What goals should I set for myself as a freshman?Answered
This freshman year was a little tough for me, and i finished with not-so-good grades and a less than desirable GPA. will my freshman year mess me up if I was going for some top UC schools? (UC Berkeley, UCLA, Etc.) I'm planning on taking heavier courses throughout my high school progress.
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UC Berkeley alum here, and I was NOT a natural studier - so I have some experience/help here. I'm actually a professor that teaches freshman college students, and I see a lot of these issues - you're younger and addressing the issue earlier (good!) but a lot of my advice will apply.
I can give you lots and lots of tips if you sign up for an advising session with me (even a free one!), but I'll give you my top two here. I teach a "Studying Bootcamp" for intended bio majors, that's where these come from:
1. Time management. You need to commit to working with a daily to-do list, a week-by-week calendar, and a monthly calendar. You need to self-reflect and critically analyze where and how you use your time (how much time are you REALLY scrolling or watching TV or whatever) - keep an honest log for a couple of days without vastly changing your habits and see where time goes. Understand that the best studying comes from spaced repetition, which requires intentional planning and sticking to the schedule. The same is true for large, multi-week projects - how can you break that 10-page term paper that you have two months to do into a series of smaller, self-created deadlines that you treat as seriously as the "real" one from your teacher?
2. Zone out brain is your enemy. Zone out brain is whenever you think you're doing work...but you're really not. A great example of this is the zone out brain that happens when you're reading a textbook for biology (which you should always do before class). You're reading, and following along...and then you start drifting off...and then you're just looking at words on the page without thinking about them and just moving your eyes for the sake of feeling like you're doing something. To avoid Zone out brain, you need to keep "jogging your brain" to keep actively engaged - I suggest actively making flashcards while you read, writing your own 'summary' sentences at the end of each paragraph or major section, pausing and thinking 'how would I make a test question from the materials in this paragraph?', etc., These are all better, by the way, than mindlessly highlighting, which is a bad habit I see a lot of!
Any ways - take the summer to think about how you can be a better student, and start practicing those skills. There's plenty of free online courses that you can use to practice being a better student!
In the end of the day, grades aren't that important. I believe, that during freshman years we should explore our interests, values, skills, rather than concentrate on great academic performance. Personally, I decided to find those subjects and extra curriculums which I really like and concentrate on them. If I do not cope with something which is not interesting for me, but I still need to fulfill it, I can simply turn to some helping services.
I definitely don’t think so. Yes, freshman year matters, but it’s not nearly as important as sophomore year and ESPECIALLY not as important as junior year (that’s the one that really matters). My freshman and sophomore years I did terribly (mostly because of covid, but I was also a terrible student in general lol) but in junior year I was able to mostly turn it around and I should be set for at least a couple of good schools when I apply next year. I’m kinda rambling about myself but my point is, don’t stress yourself out too much out right now. Focus on extracurricular, volunteering, and out of school activities for now and you can do the difficult classes as they come. I’m guessing you’ll be a sophomore next year so the best advice I can give is to join extracurriculars, do maybe one AP class, and then the following year you do a couple more. I know people try to shove college down your throat from the moment you join high school, but freshman and sophomore year aren’t meant to be all or nothing— you still have a lot of time and room to grow.
First, stabilize your grades. Figure out what learning method works best for you. I know for a lot of people, we were used to not needing to study and then freshman year hit like a train. Get in the habit of committing time to reviewing. Ask your teachers LOTS of questions (you aren't the only one confused, everyone else is just too scared to ask). After you've found your groove, explore extracurriculars and what you think you might want to do in college. You aren't gonna be a failure if you got a B or two in freshman year. Don't stress yourself out too much--- you'll get there eventually.
Your freshman year academic performance will not stop you from getting accepted to top UC schools. You still have 3 more years of high school to improve your GPA - so long as you make the most of them and do well in your classes, you can certainly boost your GPA to an ideal 3.7 UW or above. Taking the most rigorous courses possible, with at least 7 APs/IBs if your school offers them, will also help you be academically competitive.
One more thing to remember is that the college admissions process is holistic, meaning that admissions officers take all parts of your profile as well as any extenuating circumstances into consideration to make a decision about your application. Even if your GPA is not ideal, exceptional essays, teacher letters of recommendation, extracurriculars, standardized test scores, and more can all make up for it. Hope this helps!
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