Are you looking for advice for incoming high school freshmen?

Hey Mama!  So your baby is starting High School this year?  Mine too!  I have been teaching high school freshman Biology since 2004 and now I am a Mama of a freshman (how can that be?).  I am going to share some practical advice for high school freshmen and their parents.  Sit back, hold back the “My Baby’s Growing Up Too Fast” tears, and take some notes.  Or better yet, sign up for my email series “Dishful Thinking” and get a printable PDF of these tips! 

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    20 Questions Incoming High School Freshmen Should Ask

    I am in an interesting position this year being a high school Biology teacher and a parent of a high school freshman.  I am sharing the tips and advice that I gave my own daughter as she prepares to start high school and what I tell my students the first week of school.  I am also sharing tips and advice that I wish parents knew from the teacher’s perspective.  Here is the quick list of my top 20 questions freshmen should ask before starting high school:


    1. What do I need to wear to high school?
    2. What do I do if I don’t like my teacher?
    3. How do I follow stupid school rules?
    4. Why should I get to school on time?
    5. Do I know where my classes are?
    6. What school supplies do I need?
    7. Why is sleep so important?
    8. How do I manage my time wisely?
    9. Do tardies really count against me?
    10. Do I have to do my homework?
    11. How do I study for tests?
    12. Why shouldn’t I smoke/drink/do drugs at school?
    13. What activities should I get involved in?
    14. Can’t I be friends with everybody?
    15. Why should I avoid drama?
    16. Why should I stay away from social media?
    17. Why shouldn’t I text images of myself or others to my friends?
    18. Do I have to go to school EVERY day?
    19. Do I really need an excuse for my absences?
    20. How do I make up missed assignments when I am absent?
    Pencil tips: Advice for freshmen starting high school and their parents

    Advice for High School Freshmen

    Answers to my top 20 Questions for incoming freshmen and parents

    Teenagers dressed and ready for school

    Advice for High School Freshmen

    Question 1

    What do I need to wear to high school?


    This is your chance to express yourself and create a new image.

    That being said: Yes, you have to follow the dress code.

    No, it isn’t fair.

    Yes, the dress code can be old fashioned and make a tank top into a sex symbol and cardinal sin.

    Avoid the inconvenience of being sent to the office, having to call home, wasting time changing clothes, and possibly being embarrassed in front of your class.

    Just follow the dress code.


    Your kids may leave the house wearing one thing but end up in the office with a dress code violation.

    Have an open and honest line of communication.

    If there is something you wouldn’t want him/her to wear to school, then don’t buy it for them.  If they have it, they WILL find a way to sneak it out of the house and wear it.

    Discuss what is appropriate or not for them to wear and have a natural consequence if they do get in trouble.

    For example: Baby girl wore an inappropriate top and got dress coded.  Consequence: that top goes in the donation pile.

    Student sitting against a wall with a book over his face

    Advice for High School Freshmen

    Question 2

    What do I do if I don’t like my teacher?


    You will have teachers that you don’t like.  You may even have teachers who don’t like you.  It’s a two-way street.

    Don’t get into the mindset of “She better respect me first, before I show her any respect.” I understand it is hard to respect people who aren’t very nice to you.

    If it gets really bad, you can always talk to your school counselor or your principals.

    Be a good person, show everyone respect, things will go much easier for you.


    There will be teachers you do not like.  Please remember that teachers are human too.  They have life problems, a family, and 150 (or more) other students they are responsible for.

    They may not respond immediately to an email or phone call.  Yes, your questions and concerns are important.  Yes, teachers should respond and solve the problem.

    But please, make sure you don’t attack them in your communication.  Approach your child’s teacher with a teamwork mindset.

    The best way to help a student is for everyone to be on the same team and work together.

    P.S.  Students talk, a lot.  They say things about their parents and families.  I don’t always believe every word of what they say.  Sometimes it is a little exaggerated.  Please do the same for the things they say about their teachers.

    Chalkboard with Rules 1, 2, and 3

    Advice for High School Freshmen

    Question 3

    How do I follow stupid school rules?


