How to ‘High School’: Four Years of Advice from a Senior

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Anastasia Reimann, Editor in Chief

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I can’t believe I’m here.

Three years ago, I stepped inside a church complex pulling a suitcase behind me and headed down its hallways searching for my French class. I hardly knew anybody, or anything.

But now, as a senior, I know a few things. These are things I’ve gained from experience, little tips and tricks I’ve accumulated over the past three years, and I want to share them with other students. Here are some ways to make your high school career more tolerable … and maybe more enjoyable, if that applies to you.

 

General advice:

1) Buy a planner. High school is overwhelming, and it can be easy to lose track of class assignments and due dates. If you write them down in your planner during class, you’ll have all your assignments written in one place for when Schoology doesn’t work or your teacher forgets to post an assignment. (Pro tip: If you write it down in class and the teacher does forget, you won’t be that student who’s frantically messaging classmates about tonight’s assignment … or who’s being told by the teacher, “Maybe I forgot, but it’s still your job to have your homework completed by class time regardless.”) There’s nothing more satisfying than crossing those assignments out.

2) Plan ahead for summer assignments. This isn’t too difficult if you’re taking regular English, but if you’re taking pre-AP or AP English, you’ll need to read a certain title in addition to one of your choice for summer reading. If you’re able to obtain the guidelines and a copy of your assigned read soon before/after school gets out, you can finish your assignment early on in the summer and enjoy the rest of your summer worry-free instead of having to cram for two book assignments.

3) Respect your teachers! They are your greatest advocates and supports, and they want you to succeed. Don’t be afraid to ask for their help if you don’t understand; that is what they are there for.

 

Freshmen:

1) Give it time. When I started high school, I was terrified of everything: my classes, my teachers, the social aspect of interacting with my peers. At first, I didn’t like any of it. But after some time, as I got used to my schedule and my classmates and learned how to balance homework loads, I stopped being so uptight and found myself enjoying my peers and my subjects.

2) Join a club/group/sport. Some of the best advice I ever got was at Freshman for a Day with Mr. Moen: Get involved in your school, because your high school experience is only as enriching as you are involved. Our school has plenty of clubs and organizations: Environmental Club, History Club, Film Appreciation, Rubik’s Cube, Baking Club, Theater Club, Mu Alpha Theta (a math club) and many more. Most meet (bi)weekly during lunch; look into each of the clubs available and take note of their meeting schedules so you can attend the meetings of any clubs you’re interested in!

This applies to other groups on campus: If choir or ASB or Flag or tennis interests you, look into getting involved! One of the benefits of being in a club or a sport is having the opportunity to interact with a variety of people; in these groups, your social circle is not just limited to your grade level. That’s also a general benefit of high school, too, so take advantage of it. Interacting with more diverse groups means you know more people throughout this year and the next!

3) Figure out your learning style, and study to your strengths. You know how all your middle school teachers tell you that high school is going to be ridiculously hard and all your teachers will be super strict? That’s not always entirely true, but this is: High school is harder than middle school because it’s prep for college, which is much more hands-off and self-motivated.

In order to be adequately prepared for quizzes and tests, figure out how you learn material best, and study in ways that will help you retain information better. For example, I’m a visual learner, so studying vocab on Quizlet over and over again helps me because I’m able to see the terms over and over again. Maybe you’re an auditory learner, or you’re kinesthetic. When you find out, adjust your studying habits accordingly — and yes, you do need to start forming study habits. In college, all you’ll be doing is studying; if you figure out study habits now, it’s one less learning curve you’ll need to make later on.

4) Don’t procrastinate. If you wait until the last minute to get assignments done, you can easily get behind, and when many (if not all) of your classes are accelerated, falling behind is the last thing you want to do. Finish your work on time so you’re not stressed about it later, and so you have the opportunity to get more points; most teachers only accept late assignments for half-credit. If you don’t turn in your work on time, you’re losing easy points that’ll affect your grade later on, so if you’re timely about things from the beginning, you can build up a work ethic that’ll last you for the next few years.

 

Sophomores:

This year can kind of be a drag, sorry. You’re here, sure, but it’s not a new experience anymore, and you’re not an upperclassmen, so this year can often feel like needless filler. But it’s important you get some things out of the way this year so you won’t have to worry about them later on in your high school career:

1) Start thinking about what interests you. I’m serious. By the beginning of your junior year, you’ll be thinking about colleges, so just start thinking about what intrigues you and what you’re passionate about. That way, you can start thinking about what careers you might want to pursue after school, which leads to the question, “What will I major in?” You don’t necessarily need to worry about that part now, but, come junior year, if you know your interests, you’ll be able to start looking at majors (and, therefore, college programs) sooner, which will give you a head start and save you so much stress come junior year.

2) Take your language classes this year. Most people I know struggle with learning foreign languages, but you need it to graduate, so take your two years/classes before you have to balance learning a new language with AP classes and scholarship essays. It’ll keep you occupied and free up your schedule in later years … which could mean as little as two classes on campus by senior year.      

