

Some other brief tips to help you stay organized for high school include:

  • Develop a routine – have a weekly schedule to do homework, review readings, exercise, and extracurricular activities.
  • Write everything down—you will find that remembering everything you have to do is impossible; use your day planner to set reminders or tasks.
  • Work on one task at a time. This is just a good way to avoid having a bunch of uncompleted projects. Work on one task, complete it, and then move on to the next.
  • Create a to-do list. This is an excellent accountability system, which you will soon learn is essential to getting anything done. Document all the activities you have to do with their deadlines; always refer to this list when you start your work hour.

Interested in more tips to stay organized for high school?

Here is a resource to start on being successful in high school

3. Stay focused in class.

You will be in classes all day, so you might risk losing focus on some lectures. An important tip to stay focused is to always take notes in class. You don’t have to write EXACTLY what the teacher is saying; but write your understanding in your own words.

There are additional learning strategies that will help you stay focused in class, especially if you find yourself having more difficulty than others.

Here is a resource on daily routines that may be helpful

4. Do your homework and study for exams.

Use your day planner to set a solid time to do your homework. This is the most useful tip for anyone, including academics who need to write. What you do is block off a time where you will commit to homework. Do not let anyone change that time, unless it’s an emergency.

So, if we set after school at 5 pm on Thursday as our homework time, that is the time to do it. When Charlie asks if you want to go to the park to skateboard on Thursday at 5pm, you will say “Sorry, Charlie, I have to do my homework.” Sticking to your boundaries will make high school assignments much easier; you just need to protect that time.

5. Use the same approach to study for your exams and quizzes.

Use study habits that will help you remember the material by reciting what you’ve learned into your own words; there are plenty of strategies that have been effective in improving school performance. Do not leave any studying for the night before.

Remember that being organized and setting boundaries with school assignments will make you much more successful than doing tasks at the last minute.

5 Tips from High School Seniors They Wish They Knew for Freshman Year

5 Tips from High School Seniors They Wish They Knew for Freshman Year

5 Tips from High School Seniors They Wish They Knew for Freshman Year

The ultimate guide to high school wouldn’t be completed without input from former freshmen who are now high school seniors.

What is their advice on high school?

Here are five tips from high school seniors that they wish they had known during their freshman year.

1. Let yourself be who you really are.

Find a style that suits you, try out hobbies you enjoy, experiment with activities and creativity until you find something that feels just right that lets you express your own individuality.

2. “Don’t stress yourself out too much.” 

This ties to our tip that describes how you are much more than your grades. Try not to stress yourself out about being absolutely perfect; let yourself explore other opportunities and/or let yourself make mistakes to learn from them.

3. Volunteer.

Volunteering will help build important skills in communication, leadership, team collaboration, and time management. This will help demonstrate how you stand out from the rest, particularly in your college applications!

Interested in learning more about volunteering opportunities?

Here is a resource to start

4. “Seniors aren’t that big.”

Don’t be intimidated by older students. Stay open and willing to connect with different kinds of people. One high school senior talked about how they were always intimidated by seniors but ended up tutoring them in several classes!

5. Establish efficient and effective study habits.

We cannot emphasize the importance of good study habits more; this will be crucial for your academic success. Make sure to find study habits that work for you, but also stay consistent and routine with these habits.

Interested in reading more about effective study habits for high school?

Here is a resource to start

How to Adjust Well to a New School: 4 Tips

How to Adjust Well to a New School: 4 Tips

How to Adjust Well to a New School: 4 Tips

Now, we’ve provided you with general tips on how to survive your first day in school, practical tips on how to do well in high school and given you advice for high school from former senior students.

What about adjusting well to your new school?

High school can be tough! We mentioned how high school can be a period of drastic life changes that will shape who you are in the future. What can you do to make sure you are adjusting well to these changes?

Here are four tips on how to adjust well to a new school.

1. Develop good relationships with other students, teachers, and staff.

Become friends with different people. The problem about high school, or any community, is how siloed people can be from one another. Make sure to value connections; you never know what this person may be able to contribute to your life or what kind of energy they may bring to the table.

2. Find friends who are willing to support you; not push you down.

High school is a critical developmental time for maturity. Some people may take more time to get there than others.

