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7 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me About High School

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High school.

Those two words stir a substantial amount of different emotions among many people. For instance, one who was very academically oriented during high school may often connote the phrase "high school" with feelings of stress, coupled with feelings of competitiveness and satisfaction, all of which are commonly associated with the constant internal desire to receive high grades and standardized test scores. On the other hand, someone who was very involved with an extracurricular activity of some sort - whether it may be heavily participating in a varsity sport, or being the leader of a large club or organization - may often connote the phrase "high school" with feelings of intense passion, diligence and pride. In addition to the aforementioned emotional connotations, people may also feel nostalgia, reminiscence of self-discovery, and even distant feelings of young love when reminded about their times in high school.

Who knew that four years could leave such a large impact on someone's life? In addition to being some of the most memorable years of one's life, high school can be one of the most psychologically difficult time periods of one's life. It can also be a time period of self-reflection.

Here are some of the tips I wish someone had told me when I first entered high school:

1) Maintain open communication with teachers.
One student rises her hand and asks question
While they may sometimes inflict mental and emotional stress and pile work on you, your teachers are not your enemies. Most teachers are willing to help you clarify topics that you do not understand if you ask for their assistance. Some are even open to giving you personal and life Advice.

At the beginning of high school, I only viewed teachers as people who were paid to assess my knowledge and give me grades. However, as time progressed, I began to view teachers in a much more human light, and I realized that they could give me valuable insight regarding a variety of topics. I found that I could turn to different teachers depending on what I needed.

For instance, I turn to some teachers for academic advice and knowledge, whereas I turn to other teachers for life advice and philosophical insight. To add, most high schools allot a certain amount of time for free periods each week. The amount of free time people have in their schedule can vary depending on the courses they take and the school they attend. When you have a free period, I would suggest visiting teachers to clarify topics you may need help on (if the teachers you are visiting are not busy) or finishing up homework and other work you may have. Your teachers are a very valuable resource! Do not underappreciate their importance.

2) It's OK to say "no" sometimes.Students walking in school hallway
Think about all the times people have asked you to do a favor for them. How many of those times have you had to sacrifice something in order to fulfill that person's requests? In high school, you are going to have an increased workload and more responsibilities. You may not always be able to help someone due to the commitments you have to make, whether they may be academic or personal, along with the expectations you may have to live up to. I understand that you may want to be a nice, helpful person and lend your friend a hand, but you have to think about yourself, too.

I am the type of person who loves to help people whenever I can. In the beginning of high school, I used to assist people whenever they needed help with something. However, since I always went out of my way to help people, I wasn't able to fully commit to my responsibilities. I eventually came to the realization that I needed to put own needs and responsibilities over other people sometimes. If whoever is asking you to do a favor for them is really your friend, then he or she certainly will not mind if you are unable to help them due to your other priorities.

3) Time management is essential.
Young woman sits working at books
Time management is something that I struggled with at the beginning of high school. Throughout middle school, I had very good grades, but I had a tendency to procrastinate on my work and wait until the last minute to complete a task. I was able to get by in middle school with my grades, but when I entered high school, I soon realized that I had to use my time wisely in order to succeed.

I, along with many of my friends, found that downloading computer applications to block leisure websites such as Facebook and YouTube, for instance, helped avoid procrastination to a great extent. In addition, as I briefly mentioned earlier, it is helpful to utilize your free periods to do work rather than socializing with your friends. Of course, you should use some of your free time to socialize as you cannot constantly keep doing work since doing so may be detrimental to your mental health and well-being. However, you should spend most of your free periods completing work in order to maximize productivity.

My high school, in particular, generally gives students a large amount of free periods. Every day, I have at least one hour of free time, so I like to plan what I'm going to accomplish during each free period at the beginning of the day. Also, I find it helpful to make a schedule of what activities I am going to engage in after school, so I have more structure when completing assignments. In addition, I advise you to not underestimate short time spans of free time. For instance, if you have about 15 minutes before your next class starts, it would be helpful to complete a task (preferably a long-term one), such as studying for a big test you may have or memorizing SAT vocabulary. Each minute you spend doing work will add up.