    You will not like the school rules…nobody does. But you still have to follow them.

    Some of the rules are out of the hands of the teachers.  So don’t blame everything on them.  They don’t like a lot of the same stupid rules 🙂

    Some of the rules are even out of the hands of the principals.  Your school district sets a lot of the big rules.

    Classroom rules are another thing.  You may have 6 different sets of classroom rules and procedures.  Take note of what is allowed in each class.  Some teachers won’t mind if you use your phone at specific times.  Other teachers will take your phone up the moment they see it.  Know the rules.

    Save yourself a lot of headaches and just do what you are supposed to do.


    Your child will get in trouble if they break a rule.  You may not agree with the rules, the teachers may not agree with the rules, but rules are rules.

    Don’t try to argue that one teacher allows something that another teacher doesn’t.  Teachers get to set their own classroom rules.  Some teachers allow things that are against the school rules.  But that doesn’t mean your child won’t get in trouble if an administrator comes in the room and sees said rule being broken.

    Help your kids know they have to follow the rules whether they agree with them or not.

    Red alarm clock with pads of paper and a pen

    Advice for High School Freshmen

    Question 4

    Why should I get to school on time?


    You can have as many excuses as you want, but if you are at school past the bell, you are late.

    The office has heard it all.

    When you are late to school, you start your day off in a rush.  This is not a fun way to start a day.  Give yourself time to get to school, get to your classroom, and get situated before it’s time to begin. Your day will start a lot more smoothly if your aren’t rushed.

    Prepare for your morning the night before.  Lay your clothes out, pack your lunch, make sure your homework is in your backpack.

    Have a morning routine you follow.  Designate a place to put your suff so you will see it before you walk out the door.


    Get your kids to school on time. If you can’t, make them ride the bus or find someone they can carpool with.

    The office will not care if it is your fault.  If your child is late, then they will get penalized.

    Help your child set a routine.  Give them an area to keep their backpacks and lunch boxes so they won’t miss them on the way out the door.  Show them how to prepare everything the night before.  Try to make them more responsible for their own stuff.

    High School hallway lined with lockers

    Advice for High School Freshmen

    Question 5

    Do I know where my classes are?


    Before school starts, sit down with your schedule and a map of the school.  Use highlighters to mark your route from class to class.

    Have a plan!  If you have a locker, make sure you plan the best time to go.

    Knowing where to go will reduce your stress and give you time to get to class before the bell rings. You may also be able to help an unprepared friend find their way.


    Sit down with your child and help them figure out the best route.

    Remind them that between classes is not the best socializing time.

    Take advantage of any time that the school allows for students to tour the school and find their classes before school starts back. Walk their entire schedule, including locker visits.  Find the bathrooms while you’re there!

    School Supplies notebook, pens, pencils, ruler, etc

    Advice for High School Freshmen

    Question 6

    What school supplies do I need?


    Get a good backpack and carry your school supplies with you in an organized way.  That means, don’t shove everything to the bottom of your backpack and have to dig for your pencil each class.

    Speaking of backpacks, make sure you keep your backpack cleaned out and organized.  Don’t let it get too messy or too heavy!  Make time to go to your locker, if possible, between classes so you don’t have to carry heavy books all day.


    Please don’t get frustrated that you don’t know what materials your child will need before school starts.

    Unfortunately, high school is not like elementary school.  They don’t have one supply list that everyone goes by.

    The teachers may not even know what they are teaching until the first week back. You may get 6 different supply lists from each teacher the first week of school.

    Yes, it is annoying that you will have to get supplies on the first weekend back to school, but you can get a few basic supplies ahead of time that are almost always required.

    Here are a few materials and links to find them:


    Check in with you child periodically and keep school supplies in a general location in your home so items can be replenished as needed.

    Cat sleeping with mask on

    Advice for High School Freshmen

    Question 7

    Why is sleep so important?


    School starts too early!  Yes, it does.  Your teachers mostly agree.

    Yes, it is hard to do math first thing in the morning before your brain is even awake.  For this reason alone, it is important to get some sleep!

