As we all know, high school is a super fun time and as someone who has graduated, all I wish is that I could go back and relive it. Just kidding of course, but something I do wish is that I had known what I do now back then- because I, and most high schoolers, spend way too much time worrying about the wrong things. Hopefully this list can help prevent you from making some of the same mistakes I did.
DON‘T LET GRADES CONSUME YOUR LIFE
As someone who did well in school, I can say that from my personal experience, the 3 main reasons I got good grades were: I used my time wisely, I was good at short term memorization, and I let part of my self worth be determined by my grades and therefore didn’t want to not get good grades.
To break those down, in the second semester of 10th grade, I never did any school work or studying outside of class. That’s not because I’m a genius or only took super easy classes, but I simply am good at memorizing things short term (not long term though- I can’t remember a single thing that pre-calc was about). That doesn’t make me intelligent, but in school, being able to do that does lead to you being considered smarter, and doing well on tests especially. Some people, though, just aren’t good at that, it takes them a lot longer to understand and remember concepts. And I don’t think a person has full control over that.
I also made sure that I never had any homework so I would use my time very wisely and get ahead when I could, take full advantage of my study hall period, use the time before class begins to get a little bit of work done, read my textbook or worksheet and teach myself the lesson so I could do (or at least start) the homework during that period. That worked for me because I’m not a good auditory learner, but it might be impossible for others to do so because they learn better in a different way at a different pace.
My parents were never super stern about grades but they definitely expected me to get good ones. It was more of my own lack of self esteem at the time that caused me to feel like the only thing I really had going for me was getting good grades. I would worry about doing bad on an upcoming test but then if I actually did bad, I wouldn’t care at all. Even when I knew I wasn’t going to college (so didn’t have any use for a 4.0 GPA) I still felt like I needed to get good grades.
And my point with all of this is, we do have control over what grades we get, but only to an extent. I don’t know what that extent is but I often think about a friend I had who studied and studied and studied for everything, tried so hard to do well, and would often get C’s and D’s on tests she’d spent hours preparing for, and felt really bad about it. On the other hand, I could look over my notes 10 minutes before class, memorize most of it, and get an A. That doesn’t mean I’m more intelligent than her, it just means I’m good at memorizing, which is a nice skill to have, but whether or not you have it should not effect your feeling of self worth.
For those who have parents with very high expectations, know that your life is not to be lived for them. I’m not telling you to drop out but if you’re feeling a lot of pressure from them to do good, maybe its best to communicate to them how you feel, that you want to do well but you also wish they were more compassionate about when you don’t get as good of grades. For those who have high expectations of themselves, ask yourself what the reason is. If it has to do with self esteem/self worth, then that tells you that you need to find why you’re letting those things be dictated by your grades.
With all this being said, please don’t think it’s cool to not care about grades at all. Your education is important whether you do anything with it or not. So don’t skip classes twice a week but also don’t freak out if you get a B+ in a class.
YOUR SELF WORTH IS NOT DETERMINED BY YOUR LOOKS
High school is probably the time where you and almost everyone around you are most concerned with being pretty, dressing cute, and hoping everyone else notices. I spent far too much of my time trying to impress people that I now haven’t seen in years and will likely never see again in my entire life. Once I realized that it really didn’t matter what any of these people thought I looked like and that I shouldn’t let so much of my self worth be controlled by what I thought I looked like, I stopped wearing makeup, doing my hair, dressing up, and found that my life got so much better once I stopped being so concerned about my external appearance.
It’s definitely really hard to do this and I’m not saying that I was 100% confident after I stopped doing those things or that I am now, but the less we let the opinions of and trends with our classmates and society shape what we choose to do, the happier we will be.
