Dear Freshman…

August 18, 2016

Dear Freshman,

So you’re finally about to head into high school?! Like most students, I’m sure you’re pretty excited for the new adventure! But like most students, I’m sure you’re also a bit freaked out.

Even though this is your first year in high school, it’s also a pretty important year, so don’t screw it up! No pressure, right?!

The good news is that you can make this a great year by choosing to implement just a few tips and pointers.

Before I became a youth pastor, Monster.com hired me to train freshmen around the country for how to make the most of their first year in high school. Below are a few of the tips I’ve shared with thousands of other freshmen just like you, as well as a few new tips that I think might just help this become your best year so far.

  1. Embrace change.

    Change can be scary, but change can be good. Change can bring amazing new opportunities that you have never experienced before. Don’t resist it or run from it. Look forward to what change can bring for you.

  2. Be an example.

    One of the biggest changes you will experience is the fact that last year you may have been a big deal in your mid school, but this year you’re back at the bottom. It’s okay. Paul said, Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” (1 Timothy 4:12). Set an example for others, even if you’re back at the bottom.

  3. Get serious now.

    College probably sounds way far away, but when you begin the process of applying for colleges, you don’t wait until you graduate. One of the biggest mistakes incoming freshmen make is choosing to wait to get serious about high school. If you want to go to college someday, you begin the process of applying for colleges during your junior (3rd) year. This means that you are beginning the application process without your final grades from your junior (3rd) and senior (4th) years. In other words, when you begin applying for colleges, you should be starting that process when you only have your freshmen and sophomore grades. If you wait until sophomore year to take things seriously, you limit your options compared to students who took things seriously from their first day of high school. Don’t wait to get serious—get serious from day 1.

  4. Seize the year.

    Being an incoming freshmen is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Think about it—you have a clean slate to work with at school. Teachers nor colleges will ever look at your grades from mid school ever again. But from freshman year on, your grades do matter. Take full advantage of the clean slate you have to work with. If you had bad grades in the past, it doesn’t mean you have to get bad grades in the future.

  5. Be compassionate.

    Mid schoolers can be brutal to one another, but you don’t have to act like that. Being compassionate means that you’re making the choice to actually care about others. Give it a shot and try being more compassionate than you’ve ever been before.

  6. Compliment others.

    Use your words to build rather than tear down, which could very well make you more liked than anyone else on campus.

  7. Learn how you learn.

    Everybody learns differently. Some people learn best by listening. Some learn best by reading. Some learn best by writing. Some learn best by interacting. Pay attention to how you learn best and do more of that.

  8. Study well.

    Learn how to study. Eliminate distractions. Turn off tv, Instagram, Snapchat, Xbox, Pokemon Go, or anything else that will distract you. If you study with music playing in the background, then play music in the background. But aside from that, nothing else you think will help you will actually help you. If you eliminate distractions while studying, you retain more of the information you studied and you get your homework done quicker, freeing you to get to whatever activities you actually want to do instead.

  9. Be social.

    This doesn’t mean you have to be friends with everyone, but being social helps you meet people who might become great friends.

  10. Be selective with your friends.

    Don’t just become friends with anyone. Become friends with people you want to be like. The people you hang out with will tell you the person you will become. If they are rude and disrespectful, you will become known for being rude and disrespectful. If they are loved and respected, you will become loved and respected. Having 1-2 really good friends is better than having 100-200 acquaintances. The few really good friends you have may last a lifetime. The hundreds of acquaintances you have may not even last the entire year. Be selective.

  11. Start a calendar.

    Your time is becoming more and more important. Use your phone’s calendar or a journal to write down when homework assignments are due, when you have practice, and any events you don’t want to forget. Using a calendar will help free you from unnecessary stress you will feel if you try to remember everything you’re supposed to do.

  12. Respect the janitors.

    Every person you meet is just that—a person. You never know who will be able to help you in life. Be kind to each person you meet, regardless of who they are.

  13. Join a club or sport.

    Trying new activities will help you discover what you’re passionate about in life. Even if you don’t stick with that club or sport for your entire high school career, you will still be learning valuable skills like perseverance and teamwork that will help you excel in any other activity as well.

  14. Don’t be consumed with dating.

    Only 2% of high school relationships actually work out in the long run. That means that there’s a 98% chance that you won’t marry that cute boy or girl. Relationships aren’t bad, but don’t let a relationship or the idea of a relationship consume you.

  15. Don’t try to impress everyone.

    You won’t ever succeed in impressing everyone, so you might as well not even try.

  16. Listen to your parents.

    Your parents probably know a lot more than you think they do. If they give you advice, hear them out—they probably know what they’re talking about.

  17. Don’t believe the hype.

    It may not sound like it, but not everyone is having sex. In fact, statistics show that more high school students choose not to have sex in high school compared to students who do. It’s even more interesting to know that the number of students having sex in high school has actually been decreasing each year for the last 25 years. This means that it’s becoming more and more popular to wait.

  18. Be a leader.

    Students are looking for someone to follow. Be a role model, even to others in your own class. If you choose to lead, others will likely follow. Just make sure that you’re a leader who is worth following.

  19. Be you.

    People respect integrity. Being someone of integrity means being the same person at school as you are at home as you are at church as you are with your friends. If you try to be a different person for different groups, you will get found out and when you do, people will lose respect for you. You are the best you that God has ever made, so be a great you. People will love the real you.

  20. See the good in others.

    You will be around many others who are very different than you. Get to know them. Ask them about their story. You can learn to love anyone if you know their story.

  21. Enjoy the ride.

    You don’t have to hate school. In fact, you can choose to love it. It’s all a matter of perspective. Find the good parts and focus on those things. The next 4 years will fly by. Trust me. One day you will look back and realize it went much faster than you ever dreamed.

By choosing to implement these tips this year, you’ll be setting yourself up for a great start to your high school career.

Have a question about this year? I’d love to help. Send me an email or post a comment below and I’ll personally get back to you.

Best wishes,
Matt Signature

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