To incoming freshmen: How to make the most of your high school years


Ah, high school. The four-year period of everyone’s life that seems to make for some of the most memorable stories, regrettable moments, and hysterically inaccurate television shows and movies. Despite its portrayal in media as a fantastical and unforgettable moment in life, high school is typically downright stressful and frustrating, regardless of whether you’re a freshman or a senior getting ready for college. The most important factors to remember for “surviving” high school are generally straight forward: try to stay organized, avoid drama as much as possible, make the most of your education and be patient with yourself.

Organization may be the lamest piece of advice anyone could possibly offer, but staying on top of assignments and upcoming exams with a planner is a lifesaver, especially if you’re a master procrastinator like myself. That doesn’t mean you’d need a “Leslie Knope” level binder with every goal for the next ten years planned out, but having a basic layout from week-to-week relieves a lot of stress and helps you balance your life.

Usually, high school is most notorious for its drama and there is plenty of it to go around. Difficulties between friendships, strained relationships, frustrating teachers or any other new piece of gossip will float around the school in a matter of hours, so it’s best to avoid spreading it or really acknowledging it. If you stay as uninvolved as you possibly can, chances are you won’t get looped into any arguments or long rants on Snapchat about people that can’t be trusted.

That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t interact with anyone, though. Introduce yourself to new people, make allies in classes and don’t be afraid to reach out to someone that looks like they need a friend to talk to. Worst case scenario: reach out to a teacher you know and trust. It may seem strange, but most are your greatest allies and would be glad to offer advice.

Drama aside, high school is also the homestretch before the transition into adulthood and college so make the most of it while you can. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you’re struggling in a class or don’t understand some new material and pay attention as best you can. Communication with a teacher or guidance counselor is key to keeping your academic activity organized.

There’s usually a learning curve for incoming underclassmen, especially when I was a freshman. Basically, stay on top of your assignments when you can. It’s important to be a teenager and enjoy life, so it’s acceptable to slip up occasionally as long as you take responsibility for it and don’t turn it into a habit.

Honestly, the advice the really matters is to be patient with yourself. High school is full of raging hormonal teenagers battling with their own inner demons in addition to focusing on graduating. Never be afraid to take a break and focus on your mental health if it becomes too overwhelming. We often try to achieve perfection or get swept up in the idea that the only way to be successful is to spread yourself thin with anxiety and stress. Be kind to yourself and recognize when you need a moment to focus on yourself.

My overall message: just be yourself. The most cliché and stereotypical advice I could offer is also the most accurate. Even if you don’t know exactly who you are yet, there’s no need to worry. We’re constantly learning new things about ourselves and taking the time in high school to learn more about yourself is what really helps everything fall into place. Achieve what you can, both academically and emotionally, and try to improve the things you can’t. Take new classes, meet new people, join a club and let yourself have some fun occasionally.

Because at the end of the day, learning about yourself is just as important as graduating.