Let me just start off with this: there’s this huge gap between elementary school and middle school, and a bigger one exists between middle and high school. Everyone’s coming out of their awkward puberty stages and you begin to mingle with older 17-year-olds who will pick on you: congratulations, you’re a freshman! You’re the new kid, and it’s going to be tough to adjust.
But, the one thing that most freshmen don’t get is advice from somebody who is not their parent (trust me, I’ve had the whole shenanigan with my parents). You’ll feel like nobody will understand you and what you’re going through. Or maybe you already do.
High school is fun. It’s exciting and fast-paced. But, it’s not like the movies, and most definitely not like High School Musical. You have no idea how much I really wanted it to be like that. High school is more like Mean Girls or Perks of Being a Wallflower—if you haven’t watched these movies yet, you should! They’re actually pretty funny and amazing.
I’m not a movie, though, or a book. I went through high school very confused and very stressed; I desperately wanted a big sister to talk to or an older relative, when I wasn’t really close to anyone who was old enough to ask advice from but young enough to not lecture me. I was a lot like you when I was in middle school: I loved to read, played multiple sports, and kept up an academic rigor. But, unlike you, I didn’t have good advice, and that’s something I want to give you. You don’t have to take it, by any means: the last thing I would want is for somebody to tell me what to do.
But, I’m here for you. And that’s the least I can do.
This is long, so get ready: Steps to Surviving High School Part I.
First day of school is exhilarating. People will back up the carpool line so they can take pictures of their kids standing in front of the school building on their first day of school. It can be annoying, but understandable. You’ve probably already bought a new wardrobe of clothes that you’re excited to show off to your friends and to flaunt to boys. You’ve got that new set of books that are so thick that they make your head explode, but make you feel smart at the same time. It’s fun! But don’t get too carried away.
Freshman Friday is a thing, so don’t bring the target to yourself. High school is a lot bigger than middle school, so nobody will know that you’re a freshman unless you act like one. If you don’t know what Freshman Friday is, it’s the first Friday of the school year when upperclassmen pick on freshmen. Also, don’t dress up too much the first week of school or wear anything that says “Class of 2014” or “I’m a freshman!” Those are codes for “GREEN LIGHT! THERE’S A FRESHMAN OVER HERE!”
Now, I’m at the boring part, but it’ll be over soon, I promise: academics are extremely important. Your mom and dad have probably told you this multiple times, and you’re probably tired of listening to this. Don’t take it lightly, though. Procrastination arrives when your classes require you to do homework on the weekends, or when you’ve got four tests on one day and you decide to go, “The Hell with it.” High school is also about fighting: fighting back those urges to just sleep or to watch a marathon of 30 Rock on Netflix. You can’t do that. I don’t know if you’re going to listen to my advice, but this might be the most important advice of them all: stay on top of it. You may not know what colleges you want to go to now, but let me tell you something: it’s getting harder and harder every year. Freshman year is the year that so many people mess up because they refuse to keep up with their grades and it keeps them from getting into great schools, like Northwestern or Harvard. Senior year will come along, when you’ll have the hardest classes, and you wished you hadn’t screwed up your GPA freshman year with Honors Intro to Bio. Be careful, because regret is the worst thing that you can ever feel.
Alright, we done with that. However, now is the time to deal with the stress factor. You will be stressed, whether it is about academics or sports or whatever club you decide to join. Do NOT overwork yourself; I have seen so many people become depressed and closeted because their brains seemed to stop functioning. People with potential. You have to work hard, but you have to also know your limits. Take breaks. Eat food. Exercise. Watch a short movie (Disney movies are the best, by the way.) But don’t take long breaks. Don’t binge-eat during finals (because it makes you fatL). Don’t watch more than one movie. Listen to some music.
You should also eat clubs and sports and any opportunity up like you’re at a feast. Usually, there’s an activities fair at the beginning of each school year. You should go to as many booths as possible, because you’ll never know what you’re interested in. Don’t go to one activity and say, “Oh I like it here,” and stay because you may like other activities even more. These are opportunities that you didn’t have in middle school. Soon, you will have to drop some of these activities and that’s okay! Colleges actually don’t care if you’re involved in every club or sport: that’s a mistake that every freshman makes. If you’re really good at one thing, you’ll get your college award; that’s how my friend got into Columbia with this sport called Squash. It’s like tennis, but you play with a wall instead of a person.
There’s another factor involved, too: you may not want to drop an activity. You may be forced to choose if you want to play volleyball or if you want to join academic bowl. It’s not easy, trust me. But it’s going to happen, and when it does, you’re going to need to think long-term. Which one is going to benefit me most? Which one am I going to be best at? Also, you need to choose the one that you love, something that you truly enjoy doing. Pro-con lists may not work in these scenarios.
There is one huge thing that nobody warns you about and it’s that friends do change. Like I said above, high school is about growing and finding yourself more than anything, and you’re not the only one doing it. Don’t conform to what your friends are doing just so you can keep your friends. Don’t dress a certain way or hang out with a group of people just so you can “fit” in or just so you can get a boy to notice you. It’s not worth it. There are so many people out there that will make you feel happy without wasting your time on doing things like this.
I might be slapped for this, but friends…they go and they come. You will change and you will be a hormonal roller coaster in high school. So will your friends. Frankly, you may not even be friends with the same people you are now because they’re also going to change.
But you know what? That’s okay.
Your morals, your personality, your likes and dislikes will change. But don’t completely isolate anyone or block anyone out from who you are. If an old friend tries to talk to you, participate in conversation with them. You don’t have to hang out with them that weekend: it’s just catching up. Don’t isolate them or ignore people just because you think you’re better than them or you grew apart. Try talking to them, first, then judge.
Don’t forget to be social! Talk to people! Go to parties! What goes down at parties becomes crazier year after year, party after party, and you need to remember that. Stay away if you want to stay away. If you don’t stay away, at least be careful and don’t get yourself in trouble.
Make sure you’re also communicating with your parents. Believe it or not, they were once thirteen and went to high school and knew what it was like to be a freshman. They know, too. You may not think they do because “they don’t understand my problems.” But they do. Scout’s honor.
This is a part of a self-identity issue: we all try to find our “place” in high school, but we’re too scared to hang out with a certain group either because we think we might say the wrong thing or we don’t want to be seen with certain people. Don’t think this. Who cares if any of those kids see you as you truly are? You may never see them after four years.