    You will have activities and friends and family responsibilities, but try to set a bedtime and stick to it.

    Turn off your tech and go to sleep!


    Sleep, or lack of it, is linked to so many problems. Read what the Sleep Foundation has to say about the importance of sleep for teens.

    Here are some things you can do to help your child get more sleep:

    • Figure out a bedtime you and your child agree on and stick with it.
    • Take the tech away at night if necessary.
    • Don’t overload your child’s schedule.
    • Consider melatonin (check with your child’s doctor before starting any supplements).
    Opened Planner book with markers and pens

    Advice for High School Freshmen

    Question 8

    How do I manage my time wisely?


    Have you ever used a planner?  If not, this might just be the year to start using one.  Find one that fits your personality, like this Starry Night planner.

    Set appointments with yourself. If you can, set aside a specific time to at least look over your notes or study each evening.

    Write down important dates, like test days or game days.

    Managing your time involves planning and preparing. It also involves a lot of self-control.  What are your priorities?


    Your child will not automatically know how to use a planner or know how to manage their time.  Show them!  Don’t rely on teachers to show them.  Some of their teachers struggle with time management just as much as the students do.

    Keep a central location for the family to write down important events, especially doctors appointments and big event days.

    If you need more information, read what Very Well Family has to say about teaching time management to your teen.

    Male student opening classroom door

    Advice for High School Freshmen

    Question 9

    Do tardies really count against me?


    Yes, yes they do.  If you are late, you should be counted as late.

    Are their special circumstances? Yes.

    But the teacher has the final say and some teachers just aren’t very nice about your tardiness. So, don’t expect every teacher to show mercy.

    Know what your teacher considers “tardy”.  Some teachers just expect you to be in the room before the bell rings.  Other teachers want you to be in your seat.

    Get to class early so you can get settled in before the bell rings.  It will significantly reduce your stress levels if you aren’t constantly rushing around.


    Your child will get in trouble for being late to classes repeatedly.  There really is no need in trying to argue this one.

    If there is some medical reason why your child needs extra time between classes, make sure the nurse and teachers are aware of this from the beginning of school.

    The more everyone knows and can work together, the more succesful your child will be.

    Dog surrounded by chewed up paper that says homework

    Advice for High School Freshmen

    Question 10

    Do I have to do my homework?


    No.  You don’t HAVE to do your homework.  But, there are consequences for not doing it.

    You may get a zero that hurts your grade.  You may not get the extra practice that you need to really understand a concept.

    Stay on top of things and get it done as soon as possible so you can move on with the things that matter more to you at the moment.

    Write your assignments in your planner or set alarms on your phone to remind you to get your homework done.


    Teachers have varying opinions about homework.  I don’t give much homework at all.  First, I know that kids are busy with sports, and jobs, and family and don’t have a lot of time to spend on schoolwork (where they’ve just spent the last 8 hours). Not all teachers have the same mindset.

    Sometimes homework allows students to practice something they need more help with.  But, kids can cheat so easily.  One screenshot of one person’s work can be sent to the entire class in an instant.  The purpose of homework has been defeated by technology.

    It’s best to just keep up with your child’s grades and stay involved.  Most schools have an online gradebook system that parents can check regularly.

     {Some teachers are really bad at keeping their online gradebook updated.  Don’t expect grades to be put in daily. Check weekly and if you have questions, contact the teacher.} 

    If you notice grades are dropping, contact the teacher and talk to your child about what’s going on. (Did you just sing that as the 4th Non-Blonde?–if you don’t know what I’m talking about you’re probably younger than me)

    When you get those 500 pages at the beginning of school to sign for your child, at least glance at the homework policies on each syllabus.  Sign up for whatever communication app your child’s teachers use.

    high school student asleep at desk with open books and laptop

    Advice for High School Freshmen

    Question 11

    How do I study for tests?


    Every teacher will give different kinds of tests. Pay attention to the very first test in each class.  This will be a good indicator of what kind of tests your teacher will be giving the rest of the year.

    Not all teachers will give study guides that tell you exactly what is on the test. Make an effort to pay attention in class and read over your notes regularly.

