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10 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started High School

A recent grad looks back – and has this advice for incoming and current students

Since my high school graduation three months ago, I’ve done some reflecting. I made a lot of mistakes, many of which could have been avoided – or at least minimized. If only I’d read an article like this prior to starting. To all the incoming high school freshmen: Relax. You’ll learn your own lessons and figure things out. If there are any other high school students reading, know that it’s never too late to turn things around. Here are 10 essentials to make those four years easier.

1. Remain open-minded (especially about the future). As you get older, your beliefs and views on everything from people to politics begin to solidify. During high school, I really began to know what I stood for and what I didn’t. That being said, it’s still important to be open to others’ views. Be open-minded about everything, actually. Opinions may change. Plans for the future may change. Feelings may change. There is nothing wrong with planning things out, but being too caught up in any plan will cause you to miss other opportunities.

2. True friends are hard to come by. There’s nothing better than a good friend to pick you up during the lows of life and enjoy the highs with you. Make sure that you put plenty of effort into those friendships, because finding a real, true friend isn’t always easy. As you get busier, be sure to take a moment out of those packed days and call up a friend or send a text. Friendships require effort on both sides, and those little things go a long way when it comes to maintaining friendships. When you do find those friends, hold on to them.

3. Senioritis is not only real, but inevitable. Anyone doing the same thing for four years straight will grow tired of it. There’s only so much high school a person can handle. One day, I just realized that I’d gotten everything I could out of the experience, and I was ready to take on new challenges. Just remember there are teachers and staff members who are not graduating with you, and it’s difficult for them to combat lack of initiative. Plus they’re probably sad you’re leaving. Push through.

4. You will never regret working hard. Often, in the middle of an all-nighter (or an extremely late-night study session that might as well have been an all-nighter), I wondered if the work would really pay off. I wish I could travel in time to calm myself and scream, “Yes! It is worth it!” All-nighters are not fun. Feeling overwhelmed with work is not fun. What is fun is the result and the overwhelming feeling of pride that comes with it. And while on the topic of sleep deprivation, I must add that if there is any way you can avoid getting four hours of sleep, like better time management or less procrastination, please, please do it. Sleeping is important, so don’t take those hours of rest for granted.

5. Not having everything together all the time is perfectly OK. If I could go back and change anything about high school, it’d be how much I worried and stressed myself. Don’t get me wrong, self-reflection is a great thing, but only if it’s done reasonably. There is simply no way that any person, whether in high school or not, can have every single thing in order at all moments. I always wanted to feel “together,” but I now realize that my times of disarray and confusion are what fueled my growth. Appreciate the struggles.

6. Don’t spend an excessive amount of time worrying about clothes and appearance. If you like to dress up for school, that’s great. If you’d rather save the energy for the weekend, that’s also great. Truly, it’s OK if you aren’t wearing your best clothes every day. I know from experience that after a long night, it’s not easy to put a lot of thought or effort into an outfit. There are ways to simultaneously be comfortable and look nice. Also, you have your entire life to buy luxurious clothing.

7. Being young is in no way synonymous with being a pushover – demand respect. This one took me a while to figure out, but once I finally did, things seemed to miraculously come together. People will only do what you allow. Whether it’s a friend, co-worker, crush or anyone else, never let someone disrespect you. I can think of far too many times in which I let things slide, or repeatedly went the extra mile for someone when the act was not reciprocated. That was really silly of me, and I hope you don’t make my same mistakes. Yes, it can be difficult to say something to a close friend. But what person who truly cares about you is going to put you in that uncomfortable situation in the first place? Next.

8. Teachers and counselors are there for a reason. This may be easier said than done, but there is nothing wrong with going to teachers when you need help. It can be difficult to admit that you don’t understand a concept. I’ve been down the road of struggling to grasp something and attempting to figure it out on my own. I can proudly say it’s one I don’t think I’ll be traveling very much in the future. It is wise to use the resources that are given, especially since, if you are like most students, high school is the last time you’ll be receiving an education for free.

9. It’s never too early to start learning about money management and financial literacy. I wish someone had sat the 15-year-old shopaholic version of myself down and told me to stop spending so much of my summer job money. I highly encourage you to get summer jobs for two reasons. 1) The experiences and lessons you learn from being in the workforce are invaluable and 2) Having professional experience at an early age puts you ahead. Try to save half of your earnings – or at least something. If your school offers some sort of finance or economics class, take it. If that’s not an option, read the business/finance sections of magazines and newspapers a couple times a week. Money matters. Educate yourself.

10. Time management is critical – use to-do lists and/or calendars. The best thing about creating to-do lists and using calendars is that it doesn’t have to be an elaborate or time-consuming thing. The second best thing is that they can make a huge difference in your efficiency and outlook. I never realized how valuable time is until I barely had any free time. Seeing a list of all the things I had to do made me realize that I do a lot. That’s when I began paying close attention to not only how I spent my free time, but who I spent it with. Do not let people waste your time, and don’t waste anyone else’s either.

ASHLEIGH GARRISON, OF DETROIT, IS ATTENDING SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY IN THE FALL.

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