So instead of dressing like the popular girls or guys do, buying expensive things because they’re trendy, or wearing uncomfortable things because that’s what in, wear what feels good. For me that was simply just wearing what was physically comfortable. Sometimes I’d wear my pajamas to school. Sometimes I wouldn’t wear a bra, sometimes my hair would be a bit messy or my shoes wouldn’t go very well with the rest of my outfit, sometimes I’d have bags under my eyes or multiple pimples on my face… but what I learned from that is: no. one. cares.
Not a single person cared.. or if they did, it wasn’t obvious enough for it to effect me. My friends were still my friends. No one stopped talking to me. No one gave me weird looks. No one made rude comments. And unfortunately I can’t say that that’s what will happen for everyone. Those things might happen and they might make life harder, but even if they do and you decide it’s not worth it so you go back to putting effort into your appearance, I can guarantee once you’re out of high school you will realize that it wasn’t worth it.
You wouldn’t worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do.
- Eleanor Roosevelt
ITS OKAY TO NOT HAVE MANY FRIENDS
“Friends change, locker combinations don’t.” That was a little phrase all the teachers told us in the beginning of middle school to keep us from telling our friends our combos. I think everyone thought, ‘yeah friends will change but my friend group will definitely stay together’. And it didn’t. And the same happens in high school. And sometimes you lose friends and don’t gain any. When I was in elementary school, I had a close group of friends which gradually broke apart in middle school and then in high school I had about 4 friends but definitely didn’t have a friend group or a best friend. The friends I had were all really good, cool people and I’m very thankful for that, but I changed a lot in freshman year and therefore didn’t have much in common with really anyone in my school. I only hung out with people a handful of times each year while it seemed like other people were hanging out with their friends every weekend.
While I don’t mind being alone since I’m a very introverted person, my mom has always made me feel like shit for not being very social and not hanging out with people often. It can be hard to accept yourself when you have someone or many people making you feel like theres something wrong with you or not good enough about you. Especially with social media where people are constantly posting about what they’re doing with their friends, we may compare ourselves to them and wish we had as many friends as another person or didn’t feel so left out all the time.
I can’t tell you how to overcome this feeling completely because I guarantee my mom will make some comment to me in the future like the ones she’s always made and it will still get to me. All I can say is that it is perfectly okay to not have a best friend, not have a friend group, not have many friends, or not have any friends at all. Not having strong social connections allowed me to spend a lot of time going inward. And that’s what you can do if you’re in a similar situation.
The most important relationship is the one you have with yourself.
-Diane Von Furstenberg
TRYING TO FIT IN AND BE POPULAR IS A WASTE OF TIME
Just like trying to get others to think you’re cute and all, trying to be popular is a complete waste of time and is very meaningless in the grand scheme of things. When I was in middle school I had wished I was more popular but then as I got to high school I realized that was dumb… so I acknowledged and embraced my irrelevance and let me tell you, being irrelevant is actually quite nice. No one pays attention to you and therefore you don’t have to worry as much about others judging you.
The need to fit in is also strong during HS which is understandable. It’s not fun to feel like you don’t belong somewhere, that people don’t accept you for who you are, or that people judge you for doing or not doing something. I don’t want to sound like a mom but don’t do things like going to parties and drinking or even going to football games just because people would think you’re weird for not going to them. Or if you want to join the debate team but your friends think its lame, you should still do it. And find better friends while you’re there.
YOU DON’T NEED TO PROVE YOUR LIFE ON SOCIAL MEDIA
One of the best things I did for myself during high school was stop posting on Instagram and delete all my previous photos. There was a time where I was so worried about taking a good photo, getting a lot of likes on it, and trying to prove myself and my life through my posts. I knew a lot of other people who were like this as well. I remember (in middle school is mainly when this happened) some of my friends would tell me and our other friends when they posted a new photo so we could go like it right away. We were all so concerned about our social media statuses and worried about posting something not cool enough to get a good amount of likes.