3) Enjoy the ride! While this year will be more academically rigorous than last year (especially if you’re taking AP or Honors classes), this is the last year before you go into “college mode.” Treasure that time, because it’s going to pass quickly.

 

Juniors:

1) Breathe. Yes, AP classes are intense, and yes, you’ll have a lot more homework (and a lot less sleep), but you’re already halfway there! Remind yourself that it’s OK to take breaks if you ever get overwhelmed, because you need energy to make it through this year. Lean on friends and family for support and guidance as you wade through the world of SAT scores and upper-half essay samples.  

2) Continue your college search. If you haven’t already started looking at major ideas and colleges, now’s a great time to start. Think about what interests you both in a major and in a school, and try to find schools that align with your values and passions.

Some pro tips:

o Look at admissions requirements! If you’re thinking of going out-of-state for school, look twice at the admissions requirements for those colleges; chances are that your high school graduation requirements will differ from the admission requirements at out-of-state schools, and you might find yourself stacking up on extra classes junior and senior year to compensate for that disparity.

o Look at major requirements. The idea of having a history degree from ABC University sounds cool, but will you really enjoy all the classes you’ll have to take to get there. Check a look at the classes you’ll need to obtain a specific degree, and see if you’re interested in those classes, because that’s where you’ll be spending most of your time and your money. If none of the classes particularly excite you, you may want to look elsewhere.    

o See what the college requires for applications. Not every college application is the same! Common App is great, but not every school uses it. So when you’re looking at a school, see if the school requires anything else besides the application. Some schools require essays; others don’t. Some schools don’t ask for letters of recommendation, and some ask for three. Just make sure you know what you’ll need so you’re not scrambling to get those things later.

o Speaking of which, start asking for letters of recommendation now. If you want a specific teacher to write you a letter, it’s best they know months in advance. This gives them more time to write a genuine, robust letter for you, and it saves both parties stress when letter requests start pouring in; if you ask way in advance, you’re at the top of the list.

o Go on college tours! Physically visiting a college can greatly affect your college application decisions; that’s what happened to me. (More on this in the senior section, Tip 2.)

3) Prioritize. Junior year is typically the year people go all out, packing their schedules with all APs, getting involved in extracurriculars and getting jobs. With so much to keep track of, other things (like sleep) inevitably fall through the cracks. Monitor the amount of commitments you make so you’re able to honor those commitments. This year is hard, yes, but you help determine that.    

4) Pace yourself with AP classes. There’s this idea that, if you’re smart, you’ll take all AP classes so you can boost your GPA and get a ton of college credit. But I would recommend AP classes in moderation; only take as many as you think you can handle. I knew I wouldn’t be able to manage more than two, so I only took two junior year, and I’m taking two more this year, but that’s it. I also only took APs in the classes I knew I’d excel at/be interested in; doing so made the classes easier because I enjoyed them more.

 

Seniors:

It’s weird to give “advice” to the fellow members of my graduating class, so I don’t necessarily have anything concrete to tell you. But I do have a few reminders.

1) Live in the moment! This is your last year. It’s the last time you’ll go to Homecoming, the last time you’ll take an AP class, the last time you’ll attend a football game as a current student, the last time you’ll dance to whatever song is the new “Despacito” at Prom. So enjoy this year. Make a point of being present to where you’re at. Yes, you might also be having to worry about college apps. But time flies so quickly (you’re here, after all), so stop and smell the roses. You won’t get that opportunity when this is over.

2) Follow your heart. College decisions can be tricky, but I’ve been told that the right school feels right. So go on a college tour, and pay attention to the atmosphere and the vibes you get while there. If something about that college feels off for whatever reason, don’t dismiss those feelings.

Advice like that might sound a little sketchy, but I speak from personal experience. I’d done a ton of research on a certain college I was convinced was the perfect fit for me. But when I actually visited, I didn’t feel like I could see myself there. If I hadn’t visited, I might never have known that maybe my “dream college” wasn’t the right fit. It saved me a potential mistake.

3) Don’t be scared. Change is coming. College is different than high school, and if you’re like me, the idea of another learning curve is kind of scary. We’re becoming adults, and that’s really weird. But, wherever we’re going, we’ll get there eventually, learning whatever we need to learn along the way. In the meantime, we’re where we meant to be.   

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1 Comment

One Response to “How to ‘High School’: Four Years of Advice from a Senior”

  1. Grace Davis on September 21st, 2017 7:00 pm

    While procrastinating the latest AP Lit essay (whoops, bad example), I found myself on the Crimson again. Anastasia, can I just say that you are fantastically talented and I am so impressed with you? This article was beautifully written and it’s so refreshing to see such genuine advice coming from such a genuine person.

    I wish I had a senior like you four years ago 🙂

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How to ‘High School’: Four Years of Advice from a Senior