I am an 18-year-old (female) senior who has been to four schools in total. Where I live, two or three schools are common. Also, we typically have all our classes together, afar from languages, so we spend at least 75% of our days together as a class.
We all know that moment of sheer panic when entering a new school or workplace. Here are some of my tips for coping with new beginnings and excelling at school, both socially and academically, which is why I will split this into two parts, this first one being dedicated to the social side.
1) Introduce yourself properly
This is very difficult but it will help you. On my very first day of school I was too shy to do this, which made my entire experience there miserable because I didn't know anyone's name. By the end of my time there, I knew only half of people's names.
At my second school, there were only twelve students in the beginning, and I knew everyone from Kindergarten, which was great.
At my third school, I tried to introduce myself but we were 27 people and that overwhelmed me, but I knew everyone's name after a week, which helped me later on.
At my fourth school, I hugged every girl in that class, which was a very good move because they thought that I'm very strange, which is something Chris Voss describes as "dropping an extreme anchor" in his book "Never split the difference". Since they thought I was a complete weirdo, anything I did after that didn't bother them as much. This enabled me to have great relationships and establish myself as an important part of this school. I also knew everyone's name after a week.
2) Don't be yourself, don't try to fit in
This sounds like bad advice but has helped me immensely. I used to share too much of myself too soon, and only when I stopped doing that was I successful at school socially.
Something I've always done is that I never tried to fit into a certain group, enabling me to be a social chameleon blending into most environments. This will work if you have many topics to talk about, for which I highly recommend reading many different books.
Once people think they got to know you, start opening up bit by bit.
3) Be nice to people nobody else is nice to
This is hard, especially since by high school the outsiders are ususally outsiders for a reason. However, especially when you're new at a school and know absolutely no one, after the first two days you should know who the group likes and who they ostracise. Don't do that, it's childish and at some point they'll realise that too.
The outsiders will appreciate your effort and often have more to offer than the mainstream folks.
4) Figure out who the leaders of certain groups are
Every group has a leader. When you know who it is, you can befriend them or simply be nice to avoid getting into trouble. They may have your back when you do this.
For some reason, I have been told that I am the alpha of our class, simply because I state my opinion when others are afraid to. This has helped in situations in which collective punishment was around the corner for something we didn't do for example, but also when people were picking on each other. It doesn't mean that I have to be nice all the time for people to like me and neither do you. Being authentic gets you credit - just don't be your fullest self from the very start.
5) Know your options
If you do get bullied, which has become fairly likely, be aware that you can transfer schools. To my knowledge, this is more difficult in the US when you want to transfer to a school that is not in your school district. However, your wellbeing is important.
I was bullied in elementary and middle school - knowing I would go to another school soon helped me endure. I got help and changed my approach, mindset and outlook on life. But most importantly, I didn't let it bring me down and neihter should you.
In your experience, what has helped you to find new friends in a new environment?
How do you cope with new beginnings?
What is your advice for excelling at school socially?