Opinion: Offering advice for the incoming class


Hearst Connecticut Media

The main entrance at Wilton High School through which students enter daily.

While the introduction to high school can be daunting for many reasons, COVID-19 is making the transition even more difficult for students. Combined with Wilton High School’s academic standards and achievements, many eighth graders seek guidance from older peers to navigate through a situation that is new and different in many ways.

Most incoming freshmen at Wilton High School are worried about adjusting to the workload and keeping up with grades, with eighth graders surveyed mainly citing concerns about academic changes and challenges in high school.

The best way to adjust and to maintain good grades is to not let anything get ahead of you and to always stay on top of schoolwork. If you don’t understand something in a class, you have to make sure to reach out to a teacher or peer and catch up before you build on the confusion and let it snowball. The farther behind you are, the less likely you are to catch up and the less motivation you will have to do so.

In middle school, if a teacher suggested taking notes on something or doing something optional, the majority of people opted not to do it since it wasn’t required. Though it might not directly affect your grade, going above the bare minimum will serve you well in high school, especially if you are taking more difficult classes.

“Make sure to prepare for every class, whether it be study, do homework, or just do extra work to prepare,” a current humanities student said.

In high school, developing a sense of awareness about what you need academically and acting in accordance will be highly beneficial.

Additionally, in middle school, student studying methods are often extremely minimal. The night before a test, middle schoolers can read over notes and the textbook for a short period of time and still earn a good grade. Most incoming high schoolers don’t know how to study yet, but that’s okay!

Now, studying just the night or two before a test won’t cut it. As you grow and develop as a high schooler, so will your study habits and grades. Studying about a week before a test and making sure not to stay up late the night before one will yield the best results.

So, how exactly do you study?

This is a complex and difficult question to answer, and the truth is it varies for everybody. One study method that works well for one person may be useless for another. Since each person is different, different studying techniques are necessary and beneficial for each individual person. Students who are kinesthetic learners may benefit from making flashcards or squeezing a stress ball while reviewing notes. Other auditory learners may benefit from reading their notes out loud or listening to someone read their notes to them. Visual learners will often rewrite their notes or draw diagrams to help them study. For all types of learners, repetition of content is key in order to remember something.

As many enter high school, many say that it’s going to be easy and won’t be too different from middle school. The mindset of incoming high schoolers can be quite the opposite of worrying, so students may be a bit shocked and unprepared when high school is, in fact, different and more difficult than middle school. It’s important to not be overly worried about high school, but it’s also important not to fall into the opposite mindset that high school will be a breeze. Both of these mindsets can create damage in the future.

“I was really worried about the amount of schoolwork and not living up to my and society’s expectations. I find that, yes, there is schoolwork and there are expectations, but staying confident and on top of everything will yield good results,” a current highschooler said.

Even though expectations and difficulty of schoolwork increase in high school, staying on top of everything, remaining confident, and developing good studying and time management skills will result in better grades and even enjoyment in academics. Getting good grades in classes will only increase confidence and will create a positive snowball effect.

Many new high schoolers forget that life outside of school is just as important as academics within school. While high school is certainly a new academic situation, it may also be a new social, athletic, and extracurricular situation as well. With the new and different activities high school provides, it’s important to strike a balance between academic life and life outside of school.

“Extracurriculars strengthen your academics and improve social connections,” an incoming sophomore said.

With the increased academic demands of high school, finding something enjoyable to do outside of school is more important than ever. As academic and intellectual pressures increase, so must your capacity for providing for your mental health needs outside of the classroom.

“You are responsible for creating your own happiness in high school,” another student said. 

Something that comes with the new independence of high school is the freedom to make new choices.While there is certainly more freedom in high school, it’s not an excuse to fall behind academically or outside of school. A major component of high school is adjusting to the new environment and freedom, and trying to make the best of the situation. This skill will serve you well for the rest of your life, and part of high school is learning to become more independent. Finding what makes you happy and adjusting to your new independence will serve you well in life, perhaps even more than what you learn in your classes will. 

In school, it can be difficult to remember to take care of yourself. It is quite common to think that work should come before your mental and physical health when really it’s vice versa. Oftentimes, students tend to disregard their health in the name of homework. While this may be beneficial to a short extent, it really isn’t healthy to do such a thing. If you aren’t physically or mentally healthy, then it will be hard to succeed academically in the long-term. 

Say you’re doing your math homework and the time is edging into dinner time. Do you go downstairs and eat, or do you finish the math? There really only is one answer — go eat. Taking a break from homework is a healthy alternative to spending long spurts of time without rest. It is normal to feel the need to spend extended amounts of time working on one assignment, however, breaking up that time allows you to avoid burnout and to take a step back from your assignment and focus again later. 

Many incoming freshmen have reported being worried or stressed about how they would be treated by other students.The series of movie cliques with the jocks and the mean girls is common, yet not the only characteristic of the older students. Many students contemplate whether this is a worthy worry.

“This was not a worthy worry because they are actually really nice and helped me find my way around the school,” a student said.

Another common worry expressed by incoming freshmen is how students are treated by teachers.

“The teachers turned out to be kind and helpful, but you have to reach out to them!” a high school student said.

A common theme recognized in high school is that life will become more difficult and you may need help, but using your resources wisely and adjusting to the situation will make it easier and make you feel more confident and independent.

For some, eighth grade was a breeze and perfect grades were easily attainable. Some even expect that to continue into the following year. However, high school is more of a challenge given that it’s a higher grade level. In accordance with this, some may still expect to produce perfect grades just as easily as in middle school. Expecting perfection and then not attaining it will lead to unnecessary stress and anxiety in high school. This should be taken into consideration as high school offers an academic challenge greater than that of middle school.

Let’s be honest, we’ve all experienced stress or anxiety at one point or another, and it’s no different in high school. If you know someone who’s stressed, talk to them. Let them take some of the weight of stress off their shoulders. Maybe you or they are not comfortable with talking to a counselor and prefer confiding in those closer to them.

Finding someone who you trust to talk to may help relieve stress that can occur inside and outside of school. One piece of advice offered by an incoming sophomore when asked for one piece of advice they wished they had known as an incoming freshman is to find people to talk to.

Even if you aren’t stressed at the time, you can still reach out to other students to make both your and their school year better. Building strong relationships with others encourages a community system that can build powerful connections that will help you through high school and college. 

Last and most certainly not least, sports. Some students may worry that they joined a sport too late or they won’t fit in, but that is never the case. Wilton High School offers a plethora of sports that any student is eligible to participate in. Partaking in a sport builds strong relationships with others and lets students have time to exercise.

Joining sports and other extracurricular activities such as clubs can boost relationships and connections with others and allows you to take a break from your work and have fun. 

Hopefully by the start of next school year, COVID-19 will have subsided and school can return to normal without masks, social distancing, or separations at desks and cafeteria tables. While this year’s freshmen had to deal with the common feeling of loneliness while having to be separated from friends, freshman generations in the future will get to experience something more normal.