    If you have a hard time memorizing, then you might try making flashcards or playing a Kahoot game online.

    Don’t spend so much energy trying to cheat.  Spend that energy on actually learning the material.  Most likely, what you learn at the beginning will be used later in the year.  It will just get harder and harder to stay on top of things if you try to cheat your way through a class.

    Here is a good resource if you are confused about how to actually study: Top 15 High School Study Tips


    Many students have never been taught how to study.  Give your child some ideas on how they can learn at home.  Don’t just say “go study” because that doesn’t mean much to most kids.

    Create a study space or help your child set up a study area in their room.  Encourage them to not procrastinate.

    If your child is struggling with a class, contact the teacher and work out a plan to get extra help.  Or look outside of school for tutors.  Many senior students would love to make a few extra dollars tutoring freshmen.

    Big Yellow Button that says Don't

    Advice for High School Freshmen

    Question 12

    Why shouldn’t I smoke/drink/do drugs at school?


    Ok, so this should be obvious.  But, you’d be surprised how many students I lose each year because they wanted to do something to impress all their friends.

    It’s not impressive.

    It’s not a good idea.

    Don’t get caught in this trap!

    Even if you think no one will ever know, you will almost always get caught at some point.  Especially if you make a habit of it.

    There are so many reasons why you should not drink, smoke, and do drugs (at school or away from school). Check out Educate yourself.  Know the consequences.


    You cannot control everything your kids do.

    You may not know half the things your child is involved in at school or who they hang out with.

    Watch for changes in their behavior and attitude. This could be an indication of a problem.  If you need help talking to your child, read these tips from

    Lead by example.  I’m not here to tell you how to live your life. But know your kids are watching.

    Various Sports Equipment

    Advice for High School Freshmen

    Question 13

    What activities should I get involved in?


    Find something that interests you.

    Not everyone is a star athlete or great musician, but there is usually something you can get invovled in.

    If not, find groups outside of school who have the same interests.  Don’t spend all of your time glued to your phone screen.


    Don’t push your kids into activities they hate.  They will suffer in all areas of school if they are being forced to continue an activity that stresses them out.

    Do encourage them to get involved in something.  It may be difficult to get your child from one activity to another, but you can always find ways to fit in some kind of hobby outside of school.  There are plenty of things your child can do at home or on the weekends.  Hone in on their interests and talents.

    Group of people with hands stacked on top of each other

    Advice for High School Freshmen

    Question 14

    Can’t I be friends with everybody?


    You can find ways to be kind to everyone.  But you don’t have to be friends with everybody.  Keep your circle of really close friends fairly tight.  But don’t be afraid to get to know different people.

    Be very selective who you share your secrets with.  If there is something bothering you that you can’t talk to a friend about, find a trusted teacher or counselor to talk to.

    Be prepared to lose friends and gain new ones.  Everybody changes, especially with all of the new freedoms in high school.


    Just because your friend has a kid in the same grade as your child, doesn’t mean they will automatically be best friends.

    Don’t force your child into relationships with people they don’t get along with.

    However, do teach your kids to be respectful of differences and to be kind to everyone.

    girl in dramatic pose with hand on head

    Advice for High School Freshmen

    Question 15

    Why should I avoid drama?


    As exciting as you want your high school experience to be, it shouldn’t look like a reality TV show.

    Too much time, energy, and conflict is involved when people thrive on drama.

    Avoid it!

    If you notice that your friend is causing problems, it might be time to find new friends.  If you are hanging out with people who talk about others behind their backs, then they are probably doing the same to you when you aren’t around.

    If you are the drama instigator, take a step back and really think about if you want to be “that” person.


    You won’t know everyone your child hangs out with or talks to at school. But you can watch for changes in your child’s behavior and moods.

    Social media drama causes more problems than just with friends.  It can cause problems with grades and other activities when the stress of drama takes over.

    Colorful social media icons

    Advice for High School Freshmen

    Question 16

    Why should I stay away from social media?


    Did you read #15? Most of the drama that I see stems from social media.

    Don’t put anything out there that you wouldn’t want the whole world to see.

