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Getting Back in the School Saddle

Getting Back in the School Saddle

Back-to-school time can be fun...and hard!
What are the most common back-to-school worries?
What's good about going back to school?
How can I get ready before school starts?
How can I get back in the swing of things once the school year starts?

Back-to-school time can be fun...and hard!
Going back to school is an exciting time. It's a fresh start, a chance to get back into your routine after a lazy summer, time to see old friends, and make new ones.

However, it's not easy to say good-bye to summer. Whether you've been at camp, on vacation, working, or just lounging around the house—you've probably had a nice, long break from your regular routine. You've had time to hang with friends and family, freedom from alarm clocks and school lunches, and two whole months in a homework-free zone. Ah, the glories of summer!

So, it's perfectly natural to feel a bit blue at the end of August. It's also natural to feel a little worried or scared. That's because the shift from summer to school year is a major transition, and all transitions can make people feel a little unsure of themselves. Most people do not like change. They'd rather stay with what's familiar than jump into what's unfamiliar. And yet, all kinds of changes happen all the way through life. So learning how to make a smooth transition to the new school year—or to a new school altogether—is good training for life. back to top

What are the most common back-to-school worries?
According to parents, psychologists, and especially the teens we interviewed, there's plenty to worry about as the new school year gets closer. Here are some of the most common worries:
  • Will I have friends?
  • Will I like my classes?
  • Will I like my teachers?
  • How much homework will I have?
  • Where will I sit in the cafeteria?
  • Will I make the varsity team?
  • Will I get a part in the school play?
Many teens also worry about how they look. Perhaps you've grown taller or gained or lost some weight. Maybe your body has a few more curves now than it did in June. You could have cut, colored, or permed your hair. Or maybe you haven't changed very much at all over the summer, while it seems as if everyone else has changed a lot. The good news is you're not the only one worrying about these things. And remember, nobody is looking at you as closely as you look at yourself!

Most teens also worry about friends, especially if they haven't seen their school friends over the summer. After all, a lot can happen in a couple of months. Maybe you've had some experiences that have opened your eyes to new ideas and new relationships. That could make you wonder how you'll feel about your old school friends. Or maybe nothing much at all happened over the summer, and you're worried about what you'll say to your friends.

Making the switch from middle school to high school can be especially nerve-wracking. It can be a shock at first to see older, more mature-looking girls. (Remember that they were in your position just a year or two ago!) And older boys may take an interest in you. That can be exciting and scary. You may be also be faced with decisions about drugs and alcohol.

Your classes and your homework might get harder this year, which means you'll need new ways to stay on top of your studies. It could be as simple as leaving more time to do your assignments or studying with a friend. Or you may need extra help from your teachers, your parents, or even a tutor. Everyone needs help at one time or another, so don't be afraid to ask. back to top

What's good about going back to school?
The new school year brings loads of possibilities. In fact, the very things that worry you the most can also make you most excited about going back to school. Many teens report that, by the end of August, they are beginning to get the summer blahs anyway, so they actually welcome getting back into the school routine.

When you go back to school, you'll see your friends every day. Your schedule will be filled with classes and extracurricular activities. You'll have a chance to learn new things, meet new teachers, and make new friends.

If you're in the last year of middle school, you and your friends will get to be in charge. If you're starting high school, even though you'll be the lowest on the ladder, you'll probably have more freedom than you've ever had before. On the other hand, if you're no longer the youngest group in the high school, you'll probably look forward to having a little more status this year.

For many teens, going back to school brings the fun of getting new school supplies, such as notebooks and pens, and perhaps buying some new clothes and shoes. Many teens see it as a chance to get reorganized and make a fresh start. back to top

How can I get ready before school starts?
The best thing you can do is to get into a positive frame of mind. It helps to remember that most girls are probably worried about the same things you are. Focus on the good parts of going back to school now, and it might actually improve your experience once you get there. So, instead of wondering if you'll have friends, think about the friends you willhave. They might be old friends or new ones.

Get in touch with a couple of your school friends beforeyou go back. You could talk on the phone, buy school supplies together, or plan to eat lunch together on the first few days of school.

