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High school freshmen will view their first year of high school as either a stumbling block or a stepping stone. When the school year began, they needed orientation to get out of the starting blocks. By mid-year, they may be off to a good start or they may be facing feelings of fear, hopelessness, or anxiety. What can be done for these students at the halfway point to help them be more successful?

Grand Strategy

The Master Teacher



Overall, do your best to enlist mid-year help from three groups: peers, professionals, and parents. Any one of these groups can provide help for freshmen, but all three working together is even better.


Specific Tactics

  1. Prepare and implement a freshmen assistance plan as soon as possible after the first semester. Don’t delay. Days, weeks, and months pass quickly. This plan can consist of whatever is needed based upon data collected in survey form from freshmen and their teachers. Needs may relate to how to study, how to prepare for a test, how to manage time, how to navigate the college application process, and more.
  2. Consider an assessment survey of freshmen with well-worded questions to determine what more needs to be done.
  3. Enlist help from some freshmen or upper class leaders and outstanding students who have a heart for their peers. Use them in the collaboration and the implementation of the mid-year effort to assist freshmen.
  4. Ask staff to develop a list of students who need mid-year help the most.
  5. If you had an orientation program at the beginning of the year, consider reusing portions of it for a mid-year reminder program of how to succeed. If you did not have a program for August and September, then begin to develop one for next year’s group of freshmen.
  6. Seek out those who are willing to become heroes through one-on-one help for struggling students. Make assignments and empower teachers through training and encouragement.
  7. Remind students of the importance of developing good study habits. Give them data that supports efficiency strategies that will save them time and increase their performance. Students can reduce study time and increase scores by previewing, active reading, and reviewing textbooks.
  8. Strategize ways to help students become organized.
  9. Tell freshmen (yes, again) the plan for the next four years. Freshmen need to know the plan for course selection, what courses to take to gain admittance into college, and how to go about applying to universities. Help them know the destination and see the roadmap.
  10. Stress to ninth graders the importance of attendance. Poor attendance can be more predictive of failure than low test scores.

Use the development of a mid-year effort to energize staff to develop stronger relationships with needy students. True professionals never write off students—this is especially important in the freshmen year.


NorthStar for Principals is a comprehensive, success-producing service for principals, assistant principals and building leaders. Each month an eight-page publication arrives on your desk and features proven best practices and strategies written by experts in the field. See a sample issue.  

Whether this is your first year as a principal or your 21st year, A Principal’s Guide to Making Every Day Count is the perfect all-purpose resource for helping you stay focused on your priorities and specific actions for running your school smoothly and efficiently. Each chapter of this 233-page book focuses on a different area of a principal’s work and contains tips for communication and leadership, a checklist to help you organize your efforts, and reflection questions. See the topics.   Get a FREE chapter.

Thought for the Week

AI can teach and share knowledge, sure, but it lacks the key elements of human modeling, nurturing, and connecting that are essential components of a comprehensive learning process.

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