Tips from a High School Graduate

Wow, I can’t believe it’s already been two months since I’ve graduated high school! Looking back, I would definitely say that I have learned a lot about myself and made some great memories. You’ve left the awkward years of middle school behind and you’re ready to find your niche and grow up! Sure, you have more responsibilities, more pressure from parents, teachers, and your peers and it can be overwhelming at times. But it’s also a time to find yourself, make new friends, take chances, have fun, and maybe even get your first kiss! (I for one have done everything except for the latter). I originally made a list of tips for my sister (she’s about to become a freshman), and I’d love to share it with all of you!

Tips from a High School Graduate

Don’t be afraid to make new friends and branch out

  • You’ve probably known your friends ever since elementary school and you guys do everything together. So on the first day of freshman year, you’re glad that you have a group to sit with in the lunchroom. Just remember that there are always new kids who don’t know anybody. Invite them, your lab partner, or the girl from your History class over to your table! It’s also nice to get a change of scenery, and it’s alright to sit with other people once in a while. Be friendly and open and you’ll do just fine!

Be the first one to initiate conversation with your neighbor

  • Even though you may be the most introverted person you know, the person next to you may be even more so. Also, it’s SUPER awkward to ask your neighbor’s name in the middle of the school year. Trust me- been there, done that, don’t wanna go back. Start by introducing yourself, then ask about the other classes they’re taking. It’s a great conversation starter and you may have similar classes and a new walking buddy! Plus, your neighbor will probably be the one to give you any missed notes/assignments, so get to know them and don’t be afraid!

Your best friend may no longer be your best friend anymore.

  • Everyone may seem different upon entering high school and a lot of kids will try to reinvent themselves. People change and you may find that your best friend seems like a complete stranger. If something does happen between you two (“Something” as in “We are never going to be friends anymore” type of deal), sort it out face-to-face (none of that Facebook chat stuff) and remember: Don’t spill each other’s secrets even when you’re really mad at them. They confided in you because they trust you and even though they may act completely different, they still do.

High school parties- not all that they’re hyped up to be.

  • As you walk down the halls, you may hear about “The Awesome Party last night!” or the “Dude, did you see Mike? He was so drunk- it was awesome!”. Parties can be fun and you get to hang out with friends and meet new people. However, just be aware that underage drinking is illegal and it can lead to some bad decisions that can endanger the lives of others. So just be careful, watch out for your friends, and remember. It’s cool to not drink as well. You can have parties without alcohol, so host a Game Night and invite all your friends!

Don’t give in to peer pressure- even if they are your friends.

  • Your friends have started drinking and experimenting with drugs and they ask if you want to come along. If you don’t want to do that stuff, don’t make excuses for not being able to meet up with them. Be honest and tell them that you don’t drink/do drugs. If they’re really you’re friends, they’d understand and if this creates conflict, it’s okay to hang with a different crowd. Stay in touch and when they need you, you’ll be right there to help them and they’ll see what a true friend really is.

It’s okay to say “No”

  • In your high school career, it is inevitable that you have received a “Hey, can you send me the answer to #36? I don’t get it” text or that you have sent one yourself. I’m guilty of it, too. It’s one of the many perks of having great friends. But sometimes it can be excessive. If your friend is asking for the work and answers constantly, they’re not learning anything. Their grade may suffer and part of the reason is because you’re sending them the answers. Instead of taking a picture of the work, send them the equation they need to use or better yet, meet up in the library after school so that you can tutor them. By teaching others, you understand the material better, too. If you don’t want to do that, just tell them that you’re not comfortable with sending them the answers. Friends are more than answers to Physics problems.

Classes, Teachers, and Registration

  • At my high school, we were allowed to choose our classes and register for the periods and teachers we wanted. This was done to prepare us for the college registration process (which did help, btw). Even if your high school does not do this, talk to some upperclassman you may know, siblings, and siblings’ friends so that you know which teachers to take/avoid, who’s strict on cell phones in class, and whose lectures are the most helpful.

Try to read all the books assigned in English.

  • My challenge to you is to get through at least one book in English class without using Sparknotes/GradeSaver/CliffNotes/Schmoop/or any other “supplementary site” that’s out there. It’s important to read the whole book, analyze it, take notes, and formulate your own opinion. Trust me, it’s no fun participating in a class discussion where everyone’s saying the same thing verbatim. Having your own opinion and finding textual evidence will also strengthen your essays and make you a better writer and critical thinker for the future.

Get to know your teachers and counselors

  • It may be intimidating at first and you don’t want to seem like the teacher’s pet, but ultimately, they are the ones who will write the college recommendation letters that help you get into college. High school teachers also spend about an hour every day with you for 5 days a week for 38 weeks of the year (roughly). That’s 273,600 minutes with them. Get to know them. Same thing for your counselor. Some colleges will require a counselor’s recommendation and you want to be more than a name on a list to them. Go into their office, talk to them, tell them about your plans. It’s part of a counselor’s job to help you through this process, so give them something to work with.

Organization

  • Use that planner! Write down your assignments and important dates so that you don’t miss anything. Also, don’t throw away any past papers/homework problems/assignments from the beginning of the year because it may be on your finals!

School Supplies

  • If you’re like me, then lists are everything. If I see a school supply list, I need to get everything on there. So when I saw the class syllabus, I bought multiple 3-Ring Binders and plastic sleeves, labeled the dividers, and ended up only using one of them. Get to know your organization style so that you don’t overbuy materials. I found that I worked better with a 5-Subject Notebook and an expanding file folder for all my classes. I also had a separate plastic folder for all my homework assignments. But that’s just me. You do whatever helps you stay organized!

Name Brand Clothes/Bags aren’t everything

  • Any type of clothing (name brand or not) is a method of self-expression. Everybody has their own unique sense of style and it doesn’t matter if you own four Steve Madden boots or zero. Be YOU!

Surround yourself with reliable friends.

  • If your current friends only talk to you when it’s convenient for them (i.e. homework answers, they need a ride, etc.) or they’re doing things that you don’t want to do, or if you find that they are dragging you down, it’s okay to find new friends who support you and love you for who you are. The initial step of moving away may be scary, but it’s well worth it in the long run and your high school years won’t be made up of memories of loneliness or peer pressure.

Join a few clubs that you are passionate about

  • Go to your school’s club fair and put yourself on the email list for all the clubs you may be interested in. Heck, sign up for Science Olympiad, Botany Club, or another subject you know absolutely nothing about! You may find that you enjoy the subject- you never know until you try! Attend a couple of meetings for the ones that really catch your eye and if you really like it, keep going! Just remember. You want to invest your time in clubs that are meaningful to you and that you are truly passionate about. Don’t stretch yourself too thin. You want depth and quality, not quantity. I am a firm believer that if you do what you love, it’s well worth the energy and time. You can also read about how clubs help you in Applying to College.

Take chances and explore

  • Ever hear that cliche saying “You never know until you try”? Well, I’m telling you, there’s a reason it’s used so much. I would much rather be the person who tried a subject or activity and found it wasn’t for me than the person who didn’t try at all and still thought it wasn’t for them. So join a new club, try out for a sport, and ask that cute boy to the dance!

Well, there’s my two cents for starting high school, hopefully it helps! If you have any more suggestions or tips, comment below! Remember, everybody’s going through the same thing, so don’t be afraid! Keep your chin up, go forth, and explore! Be YOU.

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