Starting High School: Advice From an Insider

By Amanda Slate

In a few days, I will begin my senior year of high school. Looking back on the last three years, I begin to realize how far my peers and I have come, and I start seeing the events of my high school career in perspective. From that, I have compiled a list of things I wish I knew when I started high school. I hope that from this list, incoming freshmen will be able to gain some insight into how to go into high school with the right frame of mind.

1. Whom you are friends with at the beginning of freshman year is not an indicator of your social life through the rest of high school.

If at first you have trouble fitting in, don’t panic. You still have four years to make friends and figure out where you fit. The best way to respond to social trouble is to be kind and open to everyone. If you treat others well and avoid major conflict, it’s likely that with time, things will fall into place. Even if they don’t, it’s important to remember that your social life in high school is not an accurate reflection of your future or who you are as a person.

2. Don’t be afraid to be a teacher’s pet.

When you get to high school, your academic performance really matters. My best advice for you to excel in your classes—other than hard work and studying—is to respect and communicate with your teachers. Ask questions, and thank your teachers at the end of class. Even if your peers make snarky comments or accuse you of kissing up, at the end of the day, your teachers are the ones controlling your grades and giving you your education.

3. Everyone learns differently.

When it comes to grades and learning, comparison is always a bad idea. Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses, so don’t get nervous when yours don’t align with the majority. Even though there will be some times when you do badly and everyone else does well, there will also be times when the opposite happens. Similarly, don’t be discouraged if there is a subject or topic with which you are not completely comfortable. All students have academic weaknesses, but these can be overcome by working a little bit harder, asking plenty of questions, and getting extra help, if necessary.

4. Everyone socializes differently.

When you enter your first year of high school, you’re bombarded with talk of school dances, parties, and other social gatherings. Despite how it may feel at first, you don’t need to participate in every social event to make friends. If you want to go to these, have fun and be responsible. However, if you’re exhausted at the end of your school day or week and need some time to yourself to recharge, missing a dance or two won’t change your life in any major way.

5. How you treat your peers is entirely your choice.

Even though as high schoolers, we would like to think that we are now older, wiser, and more mature (which is true in some ways), clique dynamics and bullying behaviors are not exclusive to middle school. What you can control, however, is how you handle your school’s social dynamics. Even if you personally are not treated as a social outcast, be mindful of those who are treated badly, and don’t buy into gossip about them; instead, treat them with respect. If I’d believed all the mean things my peers said about one another, I wouldn’t have created some of my most meaningful relationships. Though it may feel otherwise in a school environment, everyone is worthy of the same respect.

6. Put your education first…

You are at school to learn. You may be tempted to text in class instead of listening to the teacher or to hang out with a group of friends the night before a big assignment is due, but try to avoid these temptations. Schoolwork can feel grueling, but it is a huge privilege to be in a situation where you are being handed so much information. Once high school is in the past, you will hardly remember whether you went out for ice cream or not the day before your Physics test. But you will still be using your high school education. Take advantage of the skills you can learn in your classes.

7. …but keep it in perspective.

It’s nearly impossible to get through high school without receiving some kind of a grade on an assignment that’s lower than you had hoped. When this happens, know that it’s not the end of the world. Instead of panicking, communicate with your teacher to find out what you can do better in the future, and focus on your upcoming work so that you can do better on the next assignment.

8. Put your phone on silent sometimes.

Social media and technology are a huge part of our lives. While phones and computers can be great tools for making and sustaining friendships, constant updates and notifications can also be extremely overwhelming, especially for introverted teenagers. Sometimes, you’ll just have to put away the technology. If there was anything you truly needed to know, you’d find out about it in person—not from a group chat or social media post. 

9. Use your time in high school to grow and learn.

High school is a great time to figure out who you are as a student, friend, and peer. Some things, like dances, some friendships, and many memories are fleeting. But the lessons you collect from your experiences will stay with you. You’ll face challenges no matter how you approach high school. Sometimes, you’ll come out on top of these challenges, but other times, you’ll mess up or make a wrong decision and face the consequences. Think of high school like a dress rehearsal. You’ll make mistakes, but you’ll also improve immensely by learning from those mistakes.

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  • Kim

    Excellent article, thanks for sharing!

  • Amit Thumar

    Wish someone had told me all this when I was in high school and college. Wouldn’t have wasted so much time that I can see now. Hope someone would use this and do better. Thanks for sharing Amanda.