4) Be yourself!
Two teenagers laughing at the park
It is human nature to have the desire to fit in with others and be a part of something. Humans are social creatures, who enjoy being in the company of others who share the same views and beliefs as them and help create a positive atmosphere. In order to fit in with the crowd, many people feel the need to change things about themselves or put on an artificial facade in order to avoid discrimination.

I used to greatly care about what other people thought about me, but when I stopped caring about others' opinions regarding me, I felt a greater sense of freedom. I believe that it is important to preserve your reputation to some extent, but you should not completely change who you are just because you want to fit in with others. If the people you surround yourself with do not respect you for who you are, then they are not worthy of being your friends.

5) Plan ahead.
Back to school diary.
As I briefly mentioned before, on a short-term level, it is helpful to plan what you are going to accomplish on a daily basis at the beginning of the day. In addition, I also believe that it is important to plan your long term goals to some extent. While your long term goals may change over time as you develop various interests and discover your true passions, it is important to have a general idea of the steps you will take to achieve them.

I personally have plans regarding my academics and my extracurricular activities. My academic plans consist of the various courses I plan to take during each year of high school, as well as the standardized examinations I will be taking each year, such as the SAT, SAT subject tests and the ACT.

In regards to the standardized examinations, I made it a priority to write down the testing dates of each examination since some testing dates may coincide with each other. My plans regarding my extracurricular activities consist of clubs and organizations I plan to join, volunteering opportunities and team activities of any sort, such as sports teams or the debate team, for instance.

In addition, I also like to plan what activities I will engage in during each summer beforehand so that I will spend my summers productively. When planning for my extracurricular activities, I like to write down the estimated weekly time commitment I need to make in order to excel in whatever I participate in, as well as when I will need to commit to them.

6) Get involved with extracurriculars.
Girl soccer player kicking soccer ball at net
Extracurriculars contribute to a large part of one's high school experience, and they are among the things people remember the most about their high school years. I would suggest getting involved in extracurricular activities right from the beginning of high school.

For instance, you can become very involved in clubs or team events at your school, or you can start your own club or a larger organization of some sort. You may even discover your true passion through the extracurricular activities you participate in.

In addition, I believe that it is important that one remembers not to indulge in too many activities. It is better to excel in a few activities than to participate in many activities and have a mediocre performance in all of them. If you keep college admissions in mind when joining particular extracurricular activities, commitment is important, so you should join extracurriculars that you plan to greatly commit to on a long-term basis, rather than ones you are going to drop after a short period of time.

7) Don't slack off.
Report Card and School Supplies
Your grades and academics are very important, especially when applying to colleges. It is imperative that you maintain high grades at all times and have good grades right from the beginning of high school. I personally find that it is so easy for my grades to drop, but once they drop, then it is very difficult for me to bring them back up.

In addition, you should not underestimate the importance of your freshman year grades. Many people I know regret not trying harder during their freshman year of high school since their freshman year academic performance affected their cumulative GPA and set their GPA up for the rest of high school.

If you had poor grades at the beginning of high school, then do not worry! Just make sure you start working harder and become more focused on school. Colleges like to see an upward trend when assessing one's grades. Most importantly, you should learn from your mistakes. What may have caused your grades to go down? What are different measures you can take in the future to avoid repeating the situation? Make sure you maintain a strong work ethic in order to avoid slacking off.

Those are the things that I wish I had known before starting high school. I would like to add that the aforementioned points made are based off of my own opinion and that you may or may not agree with what I have to say, which is completely OK! The points made are also influenced by my background since I attend a very competitive high school where most students are greatly academically oriented.

My high school experience is different from many of my friends who attend a less competitive high school. I strongly believe that regardless of the situation, it is important that you don't stress out and stay positive. After all, high school is four years of your life that you will never get back, so you should make the most out of your experience, whatever it may be.

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