I still vividly remember the moment I stepped out of my mother’s car and walked all alone out to the field for the first day of field hockey tryouts. Not only was I a new student but field hockey was a new sport for me. I was certainly very nervous, but overcoming those initial butterflies was so important for me to start 9th grade well. By the first day of classes, I knew my way around campus and recognized faces when the entire school gathered. Now, as the Director of 9th and 10th Grade Programs at Chapel Hill-Chauncy Hall School, I’ve been able to experience many, many first days from a variety of perspectives, I would like to offer these 5 tips for getting involved at your new school to make your first year your best year ever!
1. Join an after-school activity
Some schools will require this of you but even if it is not a requirement, it’s essential to a successful year. It is important to have time with your classmates and teachers outside of the classroom. While you may have talents in a particular sport or activity already, think about trying something new in your new school.
You may also be worried about having enough time to complete your school work but you will actually be more productive when your time is structured. And if you join a sport or activity where you are moving around after you’ve been in classes all day, your brain will be better prepared in the evening when it’s time to do homework.
2. Join a club
School is more than just academics. Make sure to attend your school’s club fair or assembly to find out about opportunities on campus. If a club doesn’t exist that fits your interests, find out how to start a new club. Perhaps you have an interest in music, the environment, politics, or maybe cooking. There’s a good chance you’re not the only one and a club is a great way to make new friends who have common interests.
Many schools require students to complete a certain number of service projects or community service hours. This is not something you want to leave until the last minute in the spring! And volunteering is another great way to make friends.
Sign up for a weekend trip to a soup kitchen or ask a classmate to join you and offer to help at a local nursing home. If you’re not sure you want to add another new place to your plate in the fall, ask how you can help out at your school.
4. Run for office
Student governments or student councils vary from school to school but nearly every school has some form of elected student representation. You may think that only the older students in the school matter but if that were the case, schools wouldn’t bother to elect 9th graders to positions.
When it’s time for elections, nominate yourself, ask a teacher and friends for help with a speech, and put yourself out there as a peer who wants to help make your school a better place for everyone.
5. Write a letter of introduction
Before the first day of school, write a letter to your advisor/guidance counselor/homeroom teacher. This is a great way to practice advocating for yourself. We know it’s not always easy to ask for help but there will be times during the year when you will need a guiding hand.
While this person may already know a little about you from your admission file, they will appreciate hearing directly from you right before school starts. Explain what you’re looking forward to, what you’re nervous about, and don’t forget to include some fun facts that your teacher may never think to ask.
With these tips on getting involved in your school, you’ll meet more people with similar interests, develop leadership skills, and you’ll look forward to getting out of the car and going into school each morning. Now, get out there and get involved!