High school is so tough. And I mean this in the least vague, cliché, or condescending way possible. High school means experiencing life in a paradox. Each school year moves quickly and yet if you glance at the clock too often during class, you’ll notice time has somehow gone backward 5 minutes. In high school, I built the foundations of some of my most long-lasting friendships, but also felt the betrayal of other friends leaving me behind. I’ve cried in a bathroom stall one day and had a picnic on the grass the next. In this tumultuous period, I learned as much, if not more, about myself as I did about things like essay writing and data analysis. I’m a little bit older than a teenager but still dealing with big decisions and bigger emotions. I offer a collection of advice, gathered from my own reflections as well as other almost-adults, all who have something to say to those in high school, applicable to everyone from incoming freshman to the seniors getting ready to walk.
¨ Play a sport. Join a club. Just try something new. Even if you have no experience playing rugby or knitting, if it’s something you’ve always wanted to try, give it a shot. The worst thing that could happen is that you realize you don’t like it as much as you thought. You can stop any time.
¨ If your school offers services like tutoring or counselling, don’t be afraid to take advantage of those. They usually provide good one-on one assistance.
¨ Spend as much time with your friends as you can, because it gets so much harder once people graduate, go to different schools, or start working. If that means joining the same club together that’s cool. Maybe all you guys have time for is studying next to each other. Even that amount of time can mean so much.
¨ Google might be free but so is the library. Please figure out how to use it.
¨ Use different colored pens when taking notes. It helps to distinguish main points from the less important information as well as your own thoughts. If switching between colors takes too much effort while in class, figure out a system of underlining or circling or drawing arrows. Whichever works for you.
¨ Speak up when you don’t understand something. You’re not dumb, you’re learning something for the first time, and you won’t always get it the first time around. If speaking up during class is too uncomfortable, just talk to the teacher when class ends. Maybe they can explain it on the spot, or you can set up a different time to meet.
¨ Not everyone starts dating in high school. It’s not a big deal if you’re single.
¨ Start focusing on your mental health. Take some time to figure out what things have a negative impact on you and catalog what things help improve that. If a certain class stresses you out, what can you do after or during the class to calm you back down? Figuring out these triggers and coping mechanisms early on in your academic career will make the later years so much more bearable.
¨ I’m begging you to cut down on the coffee and energy drinks. Your body is not meant to be vibrating at the frequency of sound. Also, stop skipping lunch? Please?
¨ Don’t take yourself so seriously. I’m talking to every student but especially seniors. You’re not cool because you think pep rallies and school dances are lame. It just makes you sound boring. Nothing is as cringey as you think it is. Don’t hold yourself back from having fun just because you think you’re hot stuff.
Some of these things I wish I had told to me before I entered high school, so I’m telling them to you now. There’s probably a lot more to be said, but everybody’s high school experience is different. There are some lessons that can only be learned if you live through them yourself. The bottom line is to not be afraid. You might be entering high school for the first time this year and you’re scared of everything going wrong, or maybe you’re an upperclassman afraid of the future after high school. Don’t worry about any of that. There’s nothing you could do that would dramatically ruin your life or your future. Just take the present moment to have as much fun as you can.