Let's face it: Navigating new social situations is daunting for all of us -- young, old, and in-between. For you, the prospect of diving into the unknown pool that is high school ... well, it can be terrifying. Don't fret, Dear Freshman. You and only you are in charge of your high school experience.
Now sit back and relax as we go through the big C's -- The Crew, The Cliques, The Classes and the Culmination.
First thing's first: The Crew
Out with the old or in with the new?
Broadening your social stratosphere is both exciting and intimidating. Whether the first day finds you strolling those hallowed halls with familiar companions or as a lone ranger -- keep your eyes open and your smile wide. If you feel alone, remind yourself that each and every other freshman is anxious, some just mask their insecurities better than others.
Smile at an unfamiliar face, muster up a bit of confidence and introduce yourself to a classmate. Observe your peers. Who do you want to meet? We don't go from strangers to bonded friends overnight; there are many levels in between. One thing is for certain: Every friendship begins with an introduction. So smile, Dear Freshman, and mingle to your heart's desire.
To join or not to join? That is the question.
No matter where you live or how old you are, there they are -- the cliques. You've seen enough teen movies to get the gist: Mean girls, band kids, jocks, brainiacs ... the list goes on and on. What Hollywood doesn't successfully depict is the stunning diversity of strengths, passions, interests and talents inherent in each and every individual (that includes you, Dear Freshman).
High school allows the unparalleled opportunity to explore your interests and discover new ones. Keep your mind open. Don't limit yourself. Try new clubs. Sign up and follow through. Avoid labeling yourself. You are not defined by your "group." Only YOU get to decide who you are. There's a niche for everyone and you won't find yours unless you try. Just don't be a mean girl (or boy). No one likes a bully.
Suck up or sit back?
Believe it or not, teachers are savvy at discerning between the brown-noses and those genuinely motivated to learn. The trick is employing the "social fake."
What's the social fake you ask? I'll let you in on a secret -- it's what adults (at least the mature and socially adept adults) use on a daily basis to feign interest. As humans, we cannot possibly be interested in everything all the time (and teachers know they're not interesting all the time).
You might not be particularly enthralled with "Great Expectations," but you probably wouldn't mind getting an A on the final. Ask questions. Engage in discussions. And most importantly, TRY. Teachers really like it when you try.
And finally, in the blink of an eye ...
Close your eyes and picture yourself draped in a cap and gown, walking across the stage to receive your high school diploma. What will you have accomplished? Who is cheering you on? What will your high school story be? The future is yours, Dear Freshman, and aren't you lucky? This fall will mark the beginning of a new chapter. Take a deep breath and dive in! Your story is what you make it.
• Melanie Alger Andreani is a speech/language pathologist who specializes in social cognition. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.