By KASHISH VARSHNEY ‘21
There are a lot of mistakes (read: “stupid decisions”) I made throughout my years in high school. Things that I did that made sense back then and now I look back on and reflect, “Yeah, That was pretty dumb.”
So, without further ado, some advice I wish I had been told as a freshman or at any time in my high school career, before I became a senior. Or, my top ten:
- Highschool goes by in a flash. Who am I kidding? I was told this throughout my freshman year, but I never believed it. Now, as a senior, I can tell you this is true. Before I knew it, I was a senior preparing to go off to college. My advice here is to enjoy your last few years as a kid. Yes, that’s right. You’re all still kids. Enjoy that freedom and have fun.
- Time-management is a must. Look, I get it. You think that staying up is cool. I bet you’ve had the “Who’s stayed up the latest” contest with your friends and classmates. As a senior, I value sleep. Like, I truly value it. I don’t like going to bed at four in the morning because I know that I’m not going to be able to function the day after. So yes, I’ve been there. I’ve had 4 am, 5 am nights while I studied, did homework, or wrote essays. But here’s the thing: staying up late and procrastinating is unhealthy. It took me three years in high school to realize this. Sleep deprivation is not something to brag about. It’s a real problem that affects your thought process and bodily functions negatively. Now, you are probably saying, “Well, if you’re the master of sleep, how do I combat procrastination?” My answer? Time management. Time management is a skill that you will use for the rest of your life. It is a must-know skill and high school is the best time to learn it. Now, it’s not easy to learn and time management takes a lot of trial and error to figure out what works for you. For me, it’s writing out a schedule of what I’m going to do and when I’m going to do it. Then I make a list of the homework that I will be completing that day and highlight my priorities. I also silence my phone and keep it face down on my desk while I’m working. I build in five- to ten-minute breaks so I can collect my thoughts and do whatever I please (get a snack, text my friends, browse social media). I would also suggest to not utilize study groups for homework (trust me, you won’t get any homework done) and to not be afraid if something doesn’t work. That’s ok. It’s ok to fail. It’s the only way to move forward.
- PARTICIPATE! My one regret of high school is not being able to take part in many clubs. For me, I injured my knee my first day of freshman gym (I fractured it, dislocated it and tore my ACL). Go big or go home, am I right? I didn’t have the ability to join many clubs—most club dates contradicted with my physical therapy days and then I had like three knee surgeries so my ability to do many club activities were limited. But, you do! So join them! Join as many clubs as you can! As you start to figure out your schedule, the amount of time it’ll take you to complete homework and such, start to section clubs by ones you like and dislike, and drop the ones you dislike. Then, section off clubs by time commitment and decide how much time you can give to your extra-curricular activities and drop the clubs that you can’t commit the amount of time they need. Don’t be afraid to join a club that none of your friends have joined. This will give you an opportunity to branch out and make new ones! Don’t give up your interests for your friends. True friends will encourage you to join clubs that interest you.
- Take classes that will serve you well in the future. High school is a time of growth, maturity and goal-setting; therefore, you will be taking classes and participating in clubs to explore your interests and figure out, “Is this what I want to do as a career?” However, you shouldn’t just focus on these types of classes. Of course, take classes that interest you, but also take classes that will have real life applications. For example, taking Financial Literacy will help you make decisions on what you should invest in, how to decide if you should use a savings account from Bank of America or Wells Fargo. Besides financial aid, you should also take another business course. Also, taking Auto-Tech will serve you well in the future. This class will make sure that people don’t take advantage of you when you bring your car to a mechanic. Classes aren’t just there for fun or for grades. Classes are also there to teach you skills for real life.
- It’s okay to make new friends. Here’s the reality: when you come into high school, it’s a hard adjustment period. You have to face the fact that throughout high school you’re going to grow apart from people you’ve known for years. This just happens. It’s natural. You are going to find people who share similar interests as you and you’re also going to find people that are the polar opposites of you but you still are friends. These people will become your new friends. Don’t shy away from other people. Go out there and be confident in your skin, which I know can be hard for many of you. My advice for this is to own up to your failures and mistakes and accept them as a part of you. Also, accept that no one is perfect, not even your heroes. Then, accept yourself. You can do anything you set your mind to, trust me. It’ll take some trial and error, but you got this!
- An F is not the end of the world. We all have subjects that are hard for us (yes, even the STEM kids). For me, that class was Chemistry. I’m not one to be ashamed of my failure (god knows that if I was, I wouldn’t be able to talk at all). I got an F in chemistry my last marking period of having this course. I struggled a lot, but this grade isn’t the end of the world. I ended the year with a final grade of a C in that class, and sure it killed my GPA, but this isn’t the end of the road, and it shouldn’t be for you either. My point is that you have to fail before you move forward.
- Trying and failing is okay, but failing and not trying is not. Building off of the last one, it’s ok to fail. Accept it. Accept that it happens and accept it as a part of yourself and move on. Learn from your mistakes and don’t make them again. This is how we learn. Now, if you fail and don’t try again, that is a different story. It’s like falling and not getting back up again. It’s foolish. I understand that sometimes you fall and it’s hard. It hurts and you don’t want to be hurt again, but giving up can’t be an option. You have to find a way. There is always a way. You just need to have hope. After all, hope is the strongest weapon of all. If you have hope, you have a will. If you have will, you find a way to get over an obstacle, no matter how high it is.
- Mental health is important. I have two friends who have given me pieces of advice on how to attack good mental health in high school. One said, “Develop healthy coping skills. High school (and life in general) can get stressful whether it be in school or personal life. Go for a run, talk with a friend, cry a little (crying can be healthy!), relax, experiment and find what works for you.” The other told me, “Be rational. High school in general can be extremely taxing if you ever get caught up in drama or overwork yourself. Usually your best choice is to first find a way to calm yourself down and then think carefully about how you can deal with a situation in a way which benefits everyone, if possible. Granted, this can be extremely difficult when blinded by stress or emotion but, it is a skill which will be extremely useful whenever you need to handle issues in a peaceful and healthier way.”
- Get fresh air and maintain physical health. You’re swamped with homework and essays and projects and tests. You feel exhausted. Time to take a break. Do you read a book? Eat a snack? Watch some random video from YouTube? Yes, you could do all of these things, but how about going outside for a quick walk? Fresh air is scientifically proven to relax and refresh your soul as well as improving brain function. You might hate physical activity, but try making that experience fun! You can listen to your favorite music or podcast as you walk! You can talk with a friend on the phone! Physical activity is so important especially since during the pandemic we barely get the chance to go out. Take this as a good excuse to get out of the house and have a change of scenery. And with the cold weather setting in, the crisp, cold air will perk you right up! Give your eyes a break from the screens and just enjoy the scenery. Also, the walk counts as physical activity, so you have something to put down in those PE logs.
- Be ambitious and determined, but don’t go overboard. Ah, yes. A lesson I learned the hard way. One important thing , you have to understand that taking all AP and honors classes is great, but you most likely won’t have time for extracurriculars, your mental health, or your personal life! You need to learn to balance classes and other important aspects of your life. It’s good to take AP courses, but colleges look for kids who are well-rounded. They want the kid with As and Bs who takes AP classes and is president of the student council and who volunteers in his spare time. And it’s not about just about what colleges want, having a balanced amount of courses and extracurriculars helps you too. You need to weigh the amount of time it’ll take to do the work you get from these classes and the amount of time you need to dedicate to your extracurriculars. Remember, balance is key.