Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Advice to Those Entering High School

The text I sent right before leaving for my first day of Senior year. 
As I try to cling to the last few days of June (aka, the safe period before you start worrying about school in mid-July), I have been thinking a lot about what the hell I was doing these past four years. Prior to high school, I was outgoing and wasn't afraid to speak my mind. But basically, freshman year through the beginning of junior year,
I was a scared little dove who had a few friends in the right places, but basically just blended in. Yet, senior year, I just said, "F*ck it." I was going to do me, and do me I did. I met the right people, and finally started coming out of the shell that formed on August 16, 2010. 

So, here is my advice and wisdom in all of its glory. It's never too late to adhere to it, even if you are going into junior or senior year. All I know is if I had someone tell me these things freshman year instead of figuring them out when I was a senior, high school would have gone a lot differently. 

1) The friends you enter high school with don't have to be the ones you exit with. I had two main friends when I was going into high school, and we were each other's crutches. Yet, each year we slowly started to drift apart. Don't get me wrong, I am still friends with both of them, but we just started to find different friends and groups that we hung out with. So don't be afraid to branch out--talk to the stranger sitting next to you in first period, or the person behind you in homeroom. Set the people around you at ease, and show them how fab you are. 

2) Make friends with teachers. Believe it or not, most teachers are cool, interesting, badassy people. Of course there will always be the boring/scary/smelly Chemistry teacher, but that doesn't mean you can't be cool with the awesome History teacher on the third floor! Having a bond with a few teachers can make high school a lot easier. If you have class with them, you will feel more at ease and you'll want to perform better. So, go the extra mile. Compliment them on a snazzy tie/outfit. Talk to them for fifteen minutes after school. Wave to them in the hallway (regardless if it is considered "cool" or not). I feel like they want to be accepted and respected, much like the students are among themselves. Some will say they don't care, but trust me every person wants to feel "wanted". Plus, becoming really good friends with one or two can result in a kickass admissions letter. 

3)SPEECH! SPEECH! Ah, speech class. Speech was a required class at my school and was renowned as the toughest in the land. Some kids even TRANSFERRED to a different high school in order to avoid it. In my humble opinion, that was a asinine decision on their parents' part. Honestly, it wasn't that bad and it's a skill everyone should try to master. 

But, I digress. Yes, speech class is hard because you have to get up and talk in front of everyone. But trust me, by the end of the semester, the entire class feels completely at ease. Why? Everyone has heard each other's voice equally. It isn't the type of class where you only hear the teacher's pet talk 24/7, along with the occasional input from the rest of the class. You also realize that the talking in front of people is a real fear--thus, we dubbed our class the "no-judgement zone." 

4)Just don't start with the drugs and alcohol. In high school, having a drink, getting drunk, or even trying drugs seems like a rite of passage. I wasn't even a month into my freshman year when I heard about other kids in my grade getting drunk and having sex. Seriously, rise above it. For the most part the people who are known as hardcore drinkers or druggies are seriously judged by their peers. Why? Because everyone knows how stupid they were over the weekend, and that's the reason why they are acting completely out of it on Monday morning. During my time in high school, we lost people to drugs and alcohol, and each time we kept on asking, "How much can our school take?" You don't have to get drunk or smoke in order to have a good time. In short, don't give the news a headlining story at 6--be careful, be wise, be nice. 

5)Care about all you're classes, even the rough ones. Not gonna lie, there will be classes that will try your inner strength. Maybe its eighth period Spanish in a room without air conditioning, or first period English. Mine personally was the mandatory Microsoft Office class, where we had to learn the ins and outs of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. I know how hard it is to pay attention and stay awake in these classes, but trust me when I tell that these are the classes that you need to excel in. Outdo (not overdo) yourself in your classes Freshman and Sophomore year in order to build up your GPA. Give yourself at least 20 minutes of study time for each test you have beginning a few days out, even for the ones that are guaranteed to be "easy"--its a private joke among teachers to use this word, I'm sure of it. And I know that your GPA may be the last thing in your mind first semester Freshman year, but you'll be happy you didn't slack off during Art I down the road when you are applying for college. 