Having said this, there might be people who don’t necessarily know how to support you, but instead push you down as a joke or lack of maturity. Try to surround yourself around others who are in the process of learning how to support one another. This could be as simple as someone who is willing to share their lunch with you or someone who is supportive when you are struggling with a challenge.

Don’t surround yourself around people who ridicule you for the struggles that everyone faces at least once in their lifetime. Avoid people who make you feel bad about yourself. We call these bullies. Although, it is completely understandable that at times you may not actually be able to avoid these people.

Relay back to our tip on getting to know your teachers. We want to emphasize how important it is for you to voice negative experiences with bullies. Many schools will create reform programs if the issue is raised enough times. Never forget how powerful your voice is in creating new policies that might benefit others who don’t have the courage to speak up against bullying.

3. Join school clubs or sports team.

School clubs, sports teams, and other extra-curricular activities (e.g., band) are a great way to meet people who think like you and share similar interests. In joining these activities, you will have an excellent opportunity to make long-lasting friendships. If you have a specific sport or hobby in mind, run with that and see if your school has something established around it.

For instance, if you are interested in kickball or debating, you can search your school website or ask your school staff about any existing activities based around it.

Sometimes, you can even create your own clubs or teams based around niche interests. This is usually made possible if there are resources available, school support, and if enough students have indicated an interest. Remember, stay open to new opportunities!

In addition to having the opportunity to make long-lasting friendships, school clubs or sport teams can also help improve your application for college. There are clubs that function as a network for learning opportunities and professional development that will actually prepare you for college.

4. Stay positive when times get tough.

This tip might require you to be more proactive about your physical and mental state. If you are dealing with a difficult or strenuous experience, make sure you take time to yourself to maintain a positive state of mind.

What does this process look like?

Take time to enjoy personal activities. We strongly encourage you to develop a hobby outside of school. This can include woodburning, knitting, painting, guitar, playing card games, chess; the options are endless. Taking time to enjoy personal activities will give you a sense of refuge from the tough times you may be facing in school.

You may want to consider a weekly exercise routine. Exercise is correlated to your mental health and is considered a protective factor when dealing with a stressful environment. Research says that you will actually feel happier if you exercise!

Talk to your school counselor if you’re dealing with mental health difficulties. Your school counselor is there to support and guide you throughout your high school experience. If you’re feeling particularly challenged, make an appointment!

We want you to prioritize your mental health; it is just as important as every other part on your body.

What Does Reddit and Quora Say are the Best High School Survival Tips? 11 Tips

What Does Reddit and Quora Say are the Best High School Survival Tips? 11 Tips

What Does Reddit and Quora Say are the Best High School Survival Tips? 11 Tips

1. Think about what it is you want to do.

It is quite alright to not know anything about your end goals at this point in your life. But former high school seniors encourage you to reflect on what it is you want to do with your life throughout your high school experience. Engage in this as an ongoing process to figure out what’s best for you and your interests.

2. You are not your grades.

I know this is hard to believe because you probably feel pressured to get the best grade point average in high school as possible for your dream college. But, please remember that you are more than your grades.

Instead, we encourage you to engage in other creative activities that make your efforts standout, regardless of whether it’s graded. For instance, maybe you can put together a fundraiser or community event, such as a silent concert, for students with auditory sensitivities. You won’t get graded, but you created an idea and delivered the vision.

Stay open to those new opportunities so that you don’t just get pigeonholed into grades and ranks. It will only cause you anxiety and limit the scope of what you can actively do with your school and surrounding community.

3. Have fun.

Several responses on Quora suggested to try to enjoy every day. There are ways of having fun even in those excruciatingly boring classes. This also ties well with our tip on taking time to enjoy personal activities or joining extracurricular activities with your school. High school can be fun if that’s what you make of it!

4. Embrace time with people and value their friendships.

Remember that this is a time that you can make long-lasting friendships. Make sure to engage with as many people as you can to create personal networks that you can refer to later on in your life.

For instance, it might be that case that the student you sat next to in math class is now an associate professor at a college you want to teach at. You can use these connections to network for your career, too. Think of all the opportunities every encounter can offer you later on in your life.

5. Create a college game plan.

If you are thinking about college, great! If you are not thinking about college, you should start thinking about it during your first year in high school. The earlier, the better!

Start talking to your teachers, guidance counselor, and other folks in the field as soon as possible to help you find opportunities that will help your college application. If you start now, you’ll have a better chance of getting into the college of your dreams. 

