As a recent high school graduate and new blogger, I wanted to write a post with the advice that I wish someone had given me before I started high school. It’s a time with a lot of hormones, academic and social changes, and drama, so you’ll want to know a few things in advance to help you out. Look no further, here’s the gist of what you need to know.
1. Join (at least) one club in the first few weeks of school and stick with it all four years.
Don’t let fear stop you from attending a meeting for a club in September. The biggest regret that I heard from my friends when they were at the end of the four years was that they’d wish they’d joined something earlier. Don’t wait. My “big sister” in high school – from our big sister/little sister program – encouraged me to join Model United Nations the first week of school and I’m eternally grateful that I did, as it ended up being my favorite club in high school and even influenced my decision on what I want to study in college. Joining a club allows you to find a small, close community that will guide you through the most difficult first year and will be there for you every year after that when you face challenges. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the most “popular” club, as long as it’s something you’re interested in and can be passionate about. Some common clubs I suggest looking into are: a school literary magazine, cooking club, theatre (cast or crew), Model UN, choir, book club, a cultural club, speech and debate, film club, Best Buddies, environmental club, or DECA. Even if you’re not 100% sure you’ll like it, push yourself to attend a meeting, invite a friend and check it out. I promise you there’s nothing to be scared of, club advisors are some of the best teachers who really care about what they do, giving up their own time so that you can do something you like. You’ll likely get close with them ( I still have my director and Model UN advisor’s cell numbers saved in my phone) and have someone to ask to write you a letter of recommendation who knows you outside of the classroom.
2. Don’t try to do EVERYTHING.
Limit yourself to three or four activities outside of classes that you enjoy or else you’ll exhaust yourself and burn out. Even if you have superhuman abilities and don’t need sleep (in which case I’m really jealous), there’s simply not enough hours in the day to give to everything if you try to do more than that. You should want to give your all to everything you do, so remember: quality > quantity. In high school, people wondered how I did everything that I did while maintaining good grades, but by not biting off more than I could chew, I actually ended up achieving more. It might not make sense now, but trust me, you’ll see. Also, through giving my all to just a handful of activities rather than minimal effort to a large amount of activities, I was able to achieve multiple leadership positions and even win a few awards because of the effort I put in.
3. Remember that upperclassmen don’t care about you.
This is not saying that juniors and seniors will be mean to you, but instead the exact opposite. Upperclassmen are very focused on their own lives – college applications and visits, their social life, classes, etc. – and they aren’t looking at you in the hallways to talk about you and make fun of you. They have better things to do. The only times me and my friends ever talked about freshmen was when we were reminiscing about backpacks too full or running to classes because we were scared we wouldn’t make it time. Also, another piece of advice when it comes to upperclassmen: DO. NOT. DATE. ONE. Just don’t.
4. Be prepared, but avoid being the over-prepared freshman.
There’s no school supplies lists anymore. I wouldn’t suggest buying anything except a pack or two of looseleaf paper (I used wide-ruled at first, but grew to love college-ruled instead by junior year) and some pens and pencils before school starts. At my school, teachers would tell you exactly what you needed within the first week of class. The first week of school each year, I just took a purse/tote bag with paper and writing utensils and that worked out amazingly until I actually had things to put in my backpack the second week and beyond. However, every school is different, so I encourage you to find someone who’s been through it recently to talk to about what’s typical to bring the first day to avoid embarrassment. When it’s time to buy supplies, make sure you only buy what you need. It’s so important, I’ll say that again: Make sure you only buy what you need! Your self-esteem and your back, shoulders, and neck will thank you. Also, try to clean out your backpack at least once a month to avoid clutter and an annoyingly heavy bag. Teachers give a lot of throwaway papers that you end up not needing, so only keep what you need for the final or midterm and get rid of the rest.
And do yourself a favor and don’t run to your classes. You have enough time to get there and the teacher won’t mind at all if you’re a few minutes late. They know you’re still getting into the swing of a new world, and soon enough you’ll learn the best way to get from point A to point B. Until then, it’s better to not sweat it.
5. The cliche: Have fun.
Make the most of this experience. Don’t act like you’re “too cool” to have fun at pep rallies and, during the first day of classes, sit next to someone you don’t know and talk to them. It’s so important to form friendships, even if they end up not lasting for one reason or another. It’s true that friendships fade, but they’ll always be someone you know and have good memories with and could reach out to if you really need to. Avoid losing friendships by avoiding drama. It’s tempting, I know, and it’s everywhere but it’s not worth it. People will try to wrap you into it, but you have to refuse to give in because drama in high school is so, so fleeting. It’s shorter than the attention span of the 14-year-old boys in your classes, so even though it feels like everything, just wait it out and don’t involve yourself. Stick with friends who aren’t always wrapped up in drama and involved in it; the “friends” who are always in some type of drama are NEVER good for you.
Take time during your weekends to relax with Netflix or to go out and do something in your town with friends, or even just go to see the school show with them or to the basketball or football game if they’re a big part of your school’s social scene. Making sure that you talk to people and have friends outside of class is really important, and it might not happen immediately but, over time, make sure you form those kinds of friendships that run deeper than talking when you’re bored in Math.
High school isn’t supposed to be the best four years of your life and, if I’m being honest, it won’t be. But if you keep your priorities straight, work hard in your classes, and make an effort to form real friendships, with a little bit of self-reflection you’ll do great and they’ll be bearable, dare I say enjoyable.