good friends taking a silly group selfie

How to Get the Most Out of Your High School Experience

You probably had some vision of what “high school” looked like when you were little, but actually being a student there is a whole different story. It can be weird, and even a little scary, to be in a place you’ve imagined countless times.

Now that you’re walking through the hallways, seeing the posters on the wall, and putting your coat in your locker, you might find that high school isn’t turning out the way you thought it would. Though it may not be easy, high school is by no means impossible. Here are some tips on how to get the most out of your experience.

boy playing guitar

Try new things.

High school is a terrific time to gain new experiences. You’ll likely be required to take roughly the same classes as the rest of your classmates, but you can form your own experience in other ways. Trying out for a sport, joining a club, taking up a new hobby, and even taking the bus for the first time are all great experiences that you can take away from high school. 

group of students walking

Meet new people.

Meeting new people in high school is inevitable. Between classmates, teachers, bus drivers, and even school nurses, you’re going to be interacting with people you didn’t even know existed before.

There’s a lot of pressure to make an immediate, stable friend group in high school. As hard as it may be, try not to stress about this. Give friendships time and be open to everyone you meet. Things will work out one way or another. 

Some people will light up your day while being around others without tearing your hair out might be just about impossible. Whichever the case, you’ll learn more about yourself by meeting different kinds of people. Being able to work with anyone is an incredible skill that will serve you well in your life. You can use these opportunities to see the good in people, which will make life a whole lot easier for you.

boy talking to counselor

Get to know your counselor.

If your school has a counselor or academic advisor, it’s a good idea to form a connection with them as soon as possible. Their job is to help students plan their future and guide them through any issues they’re having, so establishing a good relationship with them can be extremely helpful for you. Since they work at the school, they probably have some helpful insight into how the school works, too.

It’s never too late to start a connection with your counselor, and it’s never too early, either. 

boy looking into the distance

Keep going, even when you fall behind.

High school can be pretty different from middle school. It’s not hard to stumble a little (or a lot) while you’re getting your footing in a new environment. 

If you fall behind (and you probably will at some point, because everyone does), remember this: keep going. It’s cliché but true that you should always try, try again (except if you’re trying to sneak in a herd of cows into the school … then maybe stop trying). 

If you find yourself struggling academically, be resourceful. Between teachers, your counselor, and fellow students, there are definitely people who can help you figure it out.

It’s easy to think that some people are just naturally good at certain things, but a lot of success comes from hard work. Don’t let this stress you out, because everyone can work hard. That includes you.

students sliding in water

Be yourself.

Being surrounded by so many people means that you’ll probably start comparing yourself to them. There’s always a pressure in high school to be “cool.” You might feel judged by how well you did on that test, how much you speak up in class, how many clubs you’re in, how many friends you have, how athletic you are, what you pack for lunch, what clothes you wear, etc. The list really does go on and on, and you probably have a few choice examples of your own to add.

Remember, though, that none of these definitions for “cool” form a comprehensive depiction of who a person is. It’s like that old “tip of the iceberg” analogy—what you see is only the surface of a person’s personality. There’s so much more underneath.

You know who you are, and you’d better believe that you’re great, because it’s true! Whatever happens, be the best version of yourself. It’s so much easier than trying to be someone you don’t like.

high school student

Learn about who you are as a student.

With all its craziness, high school offers a great environment for you to learn more about yourself as a student. Here’s a short exercise that might prompt you to think about who you are:

Step 1

Start by making a list about what you like and dislike about school. You can jot down specific things like classes, teachers, or assignments, or something more general like the role of being a high school student. Depending on the day, one list might be longer than the other, but you can still use all your answers.

Step 2

Now, pick a couple of the items on your list and ask yourself why you put them on there. Then ask yourself why you gave that answer, and keep repeating (the same method you might have used when you were little to torment grownups).

For example, if you listed “art class” as one of the things you liked about school, ask yourself why you like it. Do you love what you’re learning? Do you love the way your teacher leads the class? What about that teaching style really works for you? Or do you love being around the people in this class? Or is the class just a nice break from an otherwise bummer schedule?

For another example, maybe you listed “homework” as one of the things you disliked about high school. Try thinking about why you don’t like homework (besides the obvious answer: “Why would I like it?”) Do you feel like it’s not a good use of your time? Does it stress you out? Do you just have too much of it? Do you have too much of it because all of your teachers are evil, or does procrastination make it pile up into something much larger?

It’s easy (and fun) to complain about high school woes, but you can make your complaints useful by thinking about your reasoning behind them. Who doesn’t want to gain more insight into themselves? 

One of the keys to success is learning to “begin with the end in mind.” You don’t need to have an exact plan now, but thinking about the big picture early on means that it’ll be easier to make a plan when you’re ready to take that next step.

Be open to new things, work hard through your struggles, and keep an eye out for your strengths, especially those strengths unrelated to academics. This will prepare you for your post-graduation plans, whether they be college or any other adventure.

And most important, remember to have fun!

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