Tips for incoming sophomores

Kelly Lu, Staff Writer

It is commonly agreed that in high school, freshman year, along with senior year, is the easiest year of high school. When one is a freshman, he or she learns the basics of certain subjects. Most high school first-years at J.H.S. begin taking biology as well as a basic language class. It is an easy-going year for most without the stresses of chemistry, calculus, or any higher level subjects. However, as the end of the semester approaches, freshmen must savor the easy life while they have it; sophomore year, only the beginning of true high school difficulty, is now only a summer away. Many who sign up for classes such as honors chemistry and AP world history will not be fully ready or accustomed for the challenge until they are already in those classes for a while. To help these students ease the struggle, here is a list of school survival tips gathered from experienced–yet still struggling–upperclassmen.

  1. When taking honors (or regular) chemistry, students should use all of their provided resources.  The chemistry teachers, Mrs. Boyer and Mr. Robinson, do not provide PowerPoint notes or guided notes like many other teachers do. Chemists receive an outline with bolded categories as the teachers speak about the topic and students must listen and write all the important information that they can. Notes are the most basic resource that will be absolutely necessary, and attention to the teacher is needed at all times; one piece of knowledge will go a long way.  Also, students must remember that although the Chemistry textbook is very rarely used in class, they should read the unit at home before arriving to school and learning directly from the teacher. Questions on tests are often worded differently (but have the same overall meaning) from what Boyer and Robinson say. Another very important thing to know is that chemistry students will not be learning step by step on how to solve math problems; they will be given basic information (for example: a formula of a measuring unit) and will have to use that information to solve both simple and complex problems. The key is to fully master the learning and keep out of the step-by-step mindset that is developed during easier learning years. This will also help on multiple choice questions, as students often struggle with how differently they are worded from the notes. When someone fully understands a concept, the way it is worded becomes irrelevant. For honors students who are used to receiving A’s, it will be much more difficult to maintain this streak in chemistry. Fully understanding all class lessons is something that requires much dedication, and even fully understanding a topic does not guarantee receiving an A.  However, what truly matters is that students gain the knowledge. Students who take honors chemistry learn precisely how to learn; they learn how to study throughout the year and develop new habits. This is the best benefit of the class through all of the struggle, and by taking this science, students who are not used to having hardships in school are much more prepared for AP classes and college classes.
  2. Have a designated study buddy. This of course applies to all years of high school; however, with a higher level of learning comes more responsibility of working with peers. Sometimes students only have two friends in the class and have no one to work with when those two decide to work together as partners. Other times, they may have no friends at all in the class. It does not matter who it is; have a designated study buddy  to work with for every occasion. When a student is stuck on something, it is beneficial to have someone he or she can casually ask for help without being a bother. Quieter students must develop the ability to interact and have designated people to work with; otherwise, the large projects they will encounter will be difficult. What is worse than working with oneself is working with a dysfunctional group of also quiet students whom the teacher randomly put together, ultimately leading to a project poorly thrown together by people who have no choice but to get along – and often ending with a grade below the ideal.
  3. Focus more on learning the taught information than receiving an A. Sometimes, these two are equivalents. However, when it comes to more complicated classes, they are often not. One may receive a C on a test and still have a good understanding of the topic. This pure knowledge will help on the semester finals when small details are drained out of each subject chapter. This tip also means do not cheat: which is a given, but many people do it anyway. Copying is counter-beneficial because it means the student will not receive practice he or she needs to memorize the information. Having an A is basically meaningless when the facts are not actually learned.
  4. Save easier classes for junior year. Sophomore year is the beginning of difficulty; however, junior year is when more AP classes are available–which are the root to much, much stress. This is why it is better to save easier classes until then. Having some form of salvation between a long lineup of AP and honors classes can be very helpful in maintaining sanity. Easy classes can also sometimes be a study hall that allows time to work on the more difficult and vital classes.
  5. Have good time management. Being a sophomore, junior, or senior does not only mean having much harder classes to deal with; it also means likely having more athletic and musical opportunities. It should also be mentioned that club/team leaders/captains are most often juniors and seniors, so they will be responsible for more than just themselves. This is why it is important not to join too many clubs, in or outside of school; it becomes a lot to manage. People who join a large variety of activities usually do not participate in half of them after high school.  While participating in many activities can help people be noticed by colleges, classes like previously mentioned honors chemistry do require a lot of time and dedication–which one cannot give when he or she is involved in ten different extracurriculars; it is difficult even being involved in one.

With the school year ending, it is very important for incoming sophomores to be prepared for challenges they will encounter when school begins – especially honors students. One cannot imagine the difference in difficulty between classes like freshman biology and sophomore honors English, but one can definitely be prepared for it. As grades 6-9 become easier and easier over the years, it is vital to learn how to deal with difficulty; to learn how to learn, how to deal with groups, how to line up classes, and how to manage time in a high school world of busyness. These five school tips should be helpful for 2018-2019 sophomores to get through the year.