How to Survive and Thrive in Freshman Year

Pre-k to fifth grade was a piece of cake—you only had a half hour of homework at the most and didn’t have to change classes. And then along came middle school, were new friends were made and exams began. But now its high school, a totally different world in itself, which brings a variety of new experiences such as football games, Homecoming, and learning to drive. All of these milestones bring newfound freedom. School has just begun, and it’s a great time to start taking advantage of all that high school brings. Here are just a few tips that may make your high school life, specifically your freshman year, go a bit smoother.

First of all, there’s an unwritten rule that freshman should know when entering the ninth grade. Students shouldn’t step on the Berkeley seal located next to the Steinbrenner stairs (that’s where the English classrooms are). Nothing bad will happen if one accidentally does step on the seal—it’s just an act of respect towards the school.

If you’re feeling hungry because you ran out of time to eat breakfast, no need to worry because there’s always something to eat at Berkeley! Every few weeks a variety of clubs host Chick-fil-A chicken biscuit sales during break. There are stations set up for each grade, and representatives sell students boxes of chicken biscuits, which can be shared with friends, taken to advisory, or just enjoyed by yourself.

Another example of Berkeley’s unique traditions is Zork, a competition in which everybody can participate but only one student can win. The game begins when students who want to play are given a card of paper with one other participant’s name on it. Then, the student must try to whisper “Zork” in that designated student’s ear to get him or her out. Here’s the catch: nobody else should hear the student whisper “Zork.” If anybody hears, then the “Zorked” student remains in the game. If no one else hears, the student is out and has to give his or her card to the other student. The student with the most cards wins. It sounds easy, but it’s more challenging than it sounds because high school students can have really, really sharp ears. It takes a lot of planning and Sherlock Holmes-style thinking in order to beat the game.

Various clubs hold dodgeball, ping pong, and soccer tournaments. Be sure to sign up immediately after they’re announced because slots can fill up quickly. Another highlight of the Berkeley experience is dressing up for Halloween. Even though the holiday is more than a month away, start picking out your costume as soon as possible so it can meet the dress code rules. Remember, the costume must be knee-length with no rips or tears, and you cannot wear jeans. More detailed rules can be found by contacting any of the Deans, or even by stopping by the office and showing them the costume. Start planning early.

Current sophomores have the most up-to-date information and tips on how to survive freshman year. Sophomore Katie Freedy describes freshman year as an “eye-opening experience.” Her advice is to “grab as many activities as you can and get involved.” Although it sounds a little cheesy, freshman year is when “you make friends for life.” Now, classes may be a little harder than middle school, and more time may need to be spent on homework and studying than on social networking sites like Facebook and Instagram. Probably one of the most challenging classes in freshman year is English. Many freshmen struggle because the class is much different from middle school English classes; it takes one step higher into the next level of writing and literature. In middle school, it was pretty easy to get a one hundred, or at least an A, on an English paper. In high school, students learn that there never really is a perfect paper in English because it can always be revised even more. Nonetheless, English 9 is a fun class because you get to watch movies starring Marlon Brando (like Julius Caesar) and best of all, be encouraged to talk and discuss with fellow students. Yes, it’s a class where the teacher actually wants you to talk with your friends (to an extent).

High school isn’t all about academics, though (but it is a big, actually huge, part of it). According to Freedy, managing extracurricular activities like sports and clubs with school is “challenging but doable.” All you have to do, she says, is “have a routine.” Some clubs like Math Club and Debate expect a lot of commitment from students so don’t be rash when signing up for these clubs. Make sure to visit the Club Fair in the Aye Arboretum, where all the club representatives set up booths describing their club’s activities, giving you some more insight into whether you would like to join.

In addition to joining clubs, community service is an important part of being a Berkeley student. If you’re in desperate need of getting more service hours in or if you just want to hang out with your friends after school, be sure to check out the many opportunities Berkeley offers for ushering plays and musicals. Not only do you receive community service hours, but you also get to see the show for free!

Congratulations on entering high school, a new phase in life. Welcome, and have fun.