High school was no musical, that’s for sure. Common scenes in my life over the past four years include late nights studying under only the light of my lamp, crying in the bathroom after failing a test, and being late for school because I spent too much time picking out an outfit. I was not at all prepared for freshman year, and I would do anything to go back in time and help out past and future me. But, just because high school was hard for me doesn’t mean it has to be hard for you. There are many things I did not know about high school as a freshman—heck, I’m still fighting it out at the end of my senior year! However, I can share how I made it through my four years and ended up committing to college.
Going into freshman year, I had no initiative to get my work done and get good grades. I thought that I had all the time in the world to make my grade point average (GPA) go up, but unfortunately, that was not the case. Once I got into my junior year, even with straight As and extra credit, my GPA would not budge. I didn’t care freshman year and I was more focused on my social life, which made my last year in high school very hard. There are a lot of things I wish I could go back and tell younger Emily. I would tell her to actually read the article she was assigned, to meet with her teachers when she needed help, and to study for the test instead of relying on her long term memory. Saying I made a lot of mistakes in high school is an understatement. However, I learned from these mistakes and it will help me going into my adult life. Underclassmen are living through these times when I made my mistakes so here is some advice from my older wiser self.
Like I said, I put a lot of my focus on my social life freshman year, wanting to make my circle of friends as big as possible. This did not benefit me in my academic life because I had no time or effort left over for my schoolwork. I didn’t join any clubs until my junior year because I always thought they were not important. I was completely wrong here: clubs benefit you and your social skills a ton. Joining clubs that interest you or relate to your future plans will not only show initiative to college or employers but will grow your knowledge as well. Clubs create environments to meet new people and make your circle bigger while participating in something you enjoy. It is also very important to sign up for clubs that excite you and are about things that you are passionate about. I was always interested in the women’s rights club because women’s rights are something I am extremely passionate about. Unfortunately, I let my anxiety get in the way and never signed up for the club because none of my friends were in it. This happened a lot during my early high school years, whether that be joining the swim team freshman year or joining the sustainability club. I regret allowing myself to limit the opportunities I gave myself. Not joining any clubs when I was younger made it hard to make up for the lost time when college applications came around.
Where I put too much focus on my social life and not enough on academics, other students had the opposite problem. Matteo Caruccio (‘22) was one of those students. “I think I could have invested more time into my social life instead of just focusing on my schoolwork,” said Caruccio. When in high school, balancing being a teenager with school can be hard. I found that dedicating at least one day a week to just time with friends and family benefited me with stress from my academic life. A lot of my peers like Caruccio only focused on their school work and didn’t allow time to do things they loved. I think forcing yourself to start new hobbies or invite a friend to the beach could help pry you away from your schoolwork. If you are in need of some hobby ideas, I started painting the landscape around me, working out, writing in a bullet journal, and starting a new book. Anything to get your mind away from that long Schoology to-do list will benefit you and your mental health.
It was also beneficial for me to find a core group of friends I could always lean on. When entering high school, you are put into a whole new pool of people and it’s important you find those who will benefit your life. I have stuck with the friends I made freshman year but I also made new friends along the way. Having friends who have similar values to you will help find that healthy social/school balance. A value that was important to me in my high school years was taking pride in my schoolwork. This made it so that my friends understood when I needed to stay home and do homework but we could also hang out often.
Around my sophomore year, I found a good balance between my social life and my academics. I found that planning times in advance with friends helped me schedule my schoolwork around my social plans. I also used the app TimeTree which is a shared calendar app with friends to find out when they had work, sports, clubs, etc. Planning is so important in high school, so if you want a healthy life and work balance, planning is your best friend.
When you enter high school, grades are the top topic of conversation. “What did you get on the quiz?” “What’s your grade in world cultures?” I don’t think I have gone a single day of my high school career without talking about my grades. Yes, grades are important and if you choose the path to college they will benefit you in the long run. However, grades should not be the focus of all of your life. Life in high school is different for everyone and for my first two years of high school I did not put much time into my grades. In middle school, it was not stressed how much grades matter even in your freshman year. All I was told was that high school would be harder, and it is. But I could have been so much more prepared for high school.
Like me, Jayson Blaisdell (‘22) would have changed the way his freshman year went. “I didn’t know how important grades were actually going to be for college. I just thought it was graduate [then] goodbye” said Blaisdell. Now that all the seniors are receiving their transcripts of all their years of high school, it can be hard to view your past grades. This is all the more reason to put in the hard work right from the kickstart. Blaisdell also went on to say “ my junior year, I really needed to compensate for what I didn’t do my freshman year.” I can not stress enough how much grades matter in all years of high school. Even if your plan is not to go to college, putting in effort all four years will help you once you graduate.
When it comes to clubs and sports, I was lacking during high school. As I stressed before, I let my anxiousness steer me away from joining clubs that stood for things I was passionate about. I think joining at least two clubs per school year will put you in a really nice spot for graduation. Picking out these clubs of choice is very important as well, because if you join the science club and you hate science… well, that would be boring. Joining clubs that do things you enjoy or are passionate about will make the time you spend there so much better.
Clubs are not the only thing you can do to better your experience during high school. I had a job all four years of high school and that gave me a lot of real-world experiences. I think a job allows you to show responsibility and manage your time wisely. Another thing I did during high school was find people in the community who worked in the area I was interested in. I am majoring in education next year so I used our Extended Learning Opportunity (ELO) program in high school to work with a local teacher in her classroom. This program was not something I learned about until my senior year and it would have been amazing to do internships earlier. Mr. Peschel in counseling runs this program so if you are interested email him!
High school is a different experience for everyone and maybe you take a completely different path than I did. In school, you have to know yourself and determine what works for you. This may not be what all of your peers are doing to make it through but that’s ok. The last thing I can stress to anyone coming into high school is to be yourself. Don’t let petty people ruin your happiness. Find your group, join those clubs you want to join, reach out for help, and stay true to yourself.
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