Updated: May 29, 2021
The Art Of Setting Up Your High School Career For Success Or Failure
Many parents and student believe that since a student's freshman years and sophomore years of high school aren't "college application years" like their junior and senior years, they don't matter. This could not be further from the truth! Freshman and sophomore years are the springboard which allows students to truly stand out from the other students in their schools and across the country if they position themselves correctly. In fact, if we were to rate the importance of each year, we’d rank sophomore year as the most important year followed by freshman year, Junior year, then Senior year. We believe that those early years account for close to 60% of a person’s success in getting into an elite school and that with the correct positioning, they can place themselves leagues ahead of other students by the time of the application process in their senior year. These early years are a significant part of a student’s success in the application process and should not be treated lightly.
The Freshman Year Strategy
Coming out of middle school, a student should have a feeling of their particular strengths and weaknesses. This will come in handy in helping them choose their classes and professions for the future.
The key to capitalizing on their freshman year is for a student to take courses that they are strong in at the honors level. What this does is that it gives the student a challenge as they are pushed to be better and develop their skills further. In addition to this, by taking courses at the honors level in their freshman year, students can jumpstart the process of acquiring mastery in a particular department or discipline so that they can both take higher classes, and become exceptional in one discipline or another later in their educational career.
If a student categorizes themselves as weak or below average at a particular subject, relative to their peers, they should take that particular subject at the basic or regular level. Similarly, if a student categorizes themselves as average at a particular subject, relative to their peers, they should take that particular subject at the basic or regular level or the honors level if they choose to do so. This however is a judgement call as it truly depends of how they feel as though they would do in an honors class and if they would be able to handle it. Finally, if a student categorizes themselves as above average or strong in a particular subject, relative to their peers, they should take that particular subject at the honors level.
For most high-schools, the classes a student. takes their freshman year are more or less fixed, but the level with which a student can take that class is somewhat flexible.
Each of these distinctions and gradations are important because if a student chooses to take a class that's too difficult or too easy the either miss out on an opportunity to place themselves in a higher level class with compounded consequences resulting form that, or they struggle in that class and not only lose time, but piece of mind and good academic standing when compared to their peers.
For example, let's say we had three different students who were entering their freshman year ready to choose their class levels. For this example, let's say they all left middle school more or less the same, the only difference between them being that one student was slightly more ambitious than the other two, one student was slightly less ambitious than the other two, and one student had an average amount of ambition.
They enter high-school and one student, Bob, decides to take a mix of honors classes and regular classes that match his strengths and weaknesses accordingly. Anna, decides to take all honors classes independent of her strengths and weaknesses. Finally, Cody decides to take all regular classes independent of his strengths and weaknesses.
At the end of their freshman year, Anna, Bob, and Cody compare grades.
Cody's year was a breeze. His classes weren't too challenging and breeze by with an A+ in all of his classes. Bob's year wasn't too bad either. He did very well in the classes which were easy for him and was challenged and did fairly well in some classes that he would consider strengths. His year wasn't too easy, nor too stressful. It was a very manageable amount of work; allowing him to participate in extracurriculars and enjoy his freshman year. Anna, however, didn't have quite an enjoyable year. Because of the workload, she often suffered intense periods of burnout and stress trying to keep her grades up. While she did fairly well in classes she had a strength in, she had to put in a considerable amount of time to do decently in the classes she wasn't particularly strong in.
Now let's compare their GPA's at the end of their freshman year using the common scale below.
Now let's take a look at each of their gpa's at the end of the year:
Not only are Cody and Bob ahead of Anna in terms of GPA, they are substantially ahead of her even though she was the one who took much harder classes.
But, the most important part of this is what happens moving forward. As a result of Bob and Cody doing very well in their regular classes, they get recommended for Honors in all their classes in their sophomore year and Bob decides to join Anna by taking all honors classes, while Cody decides that he only wants to take those relating to his strengths.
Anna and Bob are now on the same level this year with Anna having a GPA 0.36 less than Bob's. In addition to this, Cody, even though he has taken 8 fewer honors classes to this point, he has some wiggle room before Anna can catch up to him in terms of GPA.
Even though from the outset, it seemed at though Anna was making the right choice when she decided to take only difficult courses, she was punished for that decision as she didn't calibrate her schedule and courses to meet her specific strengths and weaknesses.
This is a story which happens time and again for many students and demonstrates the importance of a student's freshman year. A student's freshman year helps to get the ball rolling for massive success later in a person's high-school career, or acts like an anchor, dragging them down before they truly have the chance to succeed.
The race for the best schools in the country start the second a student walks through the doors of their high-school and all the way until the read the acceptance letter from their dream school. During that time, every decision counts. Especially in a student's freshmen and sophomore years, every decision they make will shape the rest of their lives in a monumental way. The decisions they make will either make it harder for them to get into their dream schools and thus live their dream lives, or it will have it 100 times easier for them to do so. The choice is theirs.
While freshman year itself isn't a critical component in the direct application process for making it into an elite school, what it does is serve as a benchmark to measure a student's abilities in various courses and give an indication of what they may need to move toward or away from in subsequent years. Furthermore, by utilizing their freshman year correctly, it will allow the student to start building up course experience and begin taking more complex courses later in their high school career. This will place them head and shoulders above other applicants as it will show colleges that they are ready and capable of handling more complex coursework and ranking amongst the best students while doing so.
Next Post: The Sophomore Year Springboard ->
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