Is Your Child Starting High School? Tips for Freshman Year Success

By Dr. Ray Huntington

After years of anticipation, your child’s first day of high school is here. This milestone might be both exciting and overwhelming! High school is a big step up in academic rigor and requires students to be organized, self-driven, and independent. If you have a new high schooler in your house, here are several freshman tips to share with them on how to start things off right:  

  • Study. Students need to put in the time to study.  As a freshman, your student might not be thinking about college at all, but it’s important that they are aware of what’s to come over the next four years—and that their grades matter.  It’s crucial that your student schedule enough time for studying every subject daily. High school students’ schedules fill up quickly with all their activities so planning out times for each subject, project, and test will help them stay on track.  
  • Commit to good time management and organization. You’ve heard it in middle school too, but perhaps the best piece of freshman advice to offer your student is to stay on top of their responsibilities in high school. A hard copy planner or planner app is an essential component of a foolproof time management system. Your student must use it to keep track of nightly assignments and upcoming test/quiz dates. Staying organized in high school is also important. Embrace a digital file management system so they can easily recall documents at school or at home. That also means using a folder/binder system for all papers and notes, tidying up the backpack and desk each night, and sticking to a study routine.  
  • Understand the importance of high school academics. It cannot be stressed enough: your student should work hard from freshman year onward because the high school GPA is cumulative! Even one semester of poor grades can seriously hurt your student when it comes time to apply to colleges. Your student needs to know that a strong GPA, strong SAT/ACT scores, and a transcript that includes challenging (i.e., honors and Advanced Placement) courses will help them gain acceptance at their colleges of choice (and increase their chances of earning scholarships).  
  • Think critically. Now more than ever, your student will be asked to embrace critical thinking in the classroom, on homework assignments, when presenting, and when asking questions. You can help your student build these skills by asking for their opinion on all kinds of topics, valuing their ideas, encouraging them to explore their curiosities, and embracing a growth mindset 
  • Listen for understanding. It sounds obvious that your freshman will need to listen well in their high school classes, but what this really means is being an active listener. Your student must go into each class ready to learn and willing to ask questions when they need to confirm understanding or clarify something. When teachers are lecturing, your student should take thorough notes that help them retain the information. Those notes must be detailed enough to help them recall details when studying later on their own. 
  • Be your own best advocate. In high school, you as a parent can and should continue to support your student. However, your student must accept responsibility for their own learning. That means paying attention in class, keeping up on homework, and studying for quizzes/tests. It also means practicing self-advocacy by asking for help when your student’s efforts don’t result in good grades. Teachers want students to reach out when they’re confused or having difficulty, so remind your student not to struggle in silence.  

If you’re concerned that your student lacks some of the skills they need to do well in high school, explore Huntington’s proven study skills tutoring and subject tutoring programs. Students who struggled in one or more subjects throughout middle school might now have skill gaps that will only grow wider as high school classes progress, making it difficult to learn new material and earn high grades. Students also with ineffective, inefficient study skills are at risk of falling behind fast. Falling behind early in high school can make it hard to catch up, which can take a toll on your student’s self-esteem and squash their motivation. 

Call Huntington at 1-800 CAN LEARN to put your freshman on the path to success. We work with high school students who want to maintain a high GPA and build the knowledge and skills required in college and beyond. Whether your student needs support in one class or several, we’re here to help. After an initial academic evaluation of your student’s abilities, we’ll identify any areas where your student is struggling and create a customized program of instruction that corrects those weaknesses. Together, we can build your student’s confidence and give them the tools and knowledge to perform their best in high school.