Starting high school ended up being a different experience than I thought it would be. I wish I had been able to tell myself these 10 things going in – life would have been very different (and perhaps a little bit smoother in the first years).
1. Study halls and free periods are not recess.
As enticing as 45 minutes with (almost) no restrictions may seem, time management is critical to success in high school and later in life! Quite simply, that English project you’re ignoring is either going to get done now or 11:00 PM the night before it’s due.
2. There’s a difference between being popular and being cool.
Being popular has the camera lens focused on you – how people see you, how many followers, how many likes. It’s all very transient, and it can leave you feeling isolated and out of control. On the other hand, being cool has you behind the camera – seeing where you want to go, what you like, who you want to be, and who you want to be with.
3. You will find your people.
The best friendships start with a common interest. If you focus on knowing who you are and what you really like to do, you can choose clubs and activities that are a good fit. More likely than not, you will find your people there.
4. Avoid the drama.
Before engaging in any type of drama that doesn’t directly affect you, ask yourself whether the issue is going to matter to you in 5 months… or 5 days… or 5 minutes. If the answer is no, take the exit.
5. Your GPA means more than your follower count (or like count, or social media in general).
While I feel like a hypocrite writing this, particularly since I just spent the last 15 minutes scrolling through Twitter, I can say with some credibility that the balancing act here will require consistent effort. The key is to focus on the fact that watching other people live their lives is not nearly as important as living your own. If this means leaving your phone in a box while you do your homework (frustrating but effective) – or even deleting Twitter, Instagram, or Snapchat during finals week – it’s definitely worth it.
I promise that the Kardashians will still be posting selfies long after you ace your exams.
6. Always bring your own charger and headphones and gum.
7. It’s completely okay not to have a thing.
Some girls dedicate their lives to sports, or to school, or to an instrument, or to a club. Some girls do all of the above. Some do none. That is completely okay. As long as you’re choosing to spend your time in a way that aligns with who you are and who you want to be, you’re doing great.
8. Exercise, exercise, exercise!
With as much stress as high school brings, it’s incredibly important to stay healthy. Running, swimming, or yoga a few times a week, coupled with thoughtful food choices, is by far the most proactive and effective way to cope with all the stress you will face in your freshman year.
9. If you don’t like how something is going, label it “where you are” and not “who you are.”
You are going to make mistakes. With so much on the line every day and so many moving parts, we are bound to mess up. Learn to cut yourself some slack. Take ownership of the mistake, but don’t let it define you. Claim the lesson, then chart a course forward.
10. Finish what you start.
When you first get to high school, it will be tempting to try to be everything to everybody and to say yes to everything (I’ll admit to signing up for seventeen clubs on the first day), but the critical piece is in finish-lining what you start. By narrowing it down, you can follow through on your commitments, manage your time effectively, make good friends, and make meaningful contributions to your school community.