Hi, freshmen. Here’s some advice from someone who was, a year ago, in your exact situation. Some of these things I wish I’d known myself, and some of these are just the things everyone needs to know going into ninth grade:

1. High school is a lot of fun. It’s clichéd, but you’ll simultaneously hate it and love it. It goes by quickly. Please make freshman year worth remembering.

2. Please study. Especially for Honors Biology.

3. I’m sure people have told you before, but ASK QUESTIONS. I still have to remind myself to do this. It will help so much. Nobody will think anything about it/you, I promise.

4. Homecoming is amazing and [corny] and it’s the first time you’ll feel true school pride. Bring a Polaroid camera to your friends’ houses and take pictures before the dance.

5. Bring a charger.

6. Make friends with upperclassmen. Make friends with the juniors that you’ll still have another year with next year. Hang out with them over the summer.

7. Don’t fall for juniors from other schools. (If you do, cry about it with your friends. Make sure to talk to them, on the phone or in person. In long-distance crush-things like this, you can’t just rely on texts.)

8. Get involved. You never know where you’ll find a family.

9. Finals are terrible. Study.

10. Don’t procrastinate.

11. The friends you knew coming into school may not be your friends when you end in June. People change. You’re gonna change. It’ll be OK.

12. If you have a turnabout [dance] at your school, ask your friend instead of a crush.

13. Netflix is amazing, and if you can’t find what you need on it, Putlocker is a beautiful website. Don’t overuse it and mess up your sleep schedule. I speak from experience.

14. You’ll find a way to balance everything.

15. You don’t need to have everything figured out by the end of the year. No matter how much pressure you have on you, it’s OK to not know.

16. Stage crew is one of the best extracurriculars you can be a part of. Believe me.

17. You’re gonna have a few all-nighters. Don’t make it a habit.

18. School is extremely important, but you definitely need to make time for friends. Make sure you have an amazing group of people.

19. It’s OK to take mental health days.

20. Going to a dance without a date is perfectly fine, and honestly nobody cares.

21. High school isn’t going to always be like a John Hughes movie, no matter how much you want it to be. It’s OK.

22. It’s inevitable, but try to avoid as much drama as you can. It’s draining and tiring and, overall, a waste of time.

23. Hand in your homework on time.

24. Relax. You’re gonna have a great year. —Fiona, 15, Illinois

I wish that I was told to stay away from the bad kids!!!! They’ll do nothing but drag you down with them. Also, skipping class isn’t worth it WHATSOEVER!! Make sure you give all assignments 110 percent because your GPA will suffer, and you’ll have to work 10 times harder sophomore year :) Good luck! —Morgan, 15, Texas

1. Walk on the right side of the hallway. Please.
2. The upperclassmen are willing to help if you need anything.
3. Breathe in, breathe out. —Roni, Montana

Freshmen! If you’re suuuper overwhelmed, talk to a counselor. Don’t be afraid to ask for help! Take mental health days when you need them. If anxiety or depression or any other mental health problem is making irl school terrible, online school might be an option! I switched to one this year, and I’m doing sooo much better. No matter how bad it gets, freshman year will end! You can get through it. —Sky, 15, Ohio

Know who to trust. I made the mistake of telling some friends at the beginning of freshman year some information that they then told everyone, and it really hurt me. I would advise you to know who is a good friend and not just a gossiper. It can be pretty tricky to tell the difference. Be 100 percent yourself! Not being yourself can cause you to befriend people that obviously aren’t really people you enjoy. So it’s just a bad idea. —Delilah, 15, California

Something I really wish I’d been told when I started high school is to not to choose your friends based on popularity or status but rather acceptance, trust, and open-mindedness. Don’t waste your time on people who make you feel physically and emotionally drained, or make you feel bad about yourself and life. There are so many lovely people that you could have great friendships with—you just have to be open and friendly and trust your gut instinct. I wish I’d made friendships with great people when I was younger because it’s harder to get to know people when everyone’s settled in, and you don’t want to end up in a friendship group that makes you miserable. —Isla, 16, England

The advice I wish I had been given before my freshman year is don’t stress about making mistakes or meeting new people, and don’t be afraid to ask people questions. I actually had an even harder situation because I came from Poland to the U.S., and I knew nobody. I had a pretty big language barrier; also, I was ashamed of my accent. I was so scared the first day because I couldn’t find my next class (not mentioning that the school is really big, and I kept getting lost even after two weeks of school) that I almost started to cry! But I finally asked someone where should I go, and guess what? The girl I asked brought me to all the classes I had that day! So freshies, remember that people don’t bite :) SCHOOL IS COOL (not really). —Marta, 15, New Jersey

High school is tough—and it can be very intimidating. My biggest advice/tip is to have confidence. A lot of people struggle with confidence at this age, including myself, especially this past year. Try to join clubs, or do what you are passionate about. You don’t have to be cool with the upperclassmen, you don’t have to do extreme things for attention, you don’t have to live out that crazy expectation high school carries with it! Love yourself, and it will be easier to navigate this maze of confusion. Be confident, be strong, love yourself, and focus on what matters—your mental health and well-being. —Kelly, 15, Houston ♦