So many people, in and out of HS, feel this need to post cute pictures of themselves to try to shape how others view their appearance and post when they’re hanging out with friends or going to cool places to show that they do have a life. Every time someone from my school went on vacation, you’d know because they’d post a picture of it. Every time people would hike to this popular overlook in my city, you’d know because everyone who went would post a picture.
So I basically deleted my IG and immediately felt a huge sense of relief. Don’t feel like you need to post things to prove to everyone where you’ve been, what you look like, or how social you are. Again, it’s absolutely not going to matter at all once you’re done with high school.
GET A JOB + SAVE UP YOUR MONEY
I know that not everyone is able to get a job during high school (because they don’t have transportation, have too much schoolwork, have to take care of siblings, etc) but for those who are able to, please get one! I started working part time as a cashier at a craft/home decor/etc store called Hobby Lobby about a month after I turned 16 and the 2 years that I worked there was one of the best and worst experiences of my life.
Without going into too much detail, there was a woman who worked there who I was scared of and always nervous I was going to do something wrong around and then she’d get mad at me for it. I also experienced a lot of anxiousness in the hours leading up to each of my shifts for probably the first year or more that I worked there, mainly surrounding the fear of having a situation where I would do the wrong thing or wouldn’t know what to do and would ask that woman and she would get mad that I still hadn’t learned what to do hahah. So that kind of sucked, but I also knew the whole time that it was helping me grow as a person so I was really thankful for it. By the end of the time I was working there, my anxiousness before my shifts had gone down to almost nothing and I was even kind of sad to not be seeing that woman anymore because we had begun to bond a bit lol.
Most high schoolers get jobs in customer service (waiter, fast food worker, cashier, etc) and those are all usually terrible jobs that I recommend doing at least one of. Having to deal with angry, mean people will give you thicker skin. Having to converse with strangers regularly can be really helpful for shy people wanting to be more outgoing. You may have some sucky times but you will come out of it typically a more mature, grown person!
And don’t spend the money you made on tons of clothes and makeup. It might feel good now but it won’t in a couple years. I would not have been able to remotely live the life I have since I graduated if I had not saved the majority of what I made. Also keep track of what you spend and what you earn in a spreadsheet or notebook.
ASKING QUESTIONS DOES NOT MEAN YOU ARE STUPID
When I was in school, asking questions made me feel stupid. I would often avoid getting up to ask simple clarification questions regarding homework or tests because to do so would have made me feel like I wasn’t smart enough to figure it out on my own. I knew how dumb it was to think that way but I still did. Even when I did online school I didn’t like to ask very many questions. So please don’t be afraid to ask your teachers or classmates for help. It might be a strike to the ego but at the end of the day it will only ever benefit you- then and in the future.
IT’S NORMAL TO NOT KNOW WHAT YOU WANT TO DO AFTER HIGH SCHOOL
I have talked to so many people, both in real life and online who are been in college and feel like they chose the wrong path or don’t know what they’re doing or want to drop out, so many who did drop out, and so many high schoolers and HS graduates who don’t know what they want to do or don’t know if they should go to college.
In my opinion, it is very hard to really know what kind of career you want to pursue when you really haven’t experienced much of the world yet. When you spend so much of your time at school and don’t have much independence, you have a limited view of what might interest you.
By switching to online school (for 11th and 12th grade) where I could finish a weeks worth of school in a day, I discovered so much more about myself through that extra time I had. By traveling in a van across the US for 4 months, I learned even more. I of course learned a lot about Shakespeare and atoms in school but it’s usually the non-school experiences you have that help you gain a better understanding of what you want and what interests you.
The best simple piece of advice I can give those who have the options between going or not going to college but don’t know which they should choose: take a gap year. Get a job somewhere or if you have money saved up, do some traveling, or do both. Don’t worry about what those around you are doing or if everyone else is going to college- what should matter most is doing what is going to be the most beneficial to you. By taking this year, you have time to save up money (if you’re working) and experience life in a different way.
I will be making a blog post going into much more depth about this in the near future so that is all I will say for now :)