How to survive 9th grade

Dear Joe,
I hear you’re starting an advice column, and as a freshman, I feel like I could use the most advice right now. Just a couple of months ago, I was cruising my way through eighth grade, but now I’ve been dropped into this massive ocean of high school, which so far has been nothing like the musical.
I want to make the most of my time here, so I guess my only question is what do I need to do to succeed this year?
Thanks.
– Fearful Freshman

Thanks for writing, Fearful Freshman. I must say that I’m impressed with the ‘High School Musical’ reference, since you likely weren’t potty-trained when it first premiered.
But as for your concerns: I don’t blame you for feeling this way. You have every reason to feel intimidated. Make no mistake, this will be the most stressful year of your life, but luckily for you, I have some tips to help.
First, make sure you have all the supplies. Invest in the $3 agenda book. That’s not a plug to raise money for the school, I promise it’s worth every penny. You’ll need it to write down all the homework you won’t get assigned. I’d recommend purchasing a typewriter, too. This is high school; you’ll be doing more distinguished writing, so treat it as such.
Second, use your time wisely. You only have five minutes between classes, and this school is so big and confusing, so you’re better off full-out sprinting between periods. Afraid you’ll trip on your shoelaces? Wear velcro. It’s way more convenient and you’ll look cool. It’s a win-win scenario.
The uptick in notes you’ll have to take will take a toll on you, so become ambidextrous. You will save so much time using more than one appendage to write (I’m using my toes to type this right now).
Remember the fun you had at all your friends’ Bar/Bat Mitzvahs or basement hang-outs? Forget that. If you want to succeed this year, you can’t have a social life. You’ll need time to study for your regular tests and the ACT/SAT. You might as well get a head start and take those college aptitude tests this year. After all, this is the most crucial year when it comes to what colleges look at for admissions.
Taking any AP classes now or in the next few years? Study for those too. Your performance during freshman year will make or break whether you succeed after high school.
The most important thing to remember is that you’re on your own through all of this. What about my teachers, you might ask? They’ve got dozens of other students to worry about in your class alone, so adding their other classes makes you just a number in a factory. My friends, you whimper? You’re all competing to get into the best colleges after high school, you think you can trust them for help? Think again. Well my parents must be able to help me, you insist. So you’d think, but sadly it’s been decades since your parents were in high school. There’s no way they can help you in an environment they could never relate to. You’re all alone, so learn to be self-sufficient.
Seems harsh? Maybe, but I find spotting the humor and sarcasm in things has helped me cope.

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