In the next couple of weeks, take a little time to take care of yourself. Get some rest. Do something fun. Eat healthy foods. Get some physical exercise. (Strolling through the mall doesn't count!) Try some stress reduction and visualization exercises. Find a good book to read. See if you can keep up these good habits during the school year, too.

Make a list of what you're proud of about yourself. What do you stand for? What are your strengths? Begin with the words, "I am...." In the week or two before school starts, read the list when you wake up in the morning. It will give you a boost of confidence.

Make a list of your goals for the school year and come up with some ways you can reach them. For example:
  • What are your academic goals? Perhaps you haven't done as well in math as you'd like. A realistic goal would be to bring your grade up a notch in math class.
  • What are your social goals? Do you want to make one new friend this year? Do you want to let go of an unhealthy friendship?
  • What are your personal goals? Do you want to take guitar lessons, get involved with a community service project, or learn some yoga? Remember to keep the goals realistic so that you'll be able to meet them.
If you already have some specific interests or hobbies, don't drop them. Doing things you like to do will help you meet people who have common interests. A big school will feel much less intimidating if you get involved in activities you already enjoy. It's also nice to have an interest that lets you get to know a smaller group of kids.

Some girls find it helpful to rearrange their bedrooms in time for the new school year. See our article on feng shui, an ancient Chinese art that can help you figure out how to fill your bedroom with positive energy, just by moving around the furniture and adding a few accessories.

If you're starting a new school and you have an older brother or sister, or even a neighbor who's a year or two older, ask him or her for a tour of the building before the first day. Simple things like knowing where the cafeteria and bathrooms are located and how to get to the gym can take some of the edge off. back to top

How can I get back in the swing of things once the school year starts?
Once school has started, there are many ways to ease back into the school routine. Here are a few suggestions:
  • Stay in touch with yourself. You know best what you're thinking and how you're feeling. But sometimes, it's hard to know how you feel unless you talk about it or write it down. Many girls find it useful to keep a diary or journal. It may help you understand yourself better, and even allow you to discover some completely new aspects of your personality. Writing can also comfort you during difficult times.
  • Find an adult you can trust. If you feel courageous, introduce yourself to a new teacher who seems friendly, and share your concerns. If you're in a new school and don't feel ready to do that yet, call on the other adults in your life: a camp counselor, a favorite aunt, an older brother or sister, a family friend, a neighbor, your dance teacher. Most adults love to give advice and will feel flattered that you came to them. You can even go back to your old school and talk to your favorite teachers there. Believe it or not, many of them are probably wondering how you're doing, and they'll be glad to hear about your new experiences. And they'll probably have some good ideas about adjusting to your new school.
  • Talk to your parents. Most of the time, parents want to help. For instance, if you have conflicts with a teacher, they can help you change classes. If you're having a hard time with friends—say, if a friend has betrayed you or spread a rumor about you—your parents can offer a sympathetic shoulder and some advice. Remember that your parents were once high school students, too. They might even tell you some juicy stories about their teen years!
  • Be an observer for a while. If you're the kind of person who takes time to get comfortable, join the club. Many people move at a slower pace. Instead of jumping right into the school scene, you may want to think of yourself as an anthropologist for the first few days or weeks of school. Pretend that you are studying another country or culture. Look around you. Check things out. Survey the territory. Gather information. There's nothing wrong with sitting on the sidelines for a while until you get your bearings.
  • When you're ready, take a chance. Make a new friend. Instead of sitting back and waiting for someone else to make the first move, be outgoing. The truth is you don't actually have to be confident to seem confident. Many people, even celebrities, don't have a lot of confidence. They've just learned how to look and act as if they do. So give it a try. You don't have to run for student body president, but you can stand up straight, look someone directly in the eyes, and say "hi."
When it comes to sex, drugs, and alcohol, it can be tempting to cave in to peer pressure—especially if you're in a new school and you want to be accepted. Remember to think about what you want, not what someone else wants from you. Being older gives you more choices, but it also gives you more responsibility. The safest decision may not be the easiest one. Take good care of yourself.

The truth is, the beginning of the school year is not the only time to make changes or to get a fresh start. If you don't keep all the promises you've made to yourself, if you fall behind in your schoolwork, you can always begin again. That's why New Year's resolutions were invented!

Have a great year! back to top

Last Modified Date: 4/17/2001
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