For a special edition of Community Voices, we at Heads Up Teens wanted to share some of our personal high school experiences, general advice, and lessons we’ve picked up over the years. If you’re not already acquainted with our team, the five of us are all seniors at Oakton High School and have witnessed firsthand what highschool has in store. As the new school year just started, we thought of no better time to compile some of our most imperative tips that we wished we knew when we were younger. Even if this is not your first year, we encourage all of you to give this a read as it’s honestly applicable regardless of your age. These tidbits are what we genuinely feel is essential knowledge and can serve as something to reflect on as we finish up our highschool careers. The five of us have worked together to create a comprehensive list of what we see as the real ‘highschool experience’ as supported by our own unique experiences and takeaways. That’s really what Community Voices is all about; a highschool guide by real high school seniors. Without further delay, listed below are our greatest lessons from high school as written by the Heads Up Teens team.
Hey everyone, Pranay here. I hope you’re off to a wonderful start with your school year, and I’ve got two tips which should hopefully make it even better. Let’s get into it, shall we?
- Set standards for yourself
One of my biggest regrets from when I started out high school is not caring enough about my performance. I remember I would get home, play outside, watch TV, and then start my homework far later than I needed to, as if I was still in 5th grade. I knew I had the potential to do better, but not caring was my norm and I never had the motivation to change it. The thing about not caring is that it becomes a habit. So what to do? Set standards for yourself. Regardless of how far into the school year you are, it’s critical that you know what you want to achieve. Standards are something you can always use to fairly analyze your progress, and evaluate areas for improvement. They can come in the form of goals, like setting a minimum grade you want to get in a class, or in the form of routines, such as prioritizing your homework after school or simply getting up on time. You really want to start the year on a good cadence before things pick up, it’s much easier to make changes now than later.
- Don’t Set Boundaries for Yourself
I used to see myself as a non-academically-inclined person, and that’s caused me problems in the long run. Now, I feel like I’m lagging behind the peers which I’m competing against to get into college. But what’s worse is that I feel like I wasted two whole years! Looking back, I don’t remember the episodes of Friends that I binged on weeknights; I remember the few times where I felt good about myself and what I’d accomplished.
Breaking boundaries certainly doesn’t just apply to academics. Don’t limit yourself from things like sports, music, drama, or other extracurriculars based on personal paradigms. Being open minded to these new types of experiences, regardless of stereotypes associated with them, gives you an experienced perspective that’s super valuable. I remember one time I stumbled upon my school’s break dancing team during a practice, and on a whim asked if I could join for a bit. They turned out to be super nice, and I turned out to be a great dancer(not really)!
Starting the year off in a way that you’re proud of is definitely going to rub off on your overall mood. Having a good mood helps your mental health… right?
As a senior in high school, I look back at my journey and realize my choices along the way were far from perfect. From personal experience, I want to offer you some advice I wish I had heard from seniors and applied during highschool.
- “Don’t stress, do your best, forget the rest.”
If you’re planning on attending college after highschool, truthfully speaking, your academic and extracurricular accomplishments during high school do matter. Push yourself to try- manage your time, pay attention during class, actually do the homework, etc. This starts freshman year, NOT sophomore or junior year. Freshman year sets the base for the rest of high school and how you perceive yourself, so do not slack off this year thinking you can simply make it up later.
However, what I’m about to say is the most important piece of advice: do NOT stress yourself out. One of my biggest regrets in high school is constantly putting too much pressure on myself, striving for perfection in academics, extracurriculars, and my social life. My mental and physical health succumbed under the pressure I put on myself, and I was unable to enjoy the happiness and opportunity right in front of me. At the end of the day, everything will work out. It’s okay to get a C on the test you studied super hard for. It’s okay to not make the goal in the playoffs. It’s okay to not have plans every single Friday night. Go through high school with the mindset that you are going to try your personal best, but don’t beat yourself up over every mistake. Approach obstacles, like assessments and tournaments, with confidence in yourself that your preparation will serve you. Take a deep breath in, and out- it will all be okay.
- Explore- try everything out, then eliminate the things you don’t like. Always, always try before stopping yourself.
This goes for every aspect of high school: academics, extracurriculars, social life, etc. High school is a time to begin exploration, take advantage of that! Take the class that sounds interesting to you, join that club you’ve been curious to try even if you don’t know anyone in it, go and experience that football game. Give every opportunity a shot in high school and once you’ve tried it, if you discover you don’t like it, you can always just stop doing it. Imagine if you were secretly a musical prodigy, but you limited yourself to only pursuing STEM activities and therefore, never discovered your passion and talent for music. This is exactly the scenario you don’t want to happen, so go out and explore everything! “ You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”
- Have fun!
