21 August 2014

Gaah! Help! I'm a First Year! | My Twelve And A Half Tips to Starting Secondary School*


*This is targeted towards Irish secondary schools, but if you're starting a new school in a different country, the tips may be useful anyway!

Back in May or June, you finished your primary school days. You celebrated and had a wonderful summer. Suddenly, it's August, and you realise that very soon you will be attending a new school, in different surroundings, with new teachers, subjects, and maybe no one you know will be there. Quite daunting?

You're not to worry.

There are lots of others in your situation. 
Secondary school is a whole new experience for you to have fun with! It may be hard at the start: long days and lots of homework mixed in with bits of mixing with new people stress, but, honestly, it gets easier from day one. You become used to your school, more comfortable and it all turns into normality, a routine.

So, you turn to me for guidance on beginning your second chapter of school life (I say as I spin my chair slowly around to face you). I hope you have chosen right, and that my 12, and a half, tips will be, possibly, helpful to you.


Advice for before and as you start!

Tip 1: Get connected. If you are going to a new school all by yourself, this is a brilliant opportunity to make more friends! If you're nervous about the first day, and can be shy, research and see if anyone you know of is going. It could be your cousin's friend, friend's friend, Dad or Mum's work partner's son/daughter, neighbour's friend's friend... the list goes on. Having at least one person you recognise there and can maybe talk to is a huge boost.
Or, if you are going to the school with a bunch of friends, still find out if anyone else you know is attending the same school. It'll be a laugh!
Tip 2: Take a tour. Usually students go to an open day before the summer they start, but if you haven't, now is your chance. You can ask your parents if you can go into the school prior to the first day to have a look around where you will be spending the majority of your time in for the next six years. It will definitely ease your nerves for finding classrooms in the future.
Tip 3: Stay in touch with your old friends! If you have left lots of your primary school class mates, talk on Facebook, Instagram, by email or FaceTime. Maybe, if you were very
 close, plan to see them at the weekends during the year. Keeping in contact will ensure you won't lose them for good, and it'd be cool to hear about how they're getting on.
Don't fret if you don't get to talk to some people from your primary school; only good friendships last.
Tip 4: Be prepared. Buy all of the books you need for the year, as well as stationary like multiple copies and pens. Eleven subjects for the Junior Certificate equals piles of heavy books, so a sturdy school bag is needed!
Tip 5: Ask someone you know who goes to, or went to, your school all about it. Preferably someone who attends it to this day. The reasoning of this is that they would have fantastic advice since they know what's what in your exact school. I can't tell you what your teachers are like, what to avoid make up wise or whether the school food is worth it, since I only go to one secondary school. They can tell you everything, and you can ask them anything.
Tip 6: For the first day, smile, and breathe. You may be the most sociable person ever and you're fine when it comes to meeting new people, so this is more aimed at the timid ones. Everyone likes to make a nice first impression. You don't have to be loud or appear overly confident. Smiling, even faking a smile, and being approachable is the best way to go. If you're terrible at remembering names, when they say it, repeat it as you introduce yourself so it sticks into your head, especially if they're in your form/class.

Advice for during the year!

Tip 7:  Get involved. Try out the extra curricular activities, like debating, student council, choir or sports that you're interested in, as they can be a lot of fun, and an ideal way to talk to more people. Friendships may spark :).

Tip 8Try and be a bit organised. The usual length it takes to do homework in first year in the evenings is from one to two hours, depending on the subjects you had that day. Get it done as soon you get home to have it over with, instead of watching TV and panicking at ten o'clock. Normally in secondary schools you are given a diary/journal to keep track of work and projects you have. Always write down your homework as soon as its given to you, and do the homework the night it is assigned, not the morning before the class its due!
 Have a folder for important sheets so you don't lose them, and if you are handed things for each subject, keep them together in different sections. You get the picture; something must go somewhere in case you need it!

Tip 9: For exams, keep calm and revise. Starting early, look over the topics you have done, learn key terms (flashcards!), and ask your teacher what to expect on the test. Don't stress yourself over it; work hard and try you best. Homework can count as study, particularly if the homework is based on chapters coming up in the exam. And remember to balance fun between study!

Tip 10: Sleep well and eat healthy to feel good in school. Have a goodnight's rest with 8 hours of shut-eye, and eat good food from your lunch box. Fruit, lots of water, cheese and ham sandwiches... whatever your preferences, but minimize the junk; when snacking on chocolate or sweets, you feel energised at first, but then your mood tumbles down to ground zero after a while. So carbohydrates is the way to go if you want to feel more awake!

Tip 11: Turn to someone if you need help. At home, of course, there is your parents or guardian, but in school it can be tricky. Go to a friend or teacher you trust, the nurse or guidance counsellor. Your school's purpose, as well as teaching you, is to care for you, so don't be hesitant.

Tip 12: Always be yourself. The cheesiest, but essential one. Don't give in to peer pressure if you don't want to do it. YOU DON'T NEED EVERYONE TO LOVE YOU. You might have some kind of 'hate'... So tell those haters to *cue Miranda Sings voice* back off! Okay, maybe don't actually tell them to back off, as that is mean, but do ignore them. Stick to those who like you for who you are. Or if you have no haters, there's just those people who aren't bothered with you; don't bother with them!

Tip 12 and a half: Appreciate the little things. That time that odd teacher started dancing embarrassingly in class and everyone laughed, that time your friend slipped down the hill on the way to sport and everyone, including her, laughed (please never laugh at someone), or the time it snowed and there was a big snowball fight, and everyone laughed; cherish those moments. I told you secondary school is good!

"If you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.”  - Roald Dahl

Tell me if this was, or would be, anyway helpful to you if you are or were a first year!



  1. Hi Jane! Loved this post! I wish I had read something like this when I started 1st Year! :) I'm going into 3rd Year and my brother is starting so I have to answer his endless questions!! Loving your Back to School series!!! :D
    Katie x

    1. Thank you Katie! I'm going into 3rd too :)


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