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After a summer of sleeping in or doing things on your time, the alarm bell announcing that first day of school can be a rude awakening. Whether you're an anxious new freshman or a confident senior, heading back to school signals a time of transition: new classes, new teachers, new schedules, and a new social scene.

Dread it or love it, you gotta go to school. Here are some ways to make the transition from summer to school a little easier.

First-Day Mania

There's no escaping the fact that the first day of school can be crazy. New kids wander around in circles. Lockers won't open. The school nurse needs your medical records. You forgot your gym shorts. Freshmen are running in all directions, looking for their homerooms.

How can you combat first-day chaos? If you're headed to a new school, try to arrange a visit before classes begin. Explore any areas that are of particular interest, such as the gymnasium, library, or science labs. Some schools offer maps. Get one and give it a read before school starts - then keep it in your backpack until you're familiar with your new surroundings.

Your first day is also the time to bring in school supplies and paperwork. It can help to pack your backpack the night before school starts so you're not scrambling around at the last minute looking for what you need. In addition to packing basic supplies (such as notebooks, pens, pencils, and a calculator), hunt down any of the school forms that were mailed to your family over the summer: immunization (shot) records, permission slips, and class schedules.

Did you try on eight different outfits before deciding what to wear? Lots of people check out who's wearing what on the first day of school. The key is to wear what makes you feel good, whether it's a brand-new outfit or a comfy old sweater. If you plan to wear a new pair of shoes, break them in a few days beforehand or your feet may scream for relief long before last period.

Each school has a different opening-day drill. Some start with homeroom or an assembly, but others may jump right into the first-period class. You'll meet your new teachers, and they'll probably give you an overview of the course syllabus, class rules, what the semester will be like, what supplies you'll need, and expectations of your performance and behavior. Some teachers will jump right into their first lesson, others may have non-coursework activities planned. It all depends on the class and teacher.

Emotions

Here's a simple equation: new place = new emotions. Lots of people feel anxious, scared, or excited about school. Although people who are coming back as seniors may be happy they're in their final year and can't wait to visit with friends, most freshmen or new kids are likely to be tense or worried.

It's perfectly normal to feel nervous the first day of school. Getting back to the school routine and adjusting to new workloads takes some getting used to after a long summer break. If you're having a mental meltdown, think back to some previous "first days." Everything probably settled down pretty quickly once you got into the routine.

Meeting new people or getting reacquainted with classmates can feel overwhelming, especially if you're the shy or reserved type. Start small: If large groups make you nervous, try saying hi to one or two new people a day - the kid at the desk next to yours in homeroom is a good place to start. Or ask new people to sit with you in the cafeteria.

If you still feel uncomfortable after a few days, talk to the school guidance counselor, a favorite teacher, or someone else you trust about how you're feeling and what you can do. But give yourself time - most problems adjusting to school are only temporary.

Making Your Way Through the Lunchroom

What's everyone's favorite period? Lunch, what else? With foods like tacos, pizza, or cheeseburgers staring you in the face when you're at your most hungry, it can be hard to make healthy choices.

Here are some tricks to choosing the foods that will keep you focused and active throughout the day - as well as help you grow and develop throughout the school year:

  • Get a copy of the menu. If your cafeteria provides a weekly or monthly menu, check it out. Knowing what's on the menu puts you in control: You can pick and choose which days you want to buy lunch and when you want to bring your own.
  • Head for the salad bar. If your school offers a salad bar or juice machine, take advantage. If you'd rather pack, consider adding carrot sticks, a fruit cup, or pretzels to your lunch bag.
  • Think energy. Some foods are better choices than others for maintaining energy during the day. Choose low-fat proteins, like chicken, beans, or low-fat yogurt and add lots of fruits and veggies to your meal. They'll provide the vitamins and minerals you need and the energy to get through the day. Foods that have a lot of simple carbohydrates, like sugary snacks, donuts, or french fries may give you a quick rush of energy but it's not sustainable - which means you'll be left wanting more soon after you eat. The same is true of drinks filled with caffeine or sugar. You don't have to cut these out entirely - just enjoy them in moderation.
  • Stop for a snack. You can't concentrate or absorb new knowledge without a well-fed mind and body. So take along a healthy snack, like carrot sticks or trail mix, to stave off hunger between classes (don't munch during class, though, or you may face a reprimand!). Not only will this keep you going, it will also help you avoid overeating when mealtime finally arrives.
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