Here At Madison

How To Survive Your Freshman Year

A guide to all incoming freshmen from someone who just finished their freshman year!

How To Survive Your Freshman Year

Updated: July 12, 2022

June 15, 2022

So you’ve just graduated from middle school and will no longer have to tell adults that you’re in Junior high school, but rather, high school.  Some of you may be excited—others, not so much. Some of you might consider it a miracle that you’ve made it past eighth grade, and you have no idea how you’re going to manage high school: SATs, AP classes, extracurriculars, college applications—you suddenly have to grow up. Trust me, I’ve been you before. I just finished my freshman year. My name is Spencer and I’ll be your tour guide on how to survive your freshman year.

If you’re reading this, you’re most likely a rising freshman starting your first year here at Madison. Many of you might have taken the SHSAT and tried for Brooklyn Tech or Stuyvesant and ended up here. And I’m going to tell you something that you probably won’t believe, but Madison is a good school. There is a plethora of opportunities and wonderful people that are willing to help you figure things out, but I’m sure you have bigger, scarier things to worry about. So here’s a list of things you need to know:

  1. When passing through scanning, phones, keys, jewelry, belts, and other items with metal will get you flagged. Your best bet for the first few days is to put everything in your backpack and refrain from the jewelry until you figure out what you can and can’t wear.

  2. Don’t skip Lab! You will miss lunch one day of the week; you can eat a snack in class or in the hallways if you want. 

  3. Bathrooms are located on the second, third and fourth floor, as well as in the cafeteria.

  4. Wear your ID at all times. You do not want to get yelled at by a staff member. Get a customized ID if you find yourself forgetting or don’t have a will to wear it.

  5. You only have four minutes to get to class. Usually, it should be enough time. If not, talk to your teacher. The stairs never get easier. Look on the bright side; it’s a free cardio session every day! 

  6. It takes time to make friends. Talk to people and always be kind. Don’t worry, everyone’s in the same boat as you.

  7. Join a club! Clubs are a fantastic way to broaden your horizons and meet new people. Our clubs range from the Math Club or MIT tech club to the Womens’ Health Club and Drama Club. If you cannot find any clubs that interest you, start your own!

  8. The school’s website is, and its official Instagram is @jmhsbklyn.

  9. Never be afraid to ask for help! It could be one of your teachers, a security guard, a dean in the hallway, or even another student. Every single teacher will be more than willing to help you.

  10. Madison is a big school. You might not even know everyone’s names in your classes by the end of the year.

With all of that being said, you’re probably overwhelmed and have a lot of questions. Here is an overview of all of the programs at Madison, more commonly referred to as ‘houses’ (just like in Harry Potter).

Law Institute: Madison is most well known for the Law Institute, and for a good reason. Some of its most famous alumni pursued this career path. If you have an interest in the Legal Field or want to overcome your civic ignorance, you will fit right in. You’ll take Intro to Law I and Justice in America in your freshman year, and then courses like Constitutional Law and Criminology later on. The Law Institute has many extracurricular activities such as Mock Trial, Moot Court and We The People. It’s a difficult house but worth the hard work.

Medical and Health Sciences Academy: This house is a fantastic choice for anyone who has an interest in the medical/scientific field or simply wants to be an informed citizen. Those in the Medical and Health Sciences Academy take Advanced Placement (AP) science courses as part of their house sequence. Depending on whether or not you took Living Environment in the eighth grade, you’ll take Chemistry as a science class and Anatomy or First Responder as an elective. You will even have the chance to become CPR/First Aid Certified!

Academy of Finance: The Academy of Finance offers many courses related to economics and finances such as Microsoft Certification, Principles of Finance, Principles of Accounting and more. There are also opportunities for internships, trips, and other activities that will look great on your resume.

International House: The International House is for students who speak languages other than English and might have a different first language, whether that be Russian, Spanish or Cantonese. This house celebrates the diversity of Madison and is a good fit for students who want to take the English as a Second Language Achievement Test (NYSESLAT).

Literature, Arts, and Music (LAM) House: In this house, you can choose between many different electives like Guitar, Chorus, Theater and art classes. The LAM house has many extracurricular activities and even goes on trips. The student body is very welcoming, and if you have a creative mind or a knack for music then you’ll love it.

Academy of Information Technology: A less known house, but still just as exciting as the other ones; in the IT house, students take Principles of IT and Robotics in their freshman year, later having the opportunity to learn programming languages like Python and Java. If you desire a career in computer science or engineering, this is the house for you!

Mathematics Academy: Love it or hate it, math is undoubtedly an essential skill for a multitude of careers. Those who love it and join the Mathematics Academy take Special Topics in Mathematics and AP Computer Science Principles, and will have the chance to compete in city and statewide competitions. You’ll be an expert by the time you graduate from this house!

Exploration House: Does this all seem profuse to you? Worry not, for the Exploration House is here to help! The staff at Madison will work with you to help figure out your interests and potential careers so that you can join one of the houses.

You can learn about Madison’s houses in more detail on its website.

Still worried? Here’s some advice from former freshmen!

"If you could give one piece of advice to incoming freshmen, what would it be?"

Don't be afraid to reach out to other kids! Sometimes our own thoughts might hold us back from making great new friends because it's easy to convince yourself that you're not worthy of having meaningful friendships, but you absolutely are. If you see someone you think you might get along with, start up a conversation! Everyone is probably pretty nervous since it's their first time in high school, and making a friend can make things more comfortable for everyone!

-Eve Becker, LAM House

While not the most optimistic quote, this is an important one:

No matter how hard you work, be ready for disappointment. Failure is inevitable, and no matter how hard you work you won’t always get what you want. Don’t expect to be where you want to be, expect to be where you are.

-Zara Gingishvili, Law Institute

Personally, I would say: do the homework. So many points get taken off for late assignments or just no homework at all; it's so easy to avoid. Join clubs! You can make so many friends in clubs, and it makes your transcript so much better. I heard colleges love when students have specific interests. Like for example, I adore music and drama; because of that I'm in drama and guitar club, and I take guitar as an actual class because I love it! Do what you love! You’re getting free experiences! Have fun! Enjoy everything!

-Izabelle Ilazarova, LAM House

Never be embarrassed about what you did, whether it is answering a question incorrectly or not getting a grade you expected, unless it is inappropriate—then reflect on it. Own up to it. Don't dwell on the past.

-Keely Wu, Law Institute

Meet some new folks and build a bond with your teachers. Don’t take advantage of them, though.

-Erick Largo, Mathematics Academy

A final word from me: have a support system. My freshman year was very difficult and I had to balance schoolwork, extracurriculars, my social life, and navigate the world as a Queer person. There are people who care—never be scared to reach out. It doesn’t have to be a guidance counselor; it can be your favorite teacher or any trusted adult in the building. Go out there and have fun, but most importantly, be you.