9th Grade Tips: Advice for the First Year of High School


9th Grade Tips: Advice for the First Year of High School

If you’re a rising freshman, you are probably a combination of nervous, scared, and excited to open the doors to this new chapter of your life. Don’t freak out! Embrace the change and make the most of this experience by starting the year off on the right foot. If you’re nervous for this next step, have no fear. Here are some 9th grade tips to help you through the first year of high school.

1. Explore

High school is all about discovering your interests. If you aren’t sure if you’ll like something – give it a whirl and see what you think. Take photography as an elective course. Enroll in a computer science course online. Listen to a podcast about starting a business. Start designing clothing or jewelry. The possibilities really are endless!

Take advantage of your freshman year to try new things. Explore and work to find your niche. The more you investigate, the more likely it is you’ll discover your true passion. Use this first year of high school to learn more about yourself.

2. Get involved

While it’s valuable to explore on your own, you will also greatly benefit from connecting to groups and organizations. High school is usually the first time that students are exposed to countless extracurriculars – take advantage of this opportunity! Get involved in some formalized activities at school or in your community. Join a kickboxing club. Run for a student council position. Act in a theatrical production. Volunteer with an environmental protection group. You get the idea here!

Expose yourself to new interests, hobbies, and activities by connecting with resources around you. Find a cause you’re passionate about and work to support it. Additionally, the people you meet and the ever-expanding network you build will serve as excellent resources for you down the road. Fellow clubmates can also be fast friends!

3. Read!

Despite how much homework you may soon have, develop a reading habit and find books you genuinely enjoy. Whether it’s the history of video games or a romantic love story, developing a reading habit will not only help you dive into your interests and expand your knowledge, but it will also improve your comprehension and reading speed, naturally build your vocabulary, and further develop your critical thinking skills (all of which will help you on those pesky standardized tests).

Reading will naturally improve your writing, which you will have to do throughout high school and college (and beyond!), and it improves focus, concentration, and memory, which definitely won’t hurt your studies. Bonus points – it also helps you relax and reduce stress!

4. Get to Know Your Teachers

When it comes to 9th grade tips, remember that your teachers are a valuable resource for you. Not only will they be grading your work, but one day these are the people who will write letters of recommendation for your college applications. Be nice to them! Work to get to know them. Talk to them after class if you’re struggling with a subject. If you are enjoying a particular topic, ask for additional resources to continue learning on your own. Be proactive.

Even a simple “How’s your day?” can build rapport with your teacher and earn you some good will. Developing a relationship with your teachers can also open doors to possible opportunities outside of school – like internships or research – and it may even score you some extra credit if you need to redeem a bad grade (though you shouldn’t count on that!).

5. ...And Your Guidance Counselor!

Similarly, spend some time getting to know your guidance counselor early on. Don’t just see them for mandatory meetings or when you’re in a crisis. Set up semi-regular check-ins with them to discuss your academic goals and plans for the future. Ask for their help selecting courses that will be interesting and challenging for you. Your guidance counselor can provide recommendations about academic or extracurricular resources at school – take advantage of this!

Show initiative here. You will eventually talk to them about your dream colleges and professional goals, so it will benefit you to start the relationship early. Counselors also write an important letter of recommendation for college applications, so it will be beneficial if they actually know you as a person, not just as a student.

6. Get Organized

It's important to stay organized when thinking about 9th grade tips. Spend some time getting organized and find a system that works for you. Whether it’s different colored folders for different subjects, using a calendar, or setting reminders in your phone, high school is the time to develop a sense of responsibility and ownership over your studies.

Don’t rely on your parents to remind you about your work! Keep your backpack and locker tidy so you don’t lose anything. Always bring a pen to class. Write every assignment down. Keep track of deadlines. Set smaller, “halfway done” deadlines for yourself so you aren’t doing every assignment at the last second. Develop good habits and don’t procrastinate. Your future self will thank you!

7. Don’t Slack Off

Believe it or not, freshman year grades do matter. Do your homework and participate in class (remember, you’ll need teacher recommendations). Be engaged in the learning process and you will be surprised at how much you uncover about your personal interests. Plus, if you start off studying hard, you won’t have to spend the next three years digging yourself out of a hole to raise that cumulative GPA! Of my 9th grade tips, this is a crucial one to keep in mind.

8. Take Care of Yourself

High school can be overwhelming and stressful, and you may be busier than you’ve ever been. Make sure you take care of yourself and stay healthy. Get enough sleep each night. Eat well. Exercise. Take a shower! Be physically and mentally prepared for school each and every day, or you won’t be able to accomplish any of your other goals.

9. Be Yourself and Have Fun

Of all my 9th grade tips, please remember this one! Develop confidence in yourself. Don’t worry about what other people think. Work to find happiness within and surround yourself with people who will support you and help you grow. While academics matter, make sure you also enjoy some free time and have fun exploring the world around you. Spend some time learning what makes you happy, energized, and motivated. You will be glad you did!

High school may seem intimidating, but follow these 9th grade tips and you’ll be setting yourself up for success. Go out there and start exploring today!



I am a former undergraduate admissions reader at Northwestern. I currently coordinate and execute admissions events for prospective students, while also pursuing an MS in Higher Education Administration and Policy at Northwestern. I also completed my undergraduate degree at Northwestern, where I studied education and social policy and graduated in the top 8% of the class.

I have always been passionate about teaching, mentoring and coaching students. Outside of tutoring, I have facilitated undergraduate leadership classes for freshmen, led service learning trips, mentored newly admitted international students and coached athletic teams for students with physical and mental disabilities. I have experience working with a variety of student populations and enjoy tailoring my teaching tactics to each individual.

In my free time, I love to travel, try new restaurants, read, and watch Seinfeld re-runs. You can also find me playing beach volleyball, cheering on Chicago sports teams, going to trivia night at a local bar, and eating at Chipotle way more often than I should!

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