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Illini Advice: “What I Wish I Knew in High School”

Our bloggers are wise college students who have been around the block and can look back with some perspective. So we asked them, “If you could have a conversation with a younger version of yourself, what’s a piece of high school advice that you would give to them?”

We hope their answers to our “high school advice” question help as you continue to navigate your high school experience.


Treat high school like a marathon, rather than a short sprint. Be unconventional, do what you love, and never give up.


Everything really will be okay! Trust us.


Don’t try to cram your schedule with things you don’t care about—pick 1 or 2 extracurriculars that you love and stick to them! Success will come easy when you’re doing something you enjoy, and it’s always better to pick quality over quantity.


You have more time than you think. Take your time to try new things and learn. Don’t rush!


Don’t regret your rational decisions. One of the hardest parts of growing up is recognizing that nearly everything breaks or wears out—fix what you can and accept what you can’t. Life is a constant war; you must pick and choose the battles in which you are willing to fight. Pick these and move on.


Be present, enjoy each second, and live in the moment. It sounds cliché, but these next 4 years, and the 4 after that, will go by faster than you can imagine.


High school is an alternate dimension where a lot of things that shouldn’t matter do. So don’t get too caught up in the weirdness of it all, college is wayyy cooler.


Life doesn’t begin to get real until it gets real—there’s no warning. The only way to prepare for the future is to live in the present with a mindset balanced by the scales of both reflection and gratitude. Be grateful for the life afforded to you, and turn that gratitude into a resolve for improving the state of affairs you see within yourself; only by improving ourselves can we hope to improve the world around us. 


Don’t ever be afraid to push yourself out of your comfort zone. If there’s something you’re interested in, try it out! Seize every opportunity to learn and grow; you’ll be surprised by some of the amazing doors that open up to you when you do.


Start off strong! Your freshman year is the foundation of your GPA, and it matters. Ask questions and engage with your teachers—they only want to help you succeed. Experiment with different classes to see what interests you, or join/create a club of your own that will contribute to your community.


Don’t wait to get involved. Stay true to who you are from day one, and the rest will fall into place. Sign up for the things that interest you even if you don’t know anyone else doing it. You’ll find your true friends and have so much fun doing the things you love!


Don’t stress too much in high school! Don’t slack off, but also don’t be too hard on yourself. Hang out with friends, build relationships, and create memories that you will keep if and when you take off to college.


High school and life in general, to a degree, is what you make it. So spend the next 4 years being unapologetically you, discovering what makes you tick, and exploring what pushes you outside of your comfort zone. Make this time beneficial and enjoyable in every way possible, and remind yourself that you’re amazing while doing it.


Prioritize the important things! Keep a detailed list of your assignments, involve yourself in a wide variety of clubs, and form good relationships with your teachers. The skills and habits you develop your freshman year stay with you, so make sure to set yourself on the right path—you’ll thank yourself later!


Explore! Audition for the school musical, try out for a sports team, attend the next meeting of a club. Immersing yourself in a variety of activities will help you discover who you are and help you find your passion.


The challenges you face, whether they be tough classes or personal struggles, face them with the right attitude! Put your head high, and know that you can overcome these obstacles and that you have friends and family who you can always rely on. 


Things might not be the exact same as you imagined them—and that’s okay. Use these 4 years to embrace change and become comfortable with the unknown.


High school is the best time to explore what interests you. A lot of people get caught up in worrying about AP classes and GPA, and while that’s still important, take the classes that you like! Make sure to have fun, take what you love, and learn about yourself.


Do anything and everything your heart desires! Don’t let others hold you back from doing what you want; this is your life.


My favorite professor gave me this piece of simple but deeply useful advice: Always be completely and unapologetically yourself, especially in the presence of others. You are on the cusp of a transformative life stage. Be brave.

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