6)Start the college hunt early. My spring breaks during Sophomore and Junior year were dedicated to college visits. That meant that while everyone was down in Florida getting a tan, I was visiting every major college in the Midwest. By the end of Junior spring break I had visited Purdue, Loyala, Notre Dame, St. Mary's College, Butler, IUPUI, Duquesne, Miami (of Ohio), University of Dayton, and Kent. Even though I am not attending any of them, I still got a feel for what I like. After visiting Purdue, I realized that I didn't want to go to a huge school and after visiting St. Mary's, I came to the conclusion that I wanted to go to an all-women's college. And when it comes time to apply to colleges in the fall of Senior year, you will not be applying blind--you'll have an idea of what you are in for for each school. Also, if you know what you want to do, just dedicate a Sunday morning to researching schools that have good programs in your field of interest, and then from there schedule visits or try to visit on your own. 

7)Contact the schools that you are interested in. Once you find a few schools that you are seriously considering, email or call their office of admissions to get your name out there. I personally was scared to do this, but at the encouragement of a teacher I went ahead called my number one choice. Words cannot describe how large my debt of gratitude is to my teacher; I built a great rapport with my admissions counselor, which is a good thing to have because they play a roll in getting you in. 

Now, this last one is specifically for my froshs, (a.k.a., freshmen):

I, know, the time has come for you to be low man on the totem poll again. And as low man on the totem poll, you will be on the receiving end of frosh jokes. So, in order to avoid as many frosh complaints as possible, here's what to do: 

-Walk on the right side of the hallway--this is the natural flow of traffic, so don't disrupt the system. 

-Lose the rolling backpack--I don't recall ever having a rolling backpack, but if you do, I would suggest getting rid of it. It's just fuel to the frosh fire. 

-Do NOT form a giant blob in the middle of the hallway--I get it, your teacher is a few minutes late from lunch, so their door is locked and you have to wait to get in. In times like these, lean against either the lockers or the wall--never just stand in the middle of the hallway. I can't tell you how many times I had to pull a Moses and part a sea of freshmen when I was trying to rush to a class, and how annoyed I was every time I ran into their backpacks. 

-Loosen you're backpack straps--this one might be odd, and perhaps this was only an issue at my school, but I thought I'd share it anyway. For some reason, an odd amount of freshmen were carrying there backpacks very high on their backs, resembling a jet pack/camel hump. Now, the first few years of high school are when everyone is approaching the last stretch of puberty, so don't make things more awkward by resembling a turtle. 

-Endure the freshmen taunts--Some seniors see it as their duty to terrorize the freshmen. Some sell elevator passes, others claim their is a pool on the fourth floor (even though the school only has three). When I was a freshmen, there was even a "Pet-a-freshman" day, which was as awkward as it sounds...I was literally pet by an upperclassman while getting books out of my locker. This is all normal. The only time it should ever become cause for concern is if it no longer seems like a joke, and you feel like you are being targeted. We had something like that happen at our school, and the principal took it seriously and expelled the upperclassman. 

-Remember the freshman taunts--When you are a senior, remember the things that happened to you as a freshman and how much they sucked. The thing I hated the most was being the target of the annual senior prank (water balloons filled with flour and/or glitter). So, I chose to not give the freshmen too hard of a time this year. They were trying to learn the ropes, just as I had to. I even befriended a few, and gave them advice on teachers, classes, etc. Now don't get me wrong, once or twice I did force my way through a freshman blob a little harder than I had to, but hey, someone had to teach them. 

All in all, high school can be what you make it. You don't have to be popular, just surround yourself with a good group of people. Rise above the peer pressure to drink, have sex and do drugs. Be friendly. Get your license (and then just go driving for the heck of it...I drove to CVS and back twice the day I got mine). Get your first job. Find that teacher who inspires you. Learn which teachers are more lenient than others (the ones who will let you turn in a paper due last Friday on the following Monday, and not take points off). Go to at least one big rivalry game. Skip the freshman dances, they are lame. 

And finally, remember that high school doesn't have to be a shark tank--it's a lot better when we help each other out. 

Happy growing up!

Stay Excellent, 


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