My experience in high school was in many ways a typical one. I had friends, I did school work, I slacked off from time to time, played a sport, joined the drama club, etc. When I was a freshman, though, the year was really just a continuation of middle school for me. The new feeling of being in high school didn’t make me realize what a big deal the implications were. I didn’t realize that every move I made, every test grade and homework assignment, every question in class and group project or assigned piece of reading, would have a tremendous effect on the end result of those four years and, by extension, on the rest of my life.
Over time, though, I did begin to realize that just settling for an “okay” grade was not, well, okay. Junior year is when I indeed kicked things into gear, but halfway through high school is not the time to start doing the best you can.
By the time I had reached my senior year, my overall GPA, while pretty impressive, wasn’t the best it could possibly be, and it bothered me. I realized at this moment that every time I had let myself get lax about an assignment, I had hurt my future. Though scores of 90 may seem not so different from a 95 or a B- from a B, many little things culminate in the long run to form an end result.
Now, I’m not saying here that I was a bad student. Quite the contrary, I was and am a very good student. I had my share of moments, though, when I chose to skimp on an assignment or my studying. Though I rationalized it at the time by saying, “Well, it’s just one test/assignment,” the truth is that these choices had definite effects on my GPA and ranking.
Learn from me, then, and do this: Try your hardest, all the time. You don’t want to look back on four years of your life and know that you could have done something better.
Another bit of advice I would offer is not to let stress and drama and schoolwork get in the way of actually living. I remember growing tired of hearing how my high school years would be the best four years of my life (something I’m hearing again, interestingly enough, about college). The truth is that your high school years can only be the best times of your life if you make them the best. High school isn’t just magically awesome. You have to make it that way. Get your stuff done in a timely fashion, be honest and earnest, and give everything your all. When you spend time with your friends, focus on them. It won’t be very long, after all, before those times become memories, and you don’t want them to be blurry. U2, one of my favorite bands, put it perfectly: “Time is a train/Makes the future the past/Leaves you standing in the station/Your face pressed up against the glass.” Make sure you’re on the train, because it won’t hesitate to leave without you.
One great way to make memories, as long as I’m on the subject, is to go out of your way to help others. I learned this in my senior year when I became a tutor for underclassmen. Though I found it strange at first, I actually really loved helping people understand something I understood well. If you’re good at something, help someone else out. On the flip side, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Getting help doesn’t make you stupid. Needing help and not asking for it makes you stupid.
Lastly, don’t expect everything to be handed to you. Do it yourself or you won’t get anything. You are on the cusp of adulthood, and people won’t help you if you can’t help yourself.
I promise, high school is nothing like it is on television. (That is, you actually have to go to class.) Good luck.