    You may think your friend wouldn’t show that text to your ex, but sometimes friends don’t stay friends.  Sometimes they do things to hurt each other.  A lot of times social media is at the forefront.

    Also, don’t think that as long as you aren’t posting things during school hours that you can’t get in trouble for it. There are always other students who are willing to tell on you.

    Don’t put anything on social media you wouldn’t want your grandparents to see.  If you stick with that rule, then you should be good.


    Watch your kids’ social media accounts.  Have an open phone policy where you can check it any time.

    You child wants you to trust them, but you are still the parent.

    Three people texting on cell phones

    Advice for High School Freshmen

    Question 17

    Why shouldn’t I text images of myself or others to my friends?


    See #15 & 16.  If you put an image out into the world, it stays there…forever.

    Images will get shared and passed around and saved.  They will come back to haunt you in the future.

    This goes for FaceTiming as well.  Screenshots have ways of making rounds through the school. Just think what would happen if your phone got stolen and someone decided to post everything on there.


    You want to give your child their privacy and trust them.  But don’t be afraid to be nosey.  You may save your child from a whole bunch of drama if you can help your child make better choices.  Agian, this is a great time to lead by example.

    School Bus traveling on road

    Advice for High School Freshmen

    Question 18

    Do I have to go to school EVERY day?


    We all get sick or have appointments and have to miss school.

    And some days you just need that mental health day.

    But for the most part, you need to be in school every day possible.  You will get behind and that will cause more stress.


    Check your child’s attendance.

    When I call a parent to check on a child that has missed several days and the parent doesn’t know their child hasn’t been at school…I never know what to say.

    Try to schedule doctor and dentist appointments for after school or during breaks.  At the very least, try to schedule appointments at the very beginning or very end of the school day so your child can still go for the remainder of the day.

    It’s not always possible, but help your child by not taking them out of school more than necessary.

    What's Your Excuse

    Advice for High School Freshmen

    Question 19

    Do I really need an excuse for my absences?


    When you are absent, bring in your excuse.  Many teachers/schools will not let you make up assignments if your absence was unexcused.


    Write your child a note if they were absent.  You don’t have to describe every detail of their absence.

    Most of the time a general “My child was sick today” will work.

    Most schools will only allow a limited number of parent excuses before they will require a doctor’s excuse or some other official excuse.

    Calendar: Assignment Due

    Advice for High School Freshmen

    Question 20

    How do I make up missed assignments when I am absent?


    Every teacher will have different make-up assignment procedures.

    You should get your missed assignments and notes as soon as possible and stay on top of what you missed.  Text a friend in the class to see what you missed.  Many teachers will also have assignments posted online.  Check there, too!

    If you missed something and you don’t understand it, ask the teacher to help you during a break time.

    Don’t just brush it off.  It may be the base knowledge for the next chapter and then you’ll be even more behind.


    Stay in touch with your child’s teachers.  They don’t always have the opportunity to contact you if your child didn’t turn in an assignment.

    Be proactive and let them know ahead of time if you know your child will be missing class.

    Now it’s Your Turn!

    What questions do you have? 

    What concerns you most about starting high school?

    What do you agree or disagree with?  

    Let me know in the comments!

    Also, don’t forget to sign up for my email series “Dishful Thinking” and get the printable PDF summary of this post.

    various school supplies


    1. Lifebetweenthedishes

      Thanks 🙂 I wish I had known them as well!

    2. Sarah

      Great tips! Wish I would’ve known these before starting high school. That was a tough transition.

    3. Lifebetweenthedishes

      What an awesome principal 🙂 I wish you and your daughter a great first year in middle school!

    4. Evie

      Love this! You speak so well to both the high school student and the parents.
      Funny how my daughter starts middle school and her biggest question was if you can actually get stuck in a locker. The principal let her try, while her principal held the locker key. Turns out she couldn’t even fit. Such a great experience.


    Hi! I'm Misty, the imperfect Mama behind Life Between the Dishes.  My goal is for you to find tools, tips, and resources here to help you maintain sanity through daily mom life!

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