High school flies by. You may be thinking, reading this as an underclassman, that you have an extensive 2 or 3 more years. No, seriously, high school is so short. So make new memories, live in the moment, and do things out of your comfort zone. Do things that when looking back at these four years of your life, you’re going to have memories that you cherish and accomplishments you are proud of. Make the most of your high school experience- it doesn’t last long.
What’s up! During my time in high school I’ve made some good decisions and some not so good ones too. Although this year is unlike any other, I hope that by sharing some advice I can help ease any stress, anxiety, or indecisiveness as you adjust to high school life.
- Get involved
The biggest piece of advice I could ever give an incoming freshman or sophomore is to get involved in clubs, sports, or any other activity in your community. It’s so easy to feel like you’re alone in all of this but being involved in something surrounds you with people of the same interests that can help you along the way. I also have met some of my closest friends through sports or clubs and having those relationships have helped me in more ways than I can describe throughout high school.
I also recommend getting involved in your community through volunteering, while I know that it’s a requirement to volunteer in order to graduate I want to emphasize that this shouldn’t be the reason you get involved. You also shouldn’t get involved just to have something to put on your college application or resume. Find things you are truly passionate about and try to impact your community in a positive way, you put in what you get out and this will only make your life better.
- School is never THAT important
Something that I wanted to emphasize is that school is never as important as you think it is. Of course you want to strive to be the best you can be and to try and get good grades but don’t kill yourself in that process. School is never more important than your mental health, it’s never more important than your family, and it’s never more important than your childhood. At times you will feel overwhelmed and you’ll feel like the world is collapsing in on itself because you don’t understand a concept in math or you feel like you won’t finish an essay. It is okay at times to step away from school, especially now that you’re locked into your computer for 7 hours a day and then countless more after for homework. It is okay to go out and have some fun to relieve some stress. You can only do so much and try so hard so when school gets tough, push through it but know that your life doesn’t depend on it.
- It is okay to reach out for help
Speaking from experience, it is almost always better to reach out for help than to try and muscle your way through a class you’re having issues with. That’s why I really want to stress making good connections with teachers and reaching out to them during office hours for help. They get paid to teach you and most of them are more than willing to help clear up any confusion. I also encourage you to reach out to friends and classmates because everyone is in it together. Form study groups or meet up with friends to get homework done. It makes school more manageable and makes it a little more fun.
- Be smart in and outside the classroom
I’m gonna sound like a grandma when I say this but try your best not to do anything stupid, and by stupid I mean putting your life in serious danger. I understand that bad decisions will be made, that’s basically what half of high school is about, but try your best not to make those decisions. A decision that I would say you should avoid at any cost is drinking and driving (that includes getting driven home by someone who is drunk). You know what’s good for you and you know what’s bad for you (or if you don’t know now you’ll find out soon enough) so be smart with what you put in your body. Other than that, have fun, party, do everything a teenager should do and try and experience the world as much as you can.
Hey y’all! As I reminisced over the past few years, I started to realize that with every passing year came a new level of growth. I hope fasttrack that timeline for all of you as I share some of my takeaways from my high school experiences.
- Branch Out
As you transition into highschool, there will undoubtedly be familiar and unfamiliar faces in your classes. You may be tempted to just stick with your best friends since the 2nd grade, and that’s amazing as there’s immense value in a long-lasting relationship. But what shouldn’t happen is that you completely zone off everyone else from interaction and stay inside your own little bubble. Fortunately, in my experiences there have always been a few classes where I knew no one at all. While that may sound like a living nightmare, it was actually something I’m so grateful for. It kind of forced me to make friends within my classes, and many of those same people I would’ve never approached in a normal setting have stuck around with me throughout all four years.
It should also be noted that when you make friends in your class that it will improve your performance within that class. Study groups are seriously a life saver, and I’ve made some of my closest friends through group chats that were started to talk about homework. This is more in a practical sense, but if you ever need an assignment you’re missing or you want to review the material with others, sending a text to your classmates is all it takes. They make the class that much more enjoyable and help you academically, what’s not to like?
- Be Nice to EVERYONE
This sounds like common sense, but it’s amazing how disregarded this sentiment is. I’m sure all of you have met someone that is unsettling or brings you to your boiling point, and I hate to say it but that doesn’t end in high school. There will be no shortage of people that are inconsiderate, but that doesn’t mean that you have to follow in their footsteps or even treat them with contempt. Have an open mind, and if they are too overbearing, then remove yourself from the situation; you don’t have to talk to them if you don’t want to.