6. Don’t engage in risky behaviors.

Remember when we mentioned our tip to surround yourself around people who are willing to support you in How to Adjust Well to a New School: 4 Tips? This goes hand in hand with not engaging in risky behaviors, such as drug abuse, unsafe sex practices, or other behaviors that may be harmful for your health.

You also don’t want to engage in risky behaviors because this can compromise your pathway to academic success and college soon after. Many respondents on Reddit and Quora encouraged incoming high school students to save themselves the trouble by avoiding risky behaviors to stay focused on their schoolwork.

7. Stay away from drama.

7. Stay away from drama.

High school can come with its array of dramatics with emotionally charged teenagers at the scene. Try to avoid these, to the extent possible. Don’t get involved in physical disputes; keep your hands to yourself.

The best strategies to stay away from drama would be to stay focused on your schoolwork, stay close with your friends and close-knit community, and live your life on the daily. You don’t need any dramatics to disrupt the awesomeness of your high school experience.

8. Find teachers and resources for extra help.

This is such a helpful tip we found on Quora. We suggest that you either find teachers that are available before or after school to provide additional assistance on homework or course materials. This is kind of like a tutor, except the school provides the resources for you.

If this isn’t available to you, then virtual classroom is your new friend! There are several resources online, such as the Khan Academy, Ted-Ed, or Crash Course, that can help you better understand high school materials with practice exercises and exams. Use these to help you survive high school classes!

9. Don’t feel the need to conform.

Be yourself! Be silly! Be kind! You don’t need to conform to any cliques or groups. Many responses from Reddit encouraged incoming high school students to value their individuality. Don’t waste your time trying to be popular; this tip will help you in the long run.

10. Don’t do anything that you don’t feel comfortable doing.

High school can present several instances where you might feel pressured by your peers or others to carry out certain activities. We want to emphasize how you never have to do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable. Additionally, if this does occur, we want you to communicate this back to your teachers and parents.

Remember this tip: It is never ok to forcibly have someone do something they don’t want to do. You are in your own right to say “no” without any justification. This works the same way vice versa.

11. Challenge yourself.

Some students may need to take harder classes to match their academic abilities. However, many of those students don’t necessarily know that right away. Talk to your guidance counselor about additional opportunities you can take to challenge yourself.

There are opportunities to take Advanced Placement (AP) courses, where you will receive college credit if you score above a 3. These will actually minimize the number of college credits you’ll need to graduate.

Another option is to take honors classes. These will vary by school, but are advanced courses that demonstrate higher achievements. Hence, it looks great on your college application. 

This ultimate guide wouldn’t be complete without introducing some funny tips for surviving high school.

What are Some Helpful YouTube Videos for Surviving High School? 3 Helpful Videos

What are Some Helpful YouTube Videos for Surviving High School? 3 Helpful Videos

Still not feeling confident that you have what it takes to survive high school?

We are happy to provide more helpful information through YouTube videos that communicate additional tips from freshman students or former high school students. We also want to provide a video that shows how supportive teachers can be for incoming high school students.

Here is one video with additional tips on surviving your first day of high school.

Here is another video that provides tips on study habits to do well in high school:

Finally, we want to leave you with some tips on what to do and what not to do when trying to build positive relationships with your teachers:

Wrapping Things Up: Making It Through High School

High school can be a time of change; and life changes can be scary! Embrace these experiences and use this time to give it your best to ensure a better future. Our tips on how to survive high school have ultimately given you a toolkit to use and apply for your first day and to successfully do well throughout high school.

The most important thing to remember is if you start off with a great freshman year, applying the tips we’ve provided, then the other three years should go well for you! Make high school the best experience as it can be as all this will ultimately shape who you are and progress you toward your future goals.

If you enjoyed this post, check out our other high school study tips.

Here are a few to help you out:

> 21 Multiple Choice Test Taking Strategies

> How to Read a Textbook

> How to Get Straight A’s: The Ultimate Guide

Picture of Professor Conquer
Professor Conquer

Professor Conquer started Conquer Your Exam in 2018 to help students feel more confident and better prepared for their tough tests. Prof excelled in high school, graduating top of his class and receiving admissions into several Ivy League and top 15 schools. He has helped many students through the years tutoring and mentoring K-12, consulting seniors through the college admissions process, and writing extensive how-to guides for school.

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