High School Survival Guide

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Do ALL your homework and develop solid study skills. // Doing all homework and assignments should go without saying. But, over the course of four years, you’re bound to experience bouts of laziness or rebellion that push you to skip that Chem or Spanish assignment “just this once.” Whatever you do, don’t listen to those voices; skipping one assignment here or there quickly turns into a slippery slope and can negatively impact your grades, academic reputation, and [subconscious] study habits. Speaking of study habits, make sure you work to develop them throughout high school. Chances are, you’ll have at least one class in four years that’s so easy you could pass with your eyes closed—resist the temptation to float by and do the bare minimum. I was always one of those kids who could ace my classes without studying…and then I got to college where my classes weren’t so easy anymore. Needless to say, I spent many many nights in those first few semesters in Red Bull-fueled study marathons because I had no idea how to study effectively and efficiently.

Don’t be afraid to make friends with your teachers and other school staff. // Teachers can make or break your experience in high school—and most of that depends on what kind of student you are. Being friendly with your teachers can mean the difference between an incredibly thoughtful, stand-out recommendation letter and one that’s simply fill-in-the-blanks. (It can also mean the difference between your 89.5% becoming an A or staying a B).

Get involved [with your school, your community, wherever]. // Join clubs. Volunteer. Do something, anything that isn’t strictly academic or social. Clubs and volunteer work stand out on a college application, and can give you a sense of belonging and purpose {feelings that don’t usually go hand-in-hand with the high school experience).

Take AP classes [if you can]. // If your school offers AP classes in subjects you’re interested or talented in, take a few! For one, AP classes are often weighted heavier than regular classes—which can really boost your GPA if you do well [note: this policy is not universal, so check with your school first]. And, scoring well on the AP Exam gives you a HUGE advantage: entering college with credits already under your belt. Transferring AP credits often fulfills [core] class requirements, and can free up your schedule to take classes you’re actually interested in.

Don’t stress over appearances. // If makeup or fashion is what gives you joy and confidence, go for it! But, don't feel like you need to spend an hour doing your make-up every morning or bankrupting your parents to have the trendiest clothes. I promise you, no one is going to remember or care if you wore a pair of sweats to school three days last week. Until my senior year of high school, I woke up an hour early to straighten my hair. Every. Single. Day. By senior year, I finally realized that no one really cared or remembered what my hair looked like [and I was left mad at myself for doing all that damage to my poor hair!].

Don’t worry if your experience doesn’t meet your expectations. // High school isn’t like the movies. Before you’re even a freshman, you’ll probably hear that high school will be “the best 4 years of your life” more times than you can count on both hands. There’s a good chance that that will wind up being total B.S.—and that’s okay. I had a mediocre high school experience [often bordering on miserable and unbearable] filled with insecurity and awkwardness, and until a couple years after graduation, I felt like I’d been cheated. But then I realized that high school was behind me, and I still had the best parts of the rest of my life to look forward to.

Make time for the people who matter.  // As you get older and more independent, you’re going to go through that stage of being “too cool” for the people who love you [your parents, friends, family, etc.]. Don’t give into the pressure of alienating yourself from the people who really matter to impress people who really don’t. Plus, it’s hard for your parents to watch you grow up under the weight of knowing soon enough you won’t need them anymore. So, indulge your mom when she wants to give you a kiss while dropping you off at school. Sit through family movie night. Reschedule silly plans to do nothing with your current friends so you can spend the night baking cookies or playing Monopoly with the people who love you most.

Don’t sweat the small stuff.  // Everything is temporary. So when you bomb that one quiz, oversleep and miss homeroom, or get that huge zit right before homecoming, remember to take it in stride—you’re better off spending your time and energy on more important stuff, like conquering your future.