I don’t want to pretend I’m some benevolent saint that has a perfectly clean sheet, because that just isn’t true. I’ve made plenty of mistakes in the past, and I hold myself accountable for the times where I’ve come off as less than friendly. But I’ve found that just going through the day and making the effort to be a little more nice that day makes all the difference. Unsurprisingly, people like people who are nice, and it’s probably the easiest way to hold a good reputation. To be one hundred percent truthful, what people say sticks around, and you’re not going to want people talking badly about you behind your back. But in the same light, people also have a lot of praise for those who are genuinely nice, and it can be reassuring when they introduce you to others as a nice person. So, for a general rule, be nice to everyone, and things will fall in their place.
- Experiences > Grades
If there’s one takeaway I could leave you with, it would be that there is so much more to be desired than just your grades. To preface, this is not giving you permission to blow off your classes; I’m thankful I started my freshman year off hard and didn’t slack off as I apply to college now. What I mean to say is that there’s going to be opportunities in your life to join a new club, or enter in a competition, or even go out to party and have some fun. Those are things that you will remember from a lifetime, that truly define your high school experience. As I look back, I wish I had more of those experiences when I was an underclassman. You can always take a class later in college or even when you’re an adult, but the memories you make in highschool can’t be made in any other time. So I encourage you all to make the most of what these four years have to offer, and don’t let anything pass you by. Everyone learns the same thing in the classroom, what you learn outside is especially unique to you and you only.
Hi Everyone! While I do not usually contribute to articles for Heads Up Teens, this is a really special and important one that I am proud to be a part of. It is amazing to me that we are already nearing our final months of highschool, when people say it goes by fast they aren’t lying. High school is a different experience for everyone, but it can be influential in shaping who you are. These are some things I wish I had known before entering high school and I hope applying them can help you fully enjoy these next four years.
- Stay true to yourself, be confident in who you are.
The social aspect of high school is what makes it so fun, but it can sometimes make it really hard. Navigating the gossip, cliques, and even dating can be so overwhelming. For me, I often found myself overly concerned about what other people thought of me. I had a few negative experiences socially, and it led me to feel extremely insecure about every aspect of myself because I didn’t know what about me I needed to “fix”. I lost my identity trying to fit into what I thought everyone else wants. The fact is that we are all so concerned about what other people think of us, but in reality everyone is so focused on themselves that it is likely that no one is really judging you the way you think they are. And even if they are, you need to understand that you cannot please everyone, but there are people who really like the person you truly are. It is difficult not to worry about what other people think of you, to really put yourself out there, but in the end, being proud of who you are is infinitely more important than anyone else’s opinion. In fact, those who are less concerned about what other people think of them are actually much happier, they are the ones who are fully enjoying the high school experience. Do not change who you are to fit some idea of what other people want. You do not need to buy into these ideas, you are valid no matter what, make your own path. Be proud of your identity, your culture, interests, and talents. Remember that these four years go by so fast and before you know it you will be moving on in your life. So instead of giving up parts of your identity now just to try to please other high schoolers, take this time to shape yourself into the person you want to be, and be confident in who you are.
- Live in the moment
Coming into high school, there were many flaws in my mindset about both the past and the present. For so long, I thought I was in control of my future, but when something would happen that wasn’t expected, I wouldn’t know how to handle it. I have always had a life plan, and everything I have done has only been in an effort to reach that plan. I would volunteer just for the hours (not for the cause), I would do extracurriculars just to put it on my resume (not because I enjoyed it), I would memorize the information just to do well on the test (not to really learn it). I stopped valuing what was important. All of that just to try and get into a good college and reach this idea of my ideal future, all of which is just in my head. I stopped prioritizing my present happiness and well being for the future, which does not actually exist. While it is good to have goals, it can be harmful to put everything into the future, simply ignoring the present, and hoping for the best. Likewise, while it can sometimes be good to learn from the past, regrets and wishes about how things could have happened differently are not productive, instead they can quickly overtake your thoughts and prevent you from living life to the fullest. I had to realize that the only thing I am in control of is right now, so I need to make the best of my current situation. While continuing to plan for the future, to set goals and reach them, I encourage you to no longer risk your current well-being for these plans. Instead, look at obstacles as chances to grow, and be grateful for all the small things. Live your life in the moment, because all you have is now.