Freshman fears: High school senior offers advice for incoming 9th graders

Back to school.

For some students those three words generate the excitement of seeing friends, getting back to playing sports or other favorite extracurricular activities. For others, it generates anxiety, and that can be especially true for kids heading from middle to high school.

Sami Saeed is Montgomery County’s student member of the board of education, or “SMOB.” He says he understands that anxiety, but has some encouraging words for those entering the halls of high school for the first time.

First, he told WTOP that incoming freshmen should take comfort in the knowledge that they’ve already overcome a huge challenge: middle school.

“Middle school — and the drama that’s in middle school — is a hundred … a thousand times worse than in high school. All the things that seemed so huge in middle school,” Saeed said, “In high school, no one cares anymore.”

In those first few days of high school, Saeed said to “have confidence,” something he acknowledges is “easier said than done.”

Many incoming ninth graders focus on the first day outfit and worry about making some awful social blunder. Saeed thinks worrying about these things may be unneeded.

“I’m telling you, everyone is too focused on caring about how they look and how they appear to notice” any flaws that a student may imagine seem so important, he promised.

While the social side of high school life can take time, Saeed said that, eventually, “you will find your friend group. You will find people who you relate to.”

When students do make that jump from eight grade to ninth grade, the number of academic subjects and the workload can be challenging.

“I know a lot of students, specifically in MCPS (Montgomery County Public Schools), are worried about their course load and their coursework,” Saeed said

He assures new ninth graders that the key to success is getting organized and finding a system that makes sense to the individual student.

He does concede, “I didn’t do much planning ahead throughout my high school career and definitely not in my middle school career!”

But now with the duties of a SMOB, he’s pretty meticulous about using a planning calendar to stay on top of his schedule and his work.

“Things will come together, and you’ll find time to do all these things” he adds.

For those times when either the social life or academic obligations of high school seem to weigh a student down, Saeed reminds students — and not just ninth graders — “just know that there are 100 safety nets for you.”

“If you ever feel hopeless, if you ever feel like it’s too much to bear, there’s always people to go to,” Saeed said, whether that’s a trusted staff member or teacher. He added that schools have worked hard to make sure students have access to counselors, social workers and mental health resources.

For his last bit of advice, Saeed tells new high schoolers to put themselves out there.

“You’re going to find people you enjoy,” he said. “The way to do it, though, is you have to be out there and you have to talk to people.”

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Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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