Planning the Summer Before Your First Year of High School



The transition from being a middle schooler to high schooler can be a stressful one for many students, as it involves a variety of changes in a student’s academic and extracurricular life. However, the summer break in between 8th and 9th grade, if used effectively, can help prepare students for any new and unexpected challenges they may face in the upcoming year and alleviate unnecessary stress.


Academics


A high school curriculum is typically more demanding and fast-paced than middle school classes, and a student’s performance in those first high school classes can determine their academic trajectory for the next few years.


Many schools use a student’s freshman year grades to determine what level of classes they may enroll in for the following year. For instance, a poor performance may prohibit students from taking AP, IB, or advanced classes in the following year, effectively limiting the classes they can take in subsequent years. While a student certainly can have the opportunity to improve, it’s important to think ahead. Challenge yourself, but be realistic about the amount of time you’ll need to dedicate to each subject.


Review your high school course catalog and know what your options are, both in your first year and beyond. Although it doesn’t have to be set in stone, consider possible tracks you can take, and adjust accordingly as you discover your interests and strengths. Prepare to build relationships with your teachers. Not only will it eventually be helpful for a college recommendation, they can open doors to new opportunities that you may not even know about.


Before entering high school, you may be required to complete summer work. It’s crucial that you complete this to the best of your ability — in other words, don’t leave it to the last minute. You want to make a good impression on your teacher right away, and being thorough and proactive in your work from the get-go will serve you well in doing so.


Beyond required work, continue to challenge yourself over the summer and build the skills that will help you excel in your freshman year. Read and write more often, and challenge yourself to read new genres and styles. Take an online course in a subject that intrigues you. Get creative with an artistic hobby. Pursue opportunities for your interests, such as programs, jobs, and/or volunteer positions.


Finally, it may seem too early to be thinking about college (and in some cases, it is), but if you are eyeing top colleges as you enter your freshman year, it’s important to start planning now. If possible, inform your college or guidance counselor at your high school of your aspirations, and ask for any advice they might have. Remember, admissions officers will evaluate you within the context of your school, so this would be a good resource to evaluate the opportunities in your particular environment.


Extracurriculars


As the case is with academics, you’ll want to evaluate the extracurricular opportunities at your school and consider which might be the best fit for you. Summer can be a great time to start gaining experience that will inform these decisions. You may want to continue an ongoing passion or try something new over the summer. Look for programs in your area or outside of your hometown, and challenge yourself to grow in new and exciting ways.


When it comes to planning for high school extracurricular activities, don’t feel the need to overload yourself right away. Your first priority should be your studies, so extracurriculars, while important, should take a backseat to classwork. Still, you want to fill your free time with meaningful work outside of the classroom. Consider potential leadership positions in the future in existing clubs, or create your own opportunities, either at school or just for yourself.


Time management


One of the most important ways you can prepare yourself for both academic and extracurricular commitments in high school is to practice your time management skills. While it’s good to remain on top of planning and preparing for this new experience you’ll be embarking on, you do want to make sure that you’re taking some downtime so as not to burn yourself out. This is where effectively managing your time will come in handy.


If you struggled with organization or procrastination in middle school, challenge yourself to stick to new habits and a new schedule over the summer. Don’t mess up your sleep schedule too badly — try waking up earlier and earlier as you approach your first day of school. You will also benefit from splitting your time wisely between leisure and work. Don’t be afraid to have some fun, but don’t let it get in the way of your work. Set long-term goals for yourself and consider smaller milestones that you can achieve along the way; this will help keep you motivated and focused in times of turbulence.


Summer is a great time for students of all ages to try new things, plan for the future, and take some time to rest. How you use your summer before high school can impact your time as a high schooler, so make sure that you set yourself on a path for success.