High school is a time for impact, from the impact school has on students to their impact on their communities and world. That being said, high school is full of valuable opportunities, and how you spend your high school years will truly shape who you are as a person. While each student experiences high school differently, the one thing everyone tends to agree on is there are certain things they wish they had known sooner about high school. In particular, seniors and freshmen most exemplify this desire. Freshmen, who are coming into high school, are often overwhelmed and uncertain about their role and obligations in high school. Seniors, on the other hand, are faced with new sets of challenges and commitments they are not sure how to navigate. So, I hope to provide some helpful insight and advice for incoming freshmen and seniors alike to lessen the stress and burden of their upcoming year.
The whole goal of high school is to figure out (broadly) what you want to do with your life, and the best way to do this is to get involved in things that fit your interests.
In the first year of high school, the amount of changes and new scenarios is undeniably overwhelming. However, as you start getting the hang of things and get more secure in your role in high school, things begin to fall into place. This is what freshman year is all about: making connections and getting involved. By defining your roles and obligations, you can start to understand yourself and the things you enjoy, which will define your next four years of high school.
The first piece of advice I have for incoming freshmen is based on this — get involved. Many people will say this, but it is hard to grasp how true it is. And while it’s easy to pass it off as others trying to give general advice or rope you into another obligation, it really is true. Regardless of what it is — a club, volunteer work, religious involvement, or something else entirely — getting involved is the most important part of freshman year. Not only does this give you a place to start building connections and getting to know others (something that is definitely important, and helps high school feel a little bit less foreign and lonely), but it also gives you a vital opportunity to engage in things that you are interested in. The whole goal of high school is to figure out (broadly) what you want to do with your life, and the best way to do this is to get involved in things that fit your interests.
This brings me to my second piece of advice: if you enjoy something, keep doing it, and if you don’t, take the opportunity to learn from it and find something else! Learning what you are passionate about is such an important thing, not just in high school. Through your classes, clubs, sports, and other involvements, you will get to better understand what brings you joy and what you find passion in. For me, it was helping others and science/STEM, but there are truly opportunities for everybody in high school. However you choose to do it, take the opportunities you will be given to learn what makes you happy, and pursue them. This will make the next four years so much more enjoyable, and you will be able to shape the rest of your life with the passions you discover.
Finally, my last piece of advice is to know you’re never truly alone. Again, this may feel like a frequent comment, but it is true in high school more than ever. Even though everything feels overwhelming and foreign (which it is), everyone else feels the same way, even if it doesn’t seem like it. As hard as it is, just know everyone around you is equally overwhelmed and sharing the burden makes things much easier. And knowing this, you can take risks and engage with others in new experiences that will shape your high school experience. At the end of the day, if there is one piece of advice that I have for incoming freshmen, it is to know that despite how overwhelming things seem, they will get better, just take the time to enjoy your experience and get everything that you can out of it.
The memories you make and who you are are far more important than any singular event.
Senior year of high school is a big year. Everyone wants to know what you’re doing after high school, what college you’re attending, what career you plan to pursue, and everything else about anything you could possibly ever plan to do with your life. But with all the big decisions come big responsibilities, and just as senior year is the most celebratory year, it is also the most demanding year. While everyone knows about “senioritis” and the fun events of senior year such as the senior prank and senior skip day, many people forget or overlook the extreme amount of work and effort that goes into senior year. In my opinion, this is the hardest challenge of senior year — keeping up with the workload and decisions that are simultaneously demanded and overlooked. However, that is not to say that it is not manageable, and when it is managed it can produce the most rewarding experiences.
This brings my first piece of advice for incoming seniors — stay on top of everything. Though it is easy to say (and you will hear many people do so), it is significantly harder to do. But if you put in consistent effort and use the tactics that work best for you individually, the work of senior year is much easier to deal with and complete. For me, my preferred methods are to complete things as soon as I commit to or find out about them, that way I don’t have any time to procrastinate or forget about them, and I also don’t have to stress over balancing them with other commitments. However, if a task isn’t doable in the immediate time frame, or if it is a longer-term commitment, I break it down into more manageable tasks (such as sections of a college essay) and put reminders for them on a calendar that I keep for managing my work/commitments. These are the methods that work for me, but from your time in high school you should hopefully have at least some idea of methods that work for you (and if not, try some different ones and see what works!), so be sure to utilize them to your advantage, because it really helps to stay on top of the demands during senior year.
Another key piece of advice I have for incoming seniors is to be sure and have fun (responsibly). You only get one senior year of high school, and it by far has the most fun and engaging opportunities of any high school year, so be sure to make the most of it! While studying and college applications are important, enjoying your time is equally significant. Make sure to fulfill all your commitments and studies, but then take some time to unwind and enjoy life, because it will truly make the hard work of senior year much more bearable.
And finally, the most important piece of advice I have for incoming seniors — it’s not the end of the world. Senior year is full of new beginnings and old endings, and it feels like so many big things are happening. And while this is true, it is also important to remember that as big as each event feels, it isn’t the only important thing in life. The colleges you get into, the games you win, the popularity you gain — it only goes so far in the long run. At the end of the day, the memories you make and who you are are far more important than any singular event, nonetheless one in your senior year of high school. So even though some things may feel like they’ll make or break your future, just remember that no singular event defines who you are, and the choices you make in your life determine your worth as a person over anything else, regardless of the pressures and messages that sometimes indicate otherwise. In the grand scheme, your senior year of high school is amazing and influential, but in the bigger picture, that